For the true sports junkie of the couch oriented variety, This past weekend came very close to nirvana. The last weekend of baseball season with at least 3 races going down to the very last game of the season. As I don’t really follow those fellows over in the fastball throwing sissy pitcher hitting league , I was focused very tightly on the d@@ned Yankees against those &^%*(*&^% get a haircut for gods sake reprobates and renegades from Boston as well as the how did they get in this Indians of Cleveland for the wild card slot. Two very good baseball games later the Yankees had won the division. Using the same sort of logic he uses to defend drawdowns to his investors trend following baseball maven declared the sox co-division champions even though under the rules, The Yanks had the title. Unfortunately for those of us who think Boston would make a lovely museum and should be uninhabited except by curators and tourists and under no circumstances should be allowed possession of something as dangerous as a major sports franchise, much less a winning one, Cleveland slid from sight quicker then crossman sliding down the back side of a rush street Saturday night.
Now, the baseball picture alone would have been enough to satisfy a sports fan. However just like a set of late night steak knives and food choppers for 19.95..but wait there’s more! College football all day and into late Saturday night. Maryland remembered how to actually play the game , much to the fat fridge’s satisfaction, Navy escaped duke with their first win of the season, Notre Dame continued to bask in the divine light of touchdown Jesus and thumped Purdue in a convincing fashion, Alabama beat Florida for the first time since the internet bubble and Joe Pat shut the critics and age phobic fans up for at least one more week. For a while there Saturday it was hard keeping up with all the highlights, pitch counts and point spreads as the tv went from station to station with an effect not unlike that of a strobe light. When finally dragged off the couch Saturday evening to go out by the current incantation, I innocently selected a dinner destination that had a big screen tv visible from the dining area. Perfect evening along the shores of the bay, we dined at the crab deck where to my delight I found the scallops broiled in sweet butter are the perfect accompaniment to Brady Quinn touch down passes. Those specs coming into town for the Navy game next week will be able to sample the decks wares for themselves, along with several other notable eateries as well as establishments of less than reputable distinction.
Which, of course, is where we went next. Now that the frenzy of bikini season is over and the hordes of bikers and sun drenched curio seekers has faded, Red Eye dock bar has once again become a locals joints with great wings and a spectacular view of the narrows..and television sets mounted all around the walls. As the sun faded into the night, casting a pink-purplish glow along the dancing waters speeding through the cut between Eastern bay and the Chester River. As we joined a few friends there and engaged in the partaking of light libations and held forth with deep intelligent discourse on the state of the world,politcs economics, interpersonal relationships deep into the night, I was able to sneak a few peaks at the screens to see Roy Jones JR prove that accepting a loss graciously is usually the start of a losing tradition and Glen Johnson reaffirm that even he doesn’t have a flashy name, he is one hell of a fighter. The quick downfall of Roy Jones is one of the more puzzling events in recent boxing history. After being an unbeatable near immortal with lightening speed and heart stopping power, he has suddenly become an average fighter of very limited skill. He called himself a true champion after the fight, saying that like the true champion he is, he may yet fight again. He’s 36 and looks to have lost enough of his skills to continue getting beat and tarnishing his for now hall of fame legacy. Be satisfied, Roy that you are among the legends of the sport but pay time its homage.
As the evening waned, the bar bill climbed and the days battles, clashes, fights, dramas, nail biters and must wins came to a close and the conversation reached new heights of barley inspired intellectual depth, I reflected that for a sports fan, it had been one of those rare perfect storms. Baseball in its waning glory of seasons end with the playoffs looming, the college ball season far enough long that games now had an ever-intensifying importance and several major fights all on the sameday..and a Sunday of NFL and Nascar looming.
Sunday, the ravens finally found someone they could beat..But then again beating the jets right now is a lot like mugging a cripple. Eli manning came into his own, his brother regained his form, Michael Vick continued his injury streak and Marvin Lewis demonstrated just how great a football coach he really has become. There were the usual plot twists, long gains, spectacular catches and all the violence and fury that is the NFL. But the real excitement Sunday was not in a football stadium but in the middle of Alabama at a place called Talladega. 43 cars, 800 horsepower engines restricted back to 500 using carburetor plates running in one big 190 mph pack. One mistake leads to catastrophe..And there lots of mistakes this Sunday. Cars were flipping, flying through the air, in one case doing a weird ballet spin on its nose down the front stretch. Bump drafting, tapping the guy in front of you to speed both of you up, is a science. The late Dale Earnhardt was a master, as is his on Dale JR ..Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart are pretty good at it. The young guns are perhaps not so good and the day was filled with some of the more incredible crashes in Nascar History. It was breathtaking, edge of the seat racing culminating by Dale jarret becoming the 4th oldest driver to win a NASCAR race. Simply a brilliant day of long passes and fast cars.
As I sat ruminating at the end of the day several thoughts flashed across my mind foremost being, Melvin you have got to get off this damn couch more and I’m low on scotch and smokes again. But there were several other thoughts worth pondering from a spec point of view as well.
Adversity does not become defeat until you allow it to so. The Yankees were horrible the first part of this year. Dale Jarred had not won a race in two years. The Indians were 10 games back at the All Star break and almost snuck into the playoffs. Notre Dame entered the season unranked. Joe Paterno was written off as an over the hill also ran. In every case they stuck to what they knew they could achieve and beat back the critics and the bad times to find victory.
Things change (ever changing cycles). To win, one must be prepared to change and adapt to conditions. The Yankees used 16 starting pitchers this year as they scrambled for the combination that worked. Bump drafting works on the straight-aways. In the corners it leads to 10 car accidents and airborne machinery. Conditions change. One must always be aware of this and continue to adapt ones style.
Just because you succeed at the lower levels does not mean you will achieve instant success. After a spectacular college career it took Eli Manning two miserable seasons of failure, futility and hard work to establish himself as a great quarterback. The very young Cleveland Indians team faded when it counted most, giving into a pressure they had never felt before under the September lights. A one lot trade who scores some winners does not necessarily have what it takes t o run a 100 million hedge fund, At each new level there’s is a learning curve that must be climbed through hard work and practice.
Winning is indeed a habit. Once you learn to lose with grace its difficult to win. The Yankees expected to come back and refused to accept they weren’t good enough. Notre Dame was written off after several sub par seasons. But the fans and administration knew they had a winning tradition to uphold and did what they had to in order to deliver a winning g program back to the school.
There are some things we cannot change and fighting that will lead to spending some serious time with your face on the canvas. At 36, your body changes enough that no matter how much you train or practice, you just don’t have it anymore. Jones Jr was one of the greatest fighters ever in my opinion. But he’s a tick slower and not quite as fast as he once was. Its time to quit. There will be times in your trading and investing career where fighting conditions that exist and cannot be changed. The hard part is recognizing those times and avoid becoming a Ray Leonard getting beat up by has beens and never weres.
To win you have to be able to play both sides of the ball. It is said that great defense wins football games. That’s only true if you offense is good enough to score. The Colts have had the best offense in football for several years, the Ravens the best defense. Defensive weakness on the part of the colts and the ravens horrific offense kept them from winning it all. Tony Dungy has figured that out and built a great defense to complement Peyton and the boys. Brian Billick has not. The Colts are 4 and 0, the Ravens lucky to have played the New York Cripples and escape with a win, are a terrible football team.
In between all of this I did manage to complete three books worth mentioning. School days, the new Robert parker continues the Spenser tradition. The last of the hard-boiled Private eyes, Spenser continues to be a tough, smart witty private eye as quick with a quip as a right cross. Probably no lessons for a lifetime but a great read as only Parker can write. EL Doctorows The march tells the tale of Sherman’s march to the Sea through the yes of soldiers, generals, fallen artistocrats, slaves and ner’do wells. If he had resisted the urge to bring all his characters together in one giant reunion of warriors, doctors, and conquerors and conquered this book would be an immortal classic. In spite of this one flaw it is a great read and one of the best civil war novels in some time. Last, Busting Vegas, the latest from Ben Mezrich is a great story of one of the MIT blackjack teams and the adventures, dangers and wins they faced along the way. Specs who like gambling books will like this offering.
One final lesson from the waning moments of the weekend. I finally got the call telling me my oldest friends father had lost his battle with pancreatic cancer. I spent many evenings and drank many martinis in his company and will miss him greatly. He was a man of grace, with style and achievement who worked hard and lived to his own standards and values. In his life I am sure there are many things to be learned but I have not enough space for that here. But in his passing he leaves one great lesson that is not reinforced often enough. Death comes to us all and in spite of our bravado few of us will embrace it willingly. Life is shorter than we realize and must be lived while we have it in such a manner to satisfy our souls. There is learning to be done, greatness to be achieved, books to be read, love to be made, obstacles to over come, friends to embrace, symphonies to be listened to in awe, rock and roll nights to be enjoyed with abandon. Life. One per customer.Make of it what you will.