The Joke Should be the Outlier

“I’m a contrarian.” – Everyone

Sportscenter was by far my most watched show growing up as a youngster. I would watch the same episode five times a day and wait patiently for a specific highlight or the Top 10 at the end of the show.

I even loved the commercials about the show:

I grew up laughing at Kenny Mayne, Stuart Scott, Craig Kilborn and the like.

But the OGs on Sportscenter were Dan Patrick and Keith Olbermann. They got me hooked on the big show.

Rich Eisen was another anchor who came on board after those guys were already well-established. On the Pardon My Take podcast this week, Eisen told the story of his initial dealing with the ever-curmudgeonly Olbermann.

Olbermann would walk through the hallway, look at Eisen, and go, “Nope.”

He would see him again later on and Olbermann would say, “Not yet.”

Eisen finally got up the nerve to ask Olberman what he meant by these comments.

He replied, “You’re not close to doing the type of Sportscenter that you can be doing and should be doing. You’re making everything a joke. Do one highlight without a joke, then do one segment without a joke, then do half a show that way, then a full show that way. And then when you’re totally bored do an entire week that way. And then you’re halfway there.”

Eisen further prodded, “What are you talking about?”

Olbermann advised, “The joke should be the outlier, not the entirety of what you’re doing.”

I heard a Jerry Seinfeld quip this week where he joked, “If they really were hipsters there wouldn’t be so many of them.”

You can think about being a contrarian in any field much in the same way. If you’re a contrarian all the time then you’re not really a contrarian.

When it comes to the markets, eventually the crowd has to agree with you, otherwise being a contrarian is indistinguishable from being wrong.

It can feel comforting to call yourself a contrarian to feel superior to the collective irrationalities involved in markets but it typically makes more sense to be a contrarian at the extremes.

And the extremes are outliers.

You have to be selective about being a contrarian or you risk the chance of constantly going against the grain for the sake of intellectual stimulation.


Now here’s what I’ve been reading lately: