Oh my God, I'm sick.
For most, these words are probably uttered a couple of times a quarter. But for me, Mr. Perfect Attendance, the feeling that came over me yesterday was devastating.
I hadn't been sick--meaning sick enough not to go to work--since November 23, 1989. I remember it well, in part, because it doesn't happen very much, and in full, because we dropped 3% that day in an otherwise stellar year. (Truth be told, "we" was just my wife and I and an assistant, and my wife came home to take care of me while we had made a big bet on the techs, and they capsized that day.)
Ah hah, I said to myself, it won't be a total loss. Just last week CNBC went "real time" giving us the NYSE tape as it actually happens rather than that 15- minutes-late stuff that is so annoying in a market that drops 50 points in 14 minutes. I'll just go back to sleep and then tune in just in time for Squawk Box.
At 8:30 a.m. I grabbed for the clicker (didn't want to see a minute of that Capitol Gains sleeper) and began the hunt. First time around, no Mark Haines--must be a commercial I figure. Second time around, no face-off between Maria Bartiromo and David Faber over upgrades and downgrades (is there a question about who all Wall Street roots for in that match-up?). Just commercials.
And then it hit me. My cable system must have dropped CNBC. And as an addict, I couldn't believe my bad luck.
For those of us who live by the tape, who marvel over every nuance and get excited by the most trivial of buy recommendations, CNBC is a must. We have it on all day at our shop, periodically stopping to listen to Bill Griffeth's 1:53 p.m. witticisms or to hone in on any CEO of a stock we may be long or short. But in general it is our muzak, our background to the day, no doubt what the old clicking ticker was to shops like mine generations ago.
I cut my teeth on these folks, learning to trade while at Harvard Law School, while watching FNN, a predecessor of CNBC. Sue Herera and Bill Griffeth paid for my tuition and got me started in a successful options career, all by giving me the latest financial news between (and when I was very long, during) classes.
I don't know how much more money I would have made had Haines--everybody's tough guy favorite for his relentless bubble-popping interviews during this summer's ridiculous Iomega-led rally--had been on those days.
Or, for that matter, how much smarter I would have been had Karen Gibbs been on explaining to me that stocks take their cue from bonds.
So, without CNBC, I figured, I might as well put on anything. I found the right counterpart for my sick day on HBO:
and I laughed myself back to sleep and slow recovery.
James Cramer is manager of a hedge fund and co-chairman of The Street