Nov

1

AA / SGThe story of the day is that Andre Agassiz's dad and Stefi Graf's are both hard driving. Andre's is known for driving the son crazy with a ball machine called the Demon. Graf's father comes to visit to congratulate the couple and see the Demon. The two dads start  jawing at each other about whether a two handed top is better than a slice on the backhand. They start circling and throwing punches at each other. Andre has to step in to prevent them from duking it out. I knew there was a market analogy. Marty Riesman always said he was the luckiest man in the world to have a father who was a bookie. I didn't have that luxury. My dad was on the boxing and wrestling as well as football team at Brooklyn. But he would thank the referee for calling the foot fault on him. "If you have to win by that margin you don't deserve it." Indeed. He'd call it on himself at a critical time in our doubles matches. The Palindrome, just the opposite. He often called foot faults on me when playing against me. What is the ideal father for a person who's going to win? I'm afraid that the bookie, and the hot headed one fit you more for the trading business than the kind hearted one. Fortunately, some with a wonderful, benevolent father marry a miserable scoundrel like the daughter that's likely to result from the bookie or the fighting fathers. They can counterbalance the naivete and gullibility of the ones raised by an Artie. It's all my father's fault and Susan's that I'm such an easy mark.

Jeff Watson suggests:

The genetic component of what we are cannot be discounted. Since 1860, having had at least two members of each generation of my family end up trading is more that an outlier. The funny thing is that nobody in my family was ever encouraged to trade, and many stumbled into it by accident. I have noticed that many successful speculators come from a background with parents who were very laissez-faire in many aspects of their childrens' development, myself one of them. Many other speculators come from an environment that celebrated and taught a touch of larceny. The very best traders I ever knew came from ag backgrounds, which isn't too surprising. Still, it would be an interesting study to see if genetics matter more that environment in the psychological makeup of traders.

Jeff Watson, surfer, speculator and art connoisseur, blogs as MasterOfTheUniverse.

Michael Bonderer extends:

I kindly refer all Speculators to Daniel Ammann's recent book, The King of Oil: The Secret Lives of Marc Rich. Superb! There is even stuff in their on Familial Predestination! What a cool guy. Better then Steve McQueen.

Reid Wientge muses:

Being an easy mark reminds of Poe's stating he wished he could experience dying and write about it at the same time. Being the mark: You are stuck in slow motion, watching the other act and speak, indeed, watching yourself and hoping for intervention, hoping for "sombody stop me." Is it cynical to wish that one had been trained to master this vulnerability? I think not.

Sep

29

ScottIn high school, I had scholarship feelers to play Div. II college football. I could run a 4.5 forty and high jump 6'8". I thought I was on top of the world. Then I got sick with a horrible case of mononucleosis and almost died. My playing days were over. At the time I was devastated.

Now my oldest son wants to play football. I will not let him. Why? Because as devastating as it was to get sick and have to give up football (the best I ever ran a 40 after that was in the high 4's, and I couldn't jump anything like I used too), as an adult I've come to view it as a blessing in disguise.

To this day, my knees, ankles and back ache to the point of being almost debillitating at times. I get headaches and my memory doesn't work as well as it used to. As a corollary to this, I also suffered several concussions while playing sports. I was knocked silly numerous times and was knocked out cold more than a handful of times.

Then today I see this article on MSN about the danger of concussions and wonder if there isn't a connection.

Looking back, I wish I had never played football. Yes, basketball pounded my joints and I'm sure baseball and track did their fair share of damage, but I don't think they cumulatively added up to the pounding I experienced playing football. Yet I love to watch the game to this day and look forward to playing at our annual Thanksgiving morning touch football game every year with the guys from church (of course, I can hardly walk for the next two or three days afterward).

The human body eventually wears down and doesn't recover from the constant beatings that we get in life, unlike the markets which will shake off the bad things that happen and eventually move forward. At least I hope so.

Anton Allostrat agrees:

My football career closely parallels Scott’s except I ended as a college sophomore with a complete knee reconstruction. Protecting a loved one from near-certain long-term physical damage, which is the likely outcome when humans repetitively and intentionally collide, is the responsible and caring parental responsibility. The key is to give the prospective athlete other choices, minimal-contact sports that have a much lower injury rate. When addressing this issue with my son, no matter how clear my descriptions of the long term consequences on the human body, I’m sure he couldn’t completely comprehend what it is like to feel the effects of cumulative injuries in a middle-aged body.

Matt Johnson replies:

With all due respect, I feel like you're taking your issues and dumping them on your son. Not letting someone do something, or not do something, is like holding onto a losing position because "the economics haven't changed." Go with it, don't fight it, support your son in his adventures and he'll love you for it.

Craig Bowles adds:

I agree with Matt. I still look back thankfully at the bonds made and pushing beyond the simple limits in many of our heads. The most important thing is to learn technique early. My father always called it putting a shoulder on somebody. Hitting with the head is crazy and nothing like the feeling of a good solid shoulder lick. Maybe you should make sure the coaches know how to coach blocking and tackling. I wouldn't want my kid playing for a lot of coaches. That would just ruin a kids confidence. My fifth-grade coach was the best one and fortunately taught the solid basics.

Mark Candon reminisces:

Flag FI played soccer in college, but later tore up my knee in 1980 playing of all things, flag football.What the heck was I doing playing flag football? Perhaps having the most fun I ever had in any sport. Violence is a beautiful thing when you are doing the hitting. I’ve always liked contact, and football gives it to you in spades. There’s nothing like it. Why do you think all these people play football?

Yeah, it’s years later and I should probably be getting a new knee, but the rest of my body has been in better shape since 1980 because I’ve had to work out to keep the knee strong. I wish it had never happened, but I never for a moment regarded it as a terrible thing.

In sports, you have the chance to be the master of that world between the lines. In football, it comes in that long instant after the snap of the ball. A savage, athletic, and beautiful moment. I loved it. Believe me, I’ve had moments in other sports, but football’s the ultimate for adrenaline. You’re playing defense, it’s fourth and inches, and you’re amped. You can’t wait for the snap, because you’re going to drive that guy opposite you into forever.

Steve Leslie reflects:

I am reminded of a short little story.

In the jungle, A gazelle wakes up in the morning and begins running. For the gazelle knows that if it does not start running then it will be eaten by the lion. The lion wakes up and starts running. The lion knows that if it does not start running, it will not catch the gazelle. The moral of the story is that whether you are a lion or a gazelle, if you want to survive the day, you had better hit the ground running.

Thomas Edison once said most of success in life is showing up for work every day.

Vince Lombardi said "The good L_rd gave you a body that can withstand nearly anything, it is your mind you have to convince."

Unfortunately, we do not have the luxury of creating our own rules. Many times the odds are stacked heavily against us. But remember in the end, life is one long statistical game eventually the breaks even out. It is a journey and not a destination therefore we never arrive. It is like the horizon, you never reach it.

Take cheer for we all feel the pain of life. You are not in this alone. Some times this provides small solace. But then again solace is sometimes all we have.

Reid Wientge writes:

My doctor in high school, Dr. Campbell, recommended not playing football. He was quiet and convincing. I had been to a different doctor numerous times for pain and swollen hands — I played both defensive end and fullback and so could not wrap my hands. You see, my doctor had served in Vietnam prior to private practice. I am certain that he could not bear to see young men injure, scar and permanently damage their bodies.

Doug Johnston offers:

I played football in HS and at a Div I college program. I do believe that your HS experience is more exception than rule. HS football is fun and gives a boy/teenager many valuable life lessons in an environment of teamwork and fun. Football in HS is not brutal. Let him be a kid and enjoy his decision. If he were to be offered an opportunity to play in college — run away! College football is a big business and the payout of a scholarship is not nearly fair value for the "student-athlete."

Aug

18

VNThat Little Extra

There are so many market lessons that one can learn from the Olympics. To me the most important was that that little extra is the difference between success and failure. This was most apparent in the two big 0.01 second differential swimming races involving Phelps and Torres. In one case, Phelps said it was the difference of a "shaved finger" and in the second Torres said "I shouldn't have filed my nails." The former apparently referred to better streamlining and the latter to extra reach. Phelps had broken his wrist in 2007 and the extra kicking training he did helped him on the last reach, creating the winning margin. He stated that when he practices it's like a bank deposit. So often during the year, during a career, one decision, one wrong practice can mean the difference between success and failure. It underlines the importance of total concentration at all times, and constant practice.

The Blake/Gonzales match

Much has been written concerning the sportsmanship involved in the Blake semifinal. Right after the match in a press conference Blake remarked that his father would never have let him do it, and would have taken him out of the tournament. Jack Kramer has a similar remark in Ed Spec about his father's breaking his racket in a similar moment of poor sportsmanship and presumably Blake knew of this instance which is tennis lore, although I have found that among tennis players Kramer is derided for his treatment of Pancho. However, the key to me was that Blake must have been brooding about the incident from 5-5 in order to come up with such a lengthy exegesis right after the match. The brooding probably caused a lack of focus that led to loss. I had a similar revelation in my career when, at an early age, I used to complain about all the bad calls the refs made in squash. I subsequently realized that the complaining did me more harm than good. It not only took away my subsequent energy, but gave the infractor the advantage of seeing how much misery his misdeed caused. I stopped complaining during the last 10 years of playing and it was very helpful. Time and again I won when I would have lost if I had stuck up for my rights on the point. The same is always true with bad fills. By the time  I've complained about bad fills, or bad equipment, or bad treatment by a counterpart… By the time I've complained about it, and taking into consideration the extra costs involved and the missed subsequent opportunities, it's over. The legal system is such that on all matters involving less than 10 figures the costs are greater than the differences at issue. So that avenue never pays.
Putting it all together, one learns never to distract oneself worrying about the other side's problems and to concentrate on improving oneself and playing harder to compensate for the wrongdoing.

Denis Vako replies:

I can't define what "shaved finger" margin is, or unshaved for that matter, that is surely a joke, but in swimming hitting the wall makes the great difference for the result; as when one swims his body/hands/legs are doing cyclical movements and ability to break this cycle or accelerate it, to cut time on touching the wall, will win the race at the finish. In other words, when race is short, i.e. 50m or 100m, among equal sportsmen (as almost always the case), it is the touching of the wall which will determine the winner.

Different strategies there are, depending on the distance; when it is 50m race it is about how you jump into the water, how long you spend gliding under it and on the distance that left one must exhaust all his reserves before promptly touching the wall. While in a 200m or 400m race, one has more margin for error and strategy is more or less to "swim with the pack" and then to have an ability to explode the last 10-25% of the distance.

Stefan Jovanovitch writes:

It wasn't the finger; it was the half stroke before the final full one that gave Phelps the acceleration to touch out Cavic. Cavic's technique was the right one except he looked up a fraction before he touched. That lift of the neck and the added drag is probably what cost him the race. These are not my opinions but those of daughter, who — before her back injury — was good enough to be one of the field horses in Natalie Coughlin's 14-18 year old races at our County swim meet. Whether Cavic's looking up was a failure of character or just the inexperience that comes with being in a big race for the first time is also a question I leave to those who can read others' minds and souls. 

Reid Wientge adds:

Athletes "letting up" at the finish line seems to be endemic. It's in baseball and can be found almost every game. In the Olympics, I watched a German lose in one man paddling (the paddler kneels in the boat) because he slackened his pace just before the finish line. And I do mean just — he had the Gold in his canoe but his opponent, who had been challenging for more than half the race, pulled hard all the way to the line and won by a fraction of a bow.

Jordan Low extends:

We should trade by following our models, and constant meddling, i.e., looking up, while a trade is still in play, causes drag. Trading is like competitive swimming: there are many factors that you have to perfect, from the stroke to the turn, etc.

Nigel Davies replies:

I believe that Stefan is right in implying this goes much deeper. Trying to compensate for what seem to be the errors ('looking up' or 'not sticking to systems') tends to do little other than consume the attention after which a thousand other small errors appear.

So instead of vowing never to look up again, the guy should seek out the small vanity that distracted him with the thought of medals and glory. But this is somewhere most people won't go; it's easier on the ego to find some other excuse.

Jeff Watson writes:

Back in my old days at the Mid America Commodity Exchange, the weekend before my trading debut, I remember practicing hand signals in the mirror for hours and hours on end. I wanted to hard wire them into my brain so they would come out effortlessly, with 100% accuracy. Anything less than perfect might end up with my having bought 20,000 bushels of March wheat at 3/4, when I meant to sell 20,000 bushels of May at 1/2. Vic and Laurel understand the value of practice, and know exactly what the fruits of practice will bear. Even though it's the oldest cliche in the book, "Practice makes perfect" is still an integral path in the road to success.

Ian Brakspear corrects:

"Practice makes permanent" — each time you repeat something incorrectly you are making the mistake more ingrained in your mind. It is crucial to have the right program/instruction before you start.

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