What I’ve been reading

The Complete Handbook of Clock Management, by Homer Smith. Maybe football’s only true genius, Coach Smith — of UCLA, the University of Alabama, of decades of major college coaching experience to go with his economics degree from Princeton, MBA from Stanford, and PhD in theology from Harvard — spent most of his time dabbling plays and recounting football history, but he also made big contributions to clock management. This book, like all of his others, is cryptic but great. (Famously, Georgia went 8-4 in Mark Richt’s first season, dropping several close games. Richt, unhappy with his own clock and down management, met with Smith that summer and the next year Georgia won almost all of those close games to go 13-1.) The only downside to the book is that there has been so much dabbling in the rules governing late game situations and when the clock stops — and those rules differ from high school, to college, and to the pros — that it’s impossible for this one book to provide definitive answers on everything, but, like everything else Smith wrote, it’s provides lots of food for thought.

Of course, Coach Smith recently passed away. (See also here and here.) Corky Simpson, of Tucson, wrote:

“Homer was grossly overqualified to be a football coach, let alone somebody’s assistant … the man was worthy of a higher calling — teacher or author or minister. But come to think of it, he was all those things rolled into one amazing professor of football.”

A Game of Thrones: A Song of Ice and Fire: Book One, by George R. R. Martin. I bought this due to its excessive popularity. I am not a big fantasy guy, though I enjoyed the Lord of the Rings however many years, ago, like everyone else. Strikes me as a bit heavy handed early on, but is beginning to pick up. Will report later. (I was also told by a friend in the publishing industry, for what it’s worth, that they have the manuscript for the next book in hand. Is that news? Or has it broken yet? I know the next volume is heavily awaited.)

The Sun Also Rises, by Hemingway. I had never read this until recently and I’ve always liked Hemingway but I was shocked at how good this was. For Whom the Bell Tolls was good but I’m still not sure the love story was believable, and the short stories are fantastic but they are, well, short and sometimes unnecessarily cryptic, but this was just unreal. I read it over a weekend. I know this isn’t exactly news (“Thanks for recommending Ernest Hemingway,” signed Your Seventh Grade Teacher), but do read it.

Money. The rest of the reading list is a bit different than — and not quite as fun as — Hemingway or Coach Smith:

  1. Fooling Some of the People All of the Time, A Long Short (and Now Complete) Story, by David Einhorn. Einhorn is the hedge fund manager who is investing in the Mets, and is doing so on terms befitting a hedge fund manager: $200MM for a minority stake and to shore up the finances, and if in two years Einhorn wants to buy majority control of the Mets the only way the Wilpon family can block him is to give his $200MM back, but he’d get to keep a one-third interest in team essentially for free. Einhorn is well known in the fund and investing community for dramatic bets that have tended to pay off, his most famous one being his call to short Lehman Brothers in the spring and summer of 2008 (a call for which he was told was both stupid and immoral — yeah well how did that work out). This book is essentially a treatise explaining one of Einhorn’s short bets, this time against a company named Allied Capital.

    He first publicly announced that he saw trouble at the middle-market lender due to the way it accounted for loans on its books back in 2002, and he had a very dramatic and very public fight with the company over the next six or so years. Indeed, when Einhorn came out with the hard cover of the book the stock was actually up for the six year period, but in the time since it went from something like $30 a share to $1 as various investigations, prosecutions, and bad numbers caught up to them (hence the “And Now Complete” in the title). Overall I enjoyed this book but I enjoyed it more for its wonky aspects and so I really only recommend it if you would like to read about default rates for mezzanine and subordinated debt for 300 pages (though with some admittedly entertaining asides about visiting with various lawyers, regulators, journalists and so on).
  2. The Little Book of Valuation: How to Value a Company, Pick a Stock and Profit, by Aswath Damodaran. I enjoyed this (is that the right word?), as Damodaran — who also wrote the actual bible on the valuation of companies — should have named the book how I saw it: Valuation for Lawyers Instead of Investment Bankers.
  3. Confessions of a Street Addict, by Jim Cramer. Yes that Jim Cramer. I don’t like Jim Cramer (and who would admit it if they did), and I will never act on an investment tip from his show but I did find this — which is his only autobiographical book — relatively entertaining. I’m sure there’s lots of hyperbole here and I can only imagine what some New Yorker style fact checker would have to say about it, but it was enjoyable and at times even insightful to hear Cramer tell about his career as a sell-side guy at Goldman Sachs to lucking into a deal with his own hedge fund that happened to share space, resources, and guidance from Michael Steinhardt’s fund, and even the weird rise of TheStreet.com, which was in many ways the original web-only dotcom content based company that everything from HuffPo to SBNation is following. I won’t tell you that you must get it but I’ve certainly read worse.
  4. Buyout: The Insider’s Guide to Buying Your Own Company, by Rick Rickertsen. Just picked this up, it seems decent so far but I can assure my readership that it is more for pedagogical than practical interest — I won’t be buying any Fortune 500 companies anytime soon, rest assured.

  • http://twitter.com/drewwill Drew Williams

    Thanks for your recommendations Chris. This is definitely one of my favorite blogs. Keep up the good work.

  • Ryan

    Chris, this is a great blog! About 7 months ago I got my hand on Homer Smith’s series of 17 manuals on Offensive football. I am a relatively young coach (4 years and never played the game) but have learnt so much from his books already. Definitely worth the investment!

  • Patdolan

    There’s an article in a recent New Yorker about George R.R. Miller’s fans harassing him via his web presence because he hadn’t written the most recent volume as quickly as the first three. So if the MS is in hand, I think he and his publisher want it widely known to stop the criticism.

  • http://twitter.com/ThomasGower Tom Gower

    Martin’s next book is scheduled to come out in July, I believe.  That’s (relatively) widely known (at least among people who’d care about such things).

  • mfore

    The Sun Also Rises is my all time favorite book!

  • Tyler Smith

    Yes, the fifth installment in the Song of Ice and Fire series, A Dance with Dragons, is slated for 12 July. I’d tell you to stick with Game of Thrones, and ultimately the entire 4000+ pp. series, but once you’ve engorged yourself on Martin’s brilliance in that first book, you’ll be wholly incapable of not getting right into Clash of Kings. Literary, epic, contemporary, unique, Shakespearean even, the series stands alone as possibly the crowning achievement of fantasy prose, this side of Tolkien or the other.

  • Watson Heilala

    I meant to click the purchase button for this book on Amazon and ended up doing so for Homer Smith’s “Football Coach’s Complete Offensive Playbook.” Great purchase. Still  plan on getting the Clock Management Book. I first learned about it from George Deleone at a clinic.

  • Watson Heilala

    Where can I find them?

  • Ybub74

    agree 100% I  read game of thrones then launched straight in to a clash of kings. absolutely wonderful

  • Ryan

    Hi Watson, I had to do some leg work and I managed to get a hold of Coach Smith’s daughter who still had them. Email me at dviper45@yahoo.com and I will send you her email address

    Ryan