- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
Carter got into the commodities game two years ago when a friend, over for coffee one morning, made a phone call from his apartment in the 70-story Lake Point Tower apartment complex on Chicago's North Side. The friend was checking out the price of beans. To Carter, it sounded intriguing.
"I took an MBA in mathematics—statistical analysis—at Northwestern." Carter says, "and in a way numbers have always meant more to me than football. Oh, the numbers in football are O.K. The challenge is there as it is in chess—a kind of muscular chess, when you're a quarterback. But I got fascinated with this commodities trading. I bought a seat. They cost about $50,000 three years ago and now they're going for as much as $170,000. Good investment."
Carter isn't trading today, so he ambles along through the chaos of flashing hand signals and sprinting runners like a man on a Sunday stroll through the park, explaining the workings of the market. "Each contract involves 5,000 bushels of soybeans, an 18-wheeler load, worth about $30,000." He points to the board, where soybeans have jumped one cent. "Say you've got a limit position of three million bushels. That penny move up there either just made you $30,000 or cost you the same amount. There's enormous leverage, and unlike, say, poker, you can set your own risk reward." He talks as he strolls—"chartists" vs. "fundamentalists," "day traders" vs. "scalpers," "speculators" and "brokers." all the jargon of the trade. There's something almost Dickensian about the cool, bustling gloom of the old, high-ceilinged wooden room. A nattily dressed old man goes past, swinging a walking stick with a jaunty air. He peers through thick spectacles at the distant board.
"That's Julius Frankel," says Carter. "He's been in the market forever—a fundamentalist and a limit trader. Very clued in. He can't see the board anymore and has to ask one of us what's happening, but actually he's been around so long that I'm sure he can feel the price changes." He stops to chat with Frankel.
"I'm 83 years old," Frankel says proudly in a Yiddish accent, "and I've been in the market 62 of those years. Loved every minute of it. Made many a fortune and lost many a fortune. But I've still got my health—why, I swim 54 laps a day, even yet—and I still love the place. This is the greatest racket in the world. You got to get up every morning and find out what's happening all over the place. London, New York, New Orleans, everywhere. Keeps you on your toes, doesn't it, Virgil." He claps the quarterback smartly on the shoulder and strides into the melee.
A gong sounds—five minutes of trading left. Elbows, fingers and pencils fly faster. Another gong and they accelerate even more frantically.
"You can get hurt in there," says Carter. "Elbowed in the gut, toes crunched underfoot, even lose an eye to a flying pencil point. The two-minute warning"—he laughs, glowing—"I love it. For whom the bell tolls. At 30 grand the penny. I'd like to retire from football soon and devote full time to this. Old Julius there, he's the Johnny Blood of the Commodities Exchange. The Sammy Baugh. I want to be one of those guys someday. Yeah, I may retire."
After analyzing those moves, Virgil Carter decided it was time to retire. He notified the Bears that he would not be reporting to training camp.