Michael Lewis

EliManningTheTrader.jpgWhen the Chargers selected Eli Manning as their first round draft pick years ago, the choice was considered fantastically risky. Although fans love a great quarterback they love winning teams even more, and many coaches oppose spending their salary capped fortunes and draft picks on quarterbacks on principle: they simply don’t believe quarterbacks are worth the cost. The same balking at the costs of Manning were repeated when he was traded to the now world champion Giants.
Eli Manning’s greatest strengths seemed to be “a special ability to cope with risk” and his remarkably high intelligence (his score of 39 on the 12 minute Wonderlic IQ test implied an IQ of around 136), Michael Lewis argued in an essay in the New York Times Magazine in December of 2004. The ability to cope with risk was what lay at the heart of Lewis’ bond trading book Liar’s Poker.
“Compared with managing, trading was admirably direct… [The traders at Solomon Brothers] took risk. They proved their superiority everyday by handling risk better than all the rest of the risk-taking world,” Lewis wrote in the book. It was coping with risk that made the game of liar’s poker such a great metaphor for trading. For Lewis it was more than a metaphor: liar’s poker itself was a test of a trader’s character and instincts for risk.
If we put these two assessments together, we can see that Lewis was essentially arguing that it was this trader’s instinct that defines Manning. Can anyone who watched Manning’s incredible performance in the final minutes of last night’s Superbowl doubt that Lewis got it right?
Update: Thanks to our readers for some corrections about Manning’s history with the Chargers and for pointing out that the third Manning brother is using that ability to cope with risk as a commodity trader!
The Eli Experiment [New York Times Magazine]