I RECENTLY HAD a chance to go back in time. An alumnus from my high school is spending his retirement documenting the school’s football program. He’s done an amazing job. He created a YouTube channel populated with an extensive library of game films dating back to the 1950s.
I recently stumbled across the channel, and scrolled to my senior year, which was 1974-75. I played tight end on arguably the worst team in my high school’s long and storied history. We had won five and lost three the previous year, and the local paper predicted we’d win our division. Instead, we lost every game.
I was a bit apprehensive as I opened the first game of my senior year. I remembered the final score (we lost 10-7) and some of the details. What I didn’t realize was how badly our team played. We fumbled five times in the first quarter. Before the game was over, we had several more fumbles and an interception. Our quarterback got pummeled.
A high school football game can be condensed into 25 minutes of viewing with good editing. It didn’t take long to watch the whole game. I think I played every offensive play. We ran a very simple offense, more 1950s than 1970s. We only passed when absolutely necessary. My primary role was blocking.
I watched the film closely and felt I played pretty well. I blocked well in direct runs, and especially when the offensive tackle and I would double team the defensive end. The challenge was when I had no one in front of me, and I was supposed to find a linebacker to block. They knew we were most likely running the ball, and they played close to the line. It made it harder to reach them before they got to the runner.
I found myself wishing I’d been a better player, that I was stronger and faster and more experienced. I thought of the things I could have done to be better prepared or to contribute more to the team. One thing I noticed, however: I never stopped hustling. Often in football, you see the players on the opposite side of the play’s direction take a play off. On the film, I was happy to see that even when the play went to the other side I hustled down the field to find somebody to block. This worked well a few times, helping the ball carrier extend his run.
Later in the day, as I was thinking about the film, I started thinking about how many other things I wished I could do over. I’ve always felt that way about investing. I should’ve known about Berkshire Hathaway 10 years before it became iconic. I should have put more into GE stock when I worked for the company, and then sold it all before the crash. I should have moved all of my 401(k) into Lockheed Martin stock when it dropped toward $20, and not sold until it broke $400.
I watched a good friend accumulate Apple stock around $20. There are so many others I missed. Instead, my wife and I worked hard, saved in our 401(k)s, drove sensible cars, took camping vacations, invested for our children’s education and paid off our mortgage. We ended up okay. I sometimes still regret not being a better investor. But I’m happy I never stopped hustling.