Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Stories for Our Time

Author Michael Lewis (Liar's Poker) is also an insightful journalist with far reaching interests who's comfortable in the long form.

For me, he wrote the definitive (accessible) piece on how the financial bubble burst, and the multiple stupidities involved, by focusing on a man who saw it coming - and made millions betting on its arrival while everyone else continued to only proclaim sunny skies ahead. It's all in The End of Wall Street's Boom:

"There was only one thing that bothered Eisman, and it continued to trouble him as late as May 2007. “The thing we couldn’t figure out is: It’s so obvious. Why hasn’t everyone else figured out that the machine is done?”"

Eisman shorted everything and everyone because no one could explain how everyone was making money. (Shorting is betting the price will fall.) That's good advice in any area.

And In The World of Sports

What are the characteristics of a basketball player who rarely scores points, makes assists, or blocks shots, but almost always ensures your team wins. Lewis covers it as a whodunit in The No-Stats All-Star:

"In the statistically insignificant sample of professional athletes I’ve come to know a bit, two patterns have emerged. The first is, they tell you meaningful things only when you talk to them in places other than where they have been trained to answer questions. It’s pointless, for instance, to ask a basketball player about himself inside his locker room. For a start, he is naked; for another, he’s surrounded by the people he has learned to mistrust, his own teammates. The second pattern is the fact that seemingly trivial events in their childhoods have had huge influence on their careers. A cleanup hitter lives and dies by a swing he perfected when he was 7; a quarterback has a hitch in his throwing motion because he imitated his father. Here, in the Detroit Country Day School library, a few yards from the gym, Battier was back where he became a basketball player. And he was far less interested in what happened between him and Kobe Bryant four months ago than what happened when he was 12."

Both are great articles that tell you a lot about our world today.

1 comment:

Josh Lewis said...

Enjoyed the article on Battier. I've liked him since he played at Duke. Quiet, selfless player who just does his job. Now if we could just get him onto the Mavericks...