The Cornerman

Years ago as a child I asked my father for money in order to buy some ice cream.  He said he would give it to me but I had to promise to memorize something he was going to tell me.  It seemed like a fairly straight forward deal so I agreed.  He then said, “always remember to make sure your cornerman is in your corner.”  He made me repeat it back to him so I did but I must have looked a little puzzled when I did it.  At the time I wasn’t really sure what he meant by that comment so I asked him, “so why must you always make sure your cornerman is in your corner?”  As he handed me a dollar bill he said quite simply, “because sometimes he isn’t.”  I was seven years old at the time but I never forgot that message even though it took me a few years to fully understand its meaning.

 My father, much like his father, was a boxer in his youth.  He trained as a teenager in a gym his father owned on the near north side of Chicago back in the 1920’s and 1930’s.  My grandfather trained local youths in the sport of boxing.  The gym not only supplemented his income but served as a front for his real source of income, a saloon known as the “Shamrock Verein”.  It was there he taught my father the importance of the cornerman.  In boxing the cornerman is your trainer and coach.  When you enter the ring against your opponent it is this trusted individual who supports, advises and watches out for you.  Your cornerman can make or break you in a close match.  Sometimes, as you may have guessed, your cornerman is not always in your corner.

There are two main reasons why your cornerman may not be “in your corner”.  The first is that they may not be competent enough to be there in the first place.  They may lack adequate experience and be providing poor advise.  It doesn’t take more than a couple of ass-kickings to figure out if this is the reason.  If everyone your cornerman trains gets beat then the problem is most likely the cornerman.  There is another reason why the cornerman may not be in your corner.  This one is more subtle and dangerous.  That is because your cornerman has sold you out.  He has either bet against you or at the very least his interests are not aligned with yours.  (This is referred to as the principal-agent problem.)  The problem is one of asymmetric information and the solution is one of aligning incentives so that both boxer and cornerman approach the ring with the same goal.

Everyone needs a cornerman.  It could be your coach, trainer, agent, consultant, financial advisor, priest, minister, rabbi, physician, mentor, attorney, or anyone who assists and guides you in life.  It doesn’t matter if they get paid for it or they volunteer.  Part of their best interest must include your best interest for them to be granted this trusted position.  So heed these words, “always remember to make sure your corner man is in your corner.”

Comments are closed.