Garybsmith

Trading, Golf, General thoughts. Not necessarily in that order.

Month: March, 2012

Mystifying.

I’d like to brag and say I get a lot of questions about my life.  You know, like I’m George Clooney or Tiger Woods.  The fact is,  99.9% of folks really don’t care and who can blame them: we all have enough on our own plates!

However, I do get one question on a repeated basis from anyone who has even a nodding reference to my background. And I’ve gotten this question from everyone from (name drop alert), Bret Baier to Brit Hume.  From family members to mild acquaintances.

And the question is: “Why did you quit golf?”  Well, that’s the question, but the underlying premise is “Why did you quit golf…when you were so good?”

Yes, that baffles people.  I mean at the height of my powers I was anywhere from a “scratch” to 3 handicap.  Now, don’t get me wrong: I wasn’t a national caliber amateur by any stretch.  On the other hand, you could team me up with a Tour pro, Walker Cupper, or local hotshot and not tell much of a difference.  In short, the kind of golfer who was good enough to think he could play in the U.S. Mid-Amateur, but ends up missing the qualifying score by 2 shots.  (which, in fact, happened.)

But, in the eyes of most people, I was pretty darn good.  And then I quit.  Cold turkey, in fact, and it seems to both intrigue people and…kind of bug them.

I had my reasons, though, and they made perfect sense to me.

1.  When I “retired” I had played non-stop for over 40 years.  That’s a lot of time to do anything.

2.  I was far from mastering the game, of course, but without doubling my practice time, I wasn’t getting any better.

Now, those sound good, but here’s the real reason in a nutshell: It’s a grind to be a good golfer.   (Yes, I am fully aware that sounds like the whine of the rich guy saying (“it’s a grind to be a millionaire!”  But, bear with me.)

Now, maybe only golfers can relate, but whenever a low handicapper steps onto the first tee, he is expected to knock it 300 yard straight down the first fairway!  He also can’t slice one out of bounds, can’t chunk an iron 40 yards, and certainly can’t make double bogey.  No, his handicap is a badge that says:  I am VERY good, so bow down to my brilliance.

Truly, it’s unlike any other sport.  I suppose you can know a fellow tennis player’s ranking, but it’s not like the local hot shot will suddenly start hitting shots 30 feet over the baseline.  The top skier won’t start tumbling down the hill.  The best cyclist won’t all of a sudden have trouble going up a short hill.

But, in golf, yeah, I could have an awful round.  Be a true hack.  Or — egads!  — not break 80.  And I’d feel sick about it.  Like I was some sort of poseur who professed to regularly shooting 70, but couldn’t break 90!

Sure, it was self-imposed pressure, but it was pressure nevertheless, and I felt it almost non-stop for the past 30 years.

So, when I came to my last tournament, and the last shot of the last tournament — an extremely tricky downhill pitch to an uphill green off a super tight lie (for those keeping score) — I vowed if I could pull it off, I’d have proven to myself that I could “go out on top” and could therefore quit if I wanted.

I did pull it off, and haven’t picked up a club in the past 4 years.  That’s a long time off from something you did daily since you were 10.

Still, I don’t miss it.

My other life.

I think many amateur athletes — especially Masters athletes — feel the same as I do: our athletic life is like some secret alter-ego.

On the one hand, I’m Father, Husband, trader, and TV talking head.  On the other hand, I’m this dedicated cyclist who takes his training VERY seriously.

Now, I suppose some would say, “why the focus?”  I’m never going to the Olympics or Tour de France, so stop pretending I’m Lance Armstrong!  On the other hand, if I’m going to do something, especially something competitively, I just can’t bear to be average.

So, with cycling (like golf beforehand), I went whole-hog.  I have the latest technology in bikes, buy all the latest gear, and peruse multiple websites and magazines.  But, above all, I have a plan to get better.

Until I started cycling, however, I did NO endurance sports.  And I certainly had no clue as to how to train for an endurance sport.

Therefore, I thought the smart approach was to have someone help me draft a training plan.  It’s not hard to find a cycling coach, and I did: 4 times over, working with and then rejecting each coach because of fit, personality, or lack of improvement.

I finally came upon “Coach Dean” who of all things, specializes in running.  But, I liked his writing and loved his approach.  Best of all, he’s the only coach I’ve seen in ANY sport who’s flexible enough to work WITH me and not act as an all-knowing oracle, whose training plan is handed down in stone tablets.  Coach Dean is found here and even if you do zero endurance work, his advice on mental toughness and other “life lessons” is well worth the read.

http://coachdeanhebert.wordpress.com/

As for my contribution and approach, Dean was nice enough to publish an email I sent to him a few days ago.  You can find that here:

http://coachdeanhebert.wordpress.com/2012/03/28/lessons-on-training-runner-to-cyclist-to-runner/

My first race of the season is late April.  I’ll keep you posted on my progress!

I’m sorry, who are you again??

I received an email the other day from Chris Williams who said I had been added as a friend on Schoolfeed.com.

The only problem?  Even though Chris Williams (whose name I’ve changed so his feelings aren’t hurt), went to my high school, I have no idea who he is.  Furthermore, I don’t know what Schoolfeed.com is, nor how I got in their “yearbook.”

But, I looked and there I am, along with a few classmates who seem vaguely familiar.  Now, I’ll give some credence to the fact that my memory isn’t all that sharp.  But, I graduated with only 200 kids, and at the time, I thought I knew every person.  But, in judging from the names, I seem to know only about 1 in 5.  The others?  No clue.

And forget about the pictures that Schoolfeed provides.  They might as well be mug shots from the local precinct, or employees at the Potomac Starbucks.

Furthermore, what is this ever-encroaching application called Schoolfeed?  It’s like one of those unstoppable viruses that can only be thwarted by the brave folks at the CDC.

In fact, it seems similar to LinkedIn, who manages to send me daily emails.    Unfortunately, I don’t think I have a LinkedIn account.  Yet they stalk me 24/7  badgering me to “connect” with someone.  And if I don’t connect, they keep sending me reminders that John Doe is “awaiting my response.”

Honestly, I feel badly for having forgotten folks, or being so rude as to ignore their invitation.  Still, if I haven’t added you as a “friend” or we somehow haven’t “connected”, I apologize in advance.  That said, please stop bugging me until I remember who you are.

The Perfect Job

I think I’ve come up with the perfect job.  It has a huge market, would pay great, and is geographically mobile.  The only problem is I don’t know what to call it.

But, here’s what it is:  Nancy and I, like a ton of other 50+ baby boomers, would like to downsize.  Or, at least move to somewhere warm.  We have a house that’s too big and we’re not fond of the cold.

However, the sheer logistics of relocating are mind-boggling.  Finding a real estate agent.  Getting the house ready for the market.  Clearing out when people come to look.  Finding a mover.  Packing everything up.  UN-packing everything at the new home.  Dealing with all the mortgage paperwork.

Honestly, it’s just overwhelming.  And I suppose weighing heavily, is the fact that we’ve done this 5 times previously, so we know what hell it really is.

Anyway, the job is to step in and be moving coordinator (MC!).  All we want to do is find the new home, figure out how to pay for it, and show up with the clothes on our back.

You, the MC, do the rest.  Everything.  From dealing with the bank to figuring where to put the china.  Nancy and I will decamp to a temporary home and stay there until we are handed the keys to our new place.

Compensation?  I suppose you’d get paid either a flat fee, or more logically, a percentage of the sales price.  Whatever, it’d be generous, but well worth it from our end.

Now, I’ve looked and there’s no one out there who provides all of this.  But, I’m certain the demand is enormous.  And my guess is we’re a barometer of thousands of other boomers out there, so that demand is only going to get bigger in the next decade.

 

Top Doctors? Right…..

A few days ago, we received our latest copy of Washingtonian Magazine, featuring its yearly list of Top Doctors.

I always laugh because this must be the greatest marketing ploy in publishing!

I say that because I’ve been to quite a few of these “Top Docs” over the years, and I’ve found more than a few to be clueless, or with a huge ego, or just plain terrible, that I question if they even had a license.

One top doc I saw started prescribing me medication without even taking my history.  Another recommened surgery for a gangling cyst…that eventually went away after I stopped playing golf.

Another operated on my deviated septum to clear up breathing problems…of which I still have to this day.

Some of these Doctors let me stew over 2 hours in the waiting room for my appointment.  Others have spent less than 10 minutes with me.

Now I’m certain some of these Doctors must be pretty good.  Just the law of mathematics says they can’t all be lousy.

But to save time, I just resort to my easy method of selection:  I just go to whichever Doctor is closest to my house.  Good, bad, whatever, I seem to get the same results no matter who I see.

The greatest rock band of all time: Bad Company?

A few years ago, I decided to include the Sirius radio system with our latest car purchase.  And even though I still listen almost exclusively to the local FM “traffic/weather/news” station, it’s been a good investment.

Particularly on long car trips, having access to non-stop music is enjoyable and I tune in regularly to the blues and classic rock stations.

Of course, being born in 1958, “Classic Rock” is what I grew up on and I’d say I’m pretty knowledgeable on music from about the mid-60s through the late 70s.

And since my wife is from the same era, we tune in regularly to the Classic Rock station.  But, here’s what’s baffling:  after listening now for hundreds of hours, we’ve come to the conclusion that —  according to air time — the greatest rock groups from that era must have been:

1.  Bad Company

2.  E.L.O

3.  Jethro Tull

4.  Led Zeppelin

Yes, I know: Bad Company?  ELO?  Like most, I certainly have a fondness for some of their stuff, but those guys are in constant rotation!  They dwarf pretenders like The Beatles and The Rolling Stones.

In fact, Nancy and I often play Classic Rock trivia where you have to guess the group before the end of the song.  Our joke: when in doubt, guess “Bad Company” because they’re played so often.

And E.L.O.?  Hey, I actually saw them in concert and they had, what, one or two really good songs?

Led Zeppelin I can kind of give a pass to, since they’re so iconic.  But, Jethro Tull?  Jethro Tull??

Oh and on Classic Rock, there apparently were no women rockers back in that time.  Janis Joplin didn’t exist.  Blondie is played once every 1000 hours.  Jefferson Airplane is a rarity.

And you can completly forget about pop-ish groups like The Beach Boys.  You have a better chance of hearing the 17th best Emerson, Lake and Palmer song than hearing Good Vibrations.

Seriously, I feel sorry for someone looking to learn about classic rock via Sirius.  They’re liable to think “Can’t Get Enough” is the greatest rock song of all time.

 

 

Go away Mr. Woods

As a reformed ex-golfer — and hardcore at that–  I still get a variety of emails alerting me to the goings on in the golf world.

And I guess it’s no surprise that with Tiger Woods healthy again, almost every tournament preview has “Tiger Woods” somewhere in the headlines.

The most recent is a Golf Channel email I received this morning, talking about Wood’s body language: http://www.golfchannel.com/news/randall-mell/after-augusta-tavistock-tiger-healthy-at-arnold-palmer/.

Now I’ll be the first to admit that when Tiger entered the scene, I was a fan.  I mean how could you not be: he was charismatic, uber-talented, and always delivered in the clutch.

But, then everything unravaled and by all accounts (including the new book: “The Big Miss: My Years Coaching Tiger Woods”) here’s what he is: a self-absorbed, immature, egotistical, jerk.

Now, frankly more than a few famous athletes and celebrities fall into that group.  And I suppose we all know a few folks who have cheated on their spouses or have a big ego.

But Woods seems to fall into a special class where he hits the perfecta on nearly every single category of being a world-class ass.

I’ll be damned, then, if I’m going to root for him.  In fact, I honestly hope he’s a complete flop from here on in.  Plenty of other good guys to root for.

Gary B Smith sucks

I was going through my WordPress summaries, and noted someone had stumbled upon my writings with the search phrase “Gary B Smith sucks.”

Now, as someone who — in a fit of childishness — has also typed in “Insert Name  here sucks” I can certainly relate.  Basically you want to know if others hate someone as much as you do!

But then I started wondering why this person thought I “sucked.”  In fact, sucked at what, exactly?

Let’s see, I was a pretty good golfer, and in any event, far from sucky.

I’m a middling cyclist and decent in my age group, so it couldn’t be that.

I guess my kids could have typed it in just after I did my Joan Crawford imitation.  But, I doubt it: they usually verbalize their feelings!

Nancy could have typed it, but “Gary B Smith” is kind of formal for her.

I have had some dismal years as a trader, so I suppose it could have been that.  On the other hand, my track record isn’t public, and there are no formal “he sucks as a trader” rankings.

No, my best guess is I said something on TV that either dinged the person’s stock or dinged his (or her, I guess) political leanings.  Media Matters, as an example, thinks I’m a blithering idiot, and they despise my libertarian bent.

Whatever the reason, I don’t think anything the person found changed his or her mind.  Still, I am glad they found me.  Who doesn’t like the extra page hits?

Funny no more

I recently reconnected with a fraternity brother who came across this blog.  He had read some of my posts and commented: “you still got it.”  He was kindly referrring to my sense of humor.

Sadly, he couldn’t have been more wrong.

Oh, I can be glib at times.  Occasionally clever.  Sometimes witty.  But, more often than not I resort to “silly” which is kind of a comedic cop out.

Now, trust me, at one point in my life I really was funny.  And I say this without a hint of bragging: I was prodigy-like funny.  The sad story below illustrates what I’m talking about.

When I was in 6th grade, our English teacher asked each of us to give a 5 minute talk in front of the class on whatever topic we chose.  I’m certain it was to give us some “public-speaking” exposure, but I didn’t think of it that way.  Instead, I viewed it as my first chance to do a 5 minute comedy set.

Now at that time, Bill Cosby was a huge talent in the comedy world.  My parents had all his albums and I knew most of the routines by heart.  So, I picked out one of his shorter bits, and proceeded to memorize it word-by-word.

Only it never came out like Cosby did it.  I had trouble with both his timing and intonation.  When I said it, it just didn’t come out funny.

So, in a moment of inspiration, I decided to write my own bit.  5 minutes of pure 6th grade hilarity.  As I recall, something about a tyrannical teacher and some unruly students.

A few days later I “performed” in front of the class.  And, trust me, I “killed.”   Kids were falling out of their chairs in hysterics.

So much so, that at the end of class, the teacher pulled me aside and asked the source of my material.  I told her I wrote it myself.

And she looked at me, and sternly told me not to lie.  Insisted that since it was so good, I obviously had “borrowed” it from someone.  Even wrote a note to my parents chastising me for lying.

To this day I am certain that if instead, I had been encouraged, I could have been the next Cosby.

But, even with that setback, it didn’t stop there.  I was easily the funniest kid in high school.  And not just “dumb” funny, but the kind of sophisticated funny that guys like David Steinberg and George Carlin were bringing to the table.

In college, I was elected fraternity secretary.  The real role: do a 5 minute bit each Sunday night at 11PM as part of the fraternity “minutes.”  Trust me, there’s no tougher crowd than 45 unruly frat brothers waiting for you to fail so they can throw empty beer cans at you.

But, I rarely bombed.  I dressed up as “Dear Abby” one night and answer “questions” from the brothers.  I did a 5 minute bit on a “day in the life” of one of our studliest brothers.  And I did this for a solid year, every Sunday night.

Even upon joining IBM, I still had the knack.  I wrote skits for the branch office, did 20 minutes “sets” as an instructor, and even did my own Letterman “Top 10 reasons to sell OS/2” in front of 10,000 IBMers.  (Humbly, I knocked it out of the park and it’s not easy to make a dorky topic like that funny.)

And then Nancy and I started having kids.  And right about then, I started losing my fastball.  I’d get together with old friends, and I could just feel I was about a beat behind.  Like I was one of those old-timers at the All-star game.

We’d be at a party, I’d tell a story and my timing would be completely off.  Embarrassing.

And now, every year, I can feel myself getting slightly less funny.  Heck Nancy, who was always pretty clever, is a LOT funnier than I am these days.  Both my kids are funnier than I am.  Heck, the fellows who cut our lawn have better one-liners than I do.

So sadly that’s where I’m at.  Like one of those old comics you see on a talk show and wonder: “Boy, why did I ever think he was funny?”

But, I can still keep my memories, and I guess I’ll always have that day when I was the headliner in 6th grade.

 

Duke lost? Good. Lehigh won? Ugh!

A friend called me last night asking if I was watching the game.  “What game?” I asked.  Then I remembered:  Duke was playing Lehigh.

As a Lehigh grad, he was interested in seeing how his alma mater would fare.  He thought I’d be interested as well, as I graduated from both Duke (undergrad) and Lehigh (MBA.)

I couldn’t have cared less.  No, strike that.  I did care.  I wanted both teams to lose.

Now, it may be funny saying that, but I suppose this reveals one of my dark sides: I can hold a grudge for a long time.

Don’t get me wrong: I thoroughly enjoyed Duke, although I was there long before it was DUKE.  In fact, I was there long before “Coach K” arrived.  Back then, Duke almost winning the NCAA (1978) was a huge deal.

It was also a fairly conservative school with very little pretentiousness about it.  I felt proud to have attended and was a regular donor.

That all changed with the Duke lacrosse incident (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Duke_lacrosse_case) back in 2006.  Suffice to say, I saw the university show its true stripes, with innocent boys being railroaded by a liberal faculty.  (In fairness, Duke has its side of the story in which it comes off as a saint: http://today.duke.edu/showcase/lacrosseincident/)

In any event, my perception of the university dramtically changed, I stopped giving them money, and haven’t watched or rooted for them since.

Lehigh was a different story.  I was living at home while a graduate student, so I really didn’t take in the full “Lehigh experience.”  I did enjoy the school, though, and am thankful they gave me a stepping-stone into the business world.

And then my youngest daughter Diana applied to their undergrad program and was rejected.

So, you know what: F*CK Lehigh.  (And, by the way, stop calling me for donations, you morons.)

Yes, I’m a small, petty, grudge-holding neanderthal.   Proud of it, too.

Now, I hope Lehigh’s run is over in the next round.