An Excerpt From 'The Rookie Bookie'

This excerpt appears in "The Rookie Bookie" by L. Jon Wertheim and Tobias Moskowitz, published by Little, Brown and Company. The author also joined Bill Littlefield on Only A Game. See our interview and book review.

I like sports. I like all sports, really. Football, baseball, basketball, anything. Actually, I like talking and thinking about sports more than I like playing them. Probably because I’m much better at it. I like figuring out strategy and how to win. That’s why I love fantasy sports—no dropped passes, just who to pick and who to play. But there’s one other thing I like almost as much, maybe even more, and I might as well tell you up front.

I love money and business.

Okay, before you decide that this makes me a greedy kid who doesn’t care about the things that really matter, let me explain.

See, most kids in my grade want to be famous athletes or singers or actresses. That would be cool, but if you got picked last for teams as often as I have, eventually you’d give up the dream of becoming the next Derek Jeter or LeBron James. Besides, even if I could play, I’d rather own the Yankees or the Heat than play for the Yankees or the Heat.

Instead of being a sports hero, I want to be the next Warren Buffett.

The other day I wrote that in one of those first-week-of-school autobiography assignments. My older brother Kevin read it and got all confused. “Buffett? Is he, like, the guy that invented all-you-can-eat?”

“No. That’s pronounced buff-fay,” I told him. “This is Buff-ett. He’s an investor. A financier. Probably the most successful investor of all time.”

“Oh yeah?” he said, barely looking up.

“He’s like a gardener, but he tries to grow money instead of flowers and plants. And he’s worth more than fifty billion dollars.”

“Right,” said Kevin. “Because money’s the most important thing in the world.”

“Look at it this way,” I said, trying to put it in terms Kevin would care about. “He could buy every team in Major League Baseball and the National Football League at once. He could give every single American a hundred dollars and he’d still be a billionaire. He could—”

“Okay,” Kevin snorted. “He’s rich. I get it.”

But as usual, Kevin didn’t get it. “I don’t care about being rich,” I told him. “I just want to make a lot of money.”

“That doesn’t make any sense,” he said, looking back at the TV.

“Okay,” I said, sighing. “You know how when you go to the arcade, you get as many tickets as you can playing Skee-Ball and Pop-a-Shot and Whack-a-Mole and all that? You make deals. You hustle like crazy. After all that, you get to the window and you trade your tickets in for some stupid keychain or some inflatable pillow you never use?”

“I guess,” said Kevin.

“Well, that’s how I feel about money. It’s not just about the stuff you can buy. It’s about finding new ways to make it. Trading. Avoiding traps. It’s the game of it.”

Kevin looked up and studied me. “Don’t you want money to get a really cool car like a Ferrari Testarossa or an electric guitar or some new clothes?” You see, Kevin’s sixteen, a junior in high school, about to get his driver’s license, and crazy about cars and clothes and all that junk.

“Nah, those are just things,” I told him. “I don’t need things.” (Though owning a sports team one day would be supercool.)

“Then why do you care about money so much if you’re not going to spend it?”

“I like the game of it,” I repeated. “Some kids like collecting baseball cards or Pokémon cards or snow globes or whatever. I like collecting dollars and cents. And I will spend it. Just not on stuff.”

“Huh?” he said, even more confused.

“Money can help you do stuff that no one else can,” I said. “Think of it as something you can trade with anyone for almost anything. Or you can help people who need it and donate it. Did you know Warren Buffett is giving away most of his fortune—”

“Wait,” Kevin cut me off. “You mean you want to make money just so you can give it away? That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard. You’re so weird.” He snorted, and walked out of the room laughing.

This excerpt appears in "The Rookie Bookie" by L. Jon Wertheim and Tobias Moskowitz, published by Little, Brown and Company.


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