I’m pretty much just a fair-weather football fan. It would take my hometown Bears to get into the playoffs for me to become any bit excited. I do, however, always enjoy having the backdrop of football this time of year. For some reason, seeing Notre Dame or the Bears playing on television evokes a warm nostalgia for the simpler days of my youth. Back then, football played a more sizable role in my life.
From the forth grade until high school, I could always be found with a football in my hand. If playing formally for my school / town, I’d be in a friend’s backyard throwing passes. I was good at it. I lived for it.
Come high school however, I watched as many of my peers outgrew me physically. They received more of the spotlight and got more playing time, even those with far less experience than I had. As my bench time extended, my interest in the sport began to wane.
Finally, late in the season, I was surprised to see the coach coming over to call me in during a game. I wasn’t sure why he selected me, but he had me replace one of the starters as a receiver. I finally had the chance to show what I had. After a couple nice completions, I was feeling good. On my third catch, however, all I remember is grabbing the ball, tucking it in, then >>boom<<. I was hit so hard that the air was knocked out of my lungs and I went unconscious for a minute or so. Sitting back on the bench, allowing the dizziness to dissipate, I started to think about my future in this sport. Was I getting properly rewarded for the risk? Was my incremental return on invested time and effort worth it? The honest answer to both of these questions was a resounding ‘no’.
After that game, I handed in my pads. I’ve always hated to quit at things in life, but I’ve learned over time to ignore the sunk cost effects when making a proper go-forward decision. This was perhaps one of the first significant times I had to do this. Hanging my head low, I feared for the call from my coach wanting an explanation from my Houdini behavior. The phone never rang. I was never asked about it. In fact, my friends didn’t even bring it up. It seems that I was the last to realize it was my time to move on.
Good article about sink costs:
That Sunk-Cost Feeling
Some 27 years later, I look back with no regrets. Football toughened me up. It was like a boot-camp for kids, especially back when coaches were allowed to yell and scream and throw you down into the mud. In many ways, I needed the discipline. The years when I excelled were great. I still recall the cheers of the crowd after the touchdowns and the sacks. I can still feel the sense of satisfaction I got from watching the team bully reduced to tears after I beat the shit out of him after practice. I learned to defend myself, even from those bigger and seemingly tougher. These were the milestones of my development years. Unfortunately, as I discussed above, the end of my time playing will always sting a bit as well. But, as the French say “c’est la vie” (that is life).
As Mark Twain reportedly said “History doesn’t repeat itself but if often rhymes”. Its funny how the patterns of my experience with football fits with the patterns of my experience as an investor. There have been many highs and lows. What may have recently marked the end seems a bit bittersweet. Hopefully, my Wall Street days parallel my football days. Maybe 27 years from now, I feel a warm nostalgia for my hard fought days in investment banking and in the hedge fund world. In an ideal world, I’d be in a nice place watching the Bears with my son and recounting the old Wall Street war stories. I’d grin as I thought about the stress of the deadlines and the pain of the drawdowns and how little that all mattered in the end. I’d look back and know that the product of all this pressure was the fine diamond of knowledge that would later led to a very fulfilling later half of my career. I’d feel a lot more victorious than I do today.
This week marks my own personal kickoff of my job search as well. My next post will detail my initial thoughts. Stay tuned.
My favorite quote: