Revenge of The Nerds: Golf & Tennis Are #1!

According to Harris Interactive,  the most popular male athlete in America is Tiger Woods, and the most popular female athlete is Serena Williams.  This got me thinking…. hmmmm, America is absolutely obsessed with football, baseball, and basketball and yet golf and tennis are #1!  Since High School, the stereotype has always been that nerds played golf and tennis, and jocks played the other sports.  So, what’s up with this latest poll?

The Financial Samurai theory:

* Whoever controls the most amount of money is the most influential, and therefore, the most popular.   The reason why Tiger Woods makes $100 million a year is because he generates billions in incremental revenue.  Since nerds by definition get better grades,  they may go to better schools  and get better paying jobs.  Therefore, their chances of making more money increases.  More nerds play golf and tennis, and therefore spend more on those sports.

* Nobody really has their own money in High School or College, so the jocks will always beat the nerds when it comes to popularity.  However, 10 years later, the trend seems to reverse unless you are that rare jock nerd such as Bill Bradley, NBAer, Rhodes scholar, and 3-term US Senator from New Jersey!

* Seattle Mariners star, Ichiro Suzuki is a good jock example, making $17 million a year.  But, $17 million pales in comparison to the man paying him, King Nerd Paul Allen, who’s worth $18 billion,  earns $720 million a year in interest income, and therefore $2 million a DAY.  Cha-ching!

* Is it a coincidence there are so many CEO golfers?  Jim Crane, Jerry Jurgensen, John Lundgren, Ed Stack, Steve Bennett, Mike Esken, David Perdue, Mayo Shattuck, Jim McNeely of Sun Microsystems, Dollar General, Intuit, EGL, Nationwide Financial, The Stanley Works, UPS, Dollar General, and Constellation Energy are all sub 10 handicap golfers. Coincidence?  Heck no.  Just look at their bio’s, and you’ll realize they were all nerds growing up.

* People like dominant competitors who are able to control their own destinies. Although we are taught teamwork at a very early age, it’s just you and your club, or you and your racquet in golf and tennis.  There’s nobody to rely on or blame when things get difficult.  All the glory and all the failure is yours.

* Due to the lack of physical contact, there are less injuries in tennis and golf, and therefore more people can play for longer periods of time.


If you want to increase your chances of making money, be a nerd and play golf and tennis, but also have intimate knowledge of football, basketball, and baseball like John Clayton from ESPN.

John "The Stud" Clayton

John “The Stud” Clayton

John Clayton may not fit the image of a sportscaster, but he is gainfully employed and listened to by millions because of his deep knowledge of football.

So much of worldwide business revolves around golf and tennis.  Deals are made on the 19th hole all the time.  What better way to bond with your client than on a beautiful summer day, hacking a ball into a hole with beers in hand?  Bonds are created over hardship, and striving to sink a ball into a tiny hole for 5 hours is deemed incredible hardship by many!  If it helps motivate you to play, studies say that golfers live on average 7-8 years longer than non-golfers!

The tennis league I’m on also has its fair share of impressive resumes.  One person is a partner at Sullivan & Cromwell, another is a Managing Director at a major investment bank, and yet another is a multi-millionaire internet entrepreneur who lives at the 4 Seasons among several other places.  Compare their resumes to my teammates on my basketball league, and it’s night and day.


So how about it folks?  Go to the driving range this weekend, or to your nearest public courts and whack some balls.   Afterwards, watch 30 minutes of ESPN and then let it all sink in.  Your popularity and speaking points with clients and colleagues will grow.   Once you get in the routine, get as good as possible.

I see it all the time at my tennis club.  That senior partner might not have a second to waste with a spittoon carrier right out of school, but if you so happen to play tennis well, she’ll giddily want to get to know you and hit for hours.   On the court, you are both equals! Sports is a language that brings people from all socioeconomic backgrounds together.

Opportunities are created through relationships.  Play golf and tennis and you’ll have more opportunities for a promotion and a raise than ever before.  With the fantastic longevity of both sports, it’s never too late to start!

Goals for Financial Samurai’s: 1) Recognize the names of the top 25 in NCAA football, 2) Know who are legit contenders for the national championship (USC, Florida, Texas, Penn State, Alabama are a few), 3) Get to know at least two people to play tennis with and aim for a 3.0 rating within 1 year, 4) Take some tennis lessons, 5)Watch 30 minutes of golf this weekend and go to the driving range and see if the golf bug bites.  6) Enroll your kids into tennis and golf camp early.  Thanks dad!

Related Post: “Serena Williams is NOT A Nerd!  We’re Sorry!”


Financial Samurai – “Slicing Through Money’s Mysteries”

Updated: 2/3/2015

Sam started Financial Samurai in 2009 during the depths of the financial crisis as a way to make sense of chaos. After 13 years working on Wall Street, Sam decided to retire in 2012 to utilize everything he learned in business school to focus on online entrepreneurship. Sam focuses on helping readers build more income in real estate, investing, entrepreneurship, and alternative investments in order to achieve financial independence sooner, rather than later.

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  1. says

    I think the reason golf and tennis are number one is because you can play it as you get older. You can still go out and play some golf when you are in your 70s and 80s. Tennis until you are older as well. Football, basketball, baseball, and hockey are all great but it’s not as identifiable on a personal level like golf and tennis are. You might think of your high school glory days, but for most those were the last days of really playing those sports on a regular basis.

    • says

      Very true. The longevity of tennis and golf, as well as the ability to play at an older age is definitely key. Hence, everybody should try to learn at least one.

  2. says

    Very interesting note, and I agree. Up here at The Resort at Squaw Creek in Squaw Valley, Lake Tahoe, we’ve got luxury condos priced at the higher end of all the community. During the summer, most of us play golf on the properties’ own golf course. We’ve got several tennis courts as well to mix it up.

    Fellow owners include to CEO of Yahoo, and several big whigs from other Silicon Valley corporations. There aren’t any basketball courts or baseball fields around here. It’s just the way it is. As we age, we enjoy lower impact sports such as golf :)

  3. William & Mary says

    What if you were the biggest “nerd” of all, and don’t even play a sport? Then what? Are non-sports playing people at a disadvantage? I think maybe.

    • says

      I do believe those who don’t play or show interest in any sports are at a disadvantage. America is such a big sports culture, that to miss sports as part of your social rep becomes a handicap. The more interests you have, the more opportunities you have to interact with clients.

  4. Charlie says

    I did a double take the first time I saw Clayton on espn. What is the network thinking i thought, but he knows his stuff.

    totally agree being able to play a decent game of golf and/or tennis is a nice leg up in the work world.

  5. says

    Clayton is a pimp!!! Haha he proves that you can fit in just fine in the sports world if you just KNOW a ridiculous amount about it.

    You are at a significant disadvantage if you do not care for sports. It’s quick and easy conversation – Hey did you catch the game? How about Favre? etc.

    I am a pretty *horrible* golfer. I have only been playing a few years, and sometimes the cost of playing keeps me away. My goal is to significantly improve my game this fall and next summer just in case I ever get asked to golf from a boss/client/etc.

  6. thriftygal says

    I don’t know if golf and tennis increase your chances of making money (unless you’re TW or SW, or a CEO trying to cut a deal). But having money and being able to afford to learn and play those sports might make you a better player… don’t you think?

  7. William & Mary says

    @thriftygal I think that’s a good point, at least for golf since it’s such an expensive sport. Tennis is pretty cheap b/c there are public courts everywhere. I think the point is that playing tennis and golf, and knowing a lot about other sports provides more opportunites to develop relationships with colleagues and senior people. With better relationships, come better ways chances at making money because your colleagues and clients will know you, and perhaps like you more.

  8. says

    I started to play on the tennis team in high school, but due to family circumstances I had to quit. So I did the swim team the year after.

    Golf, my husband bought me lesson with a pro. I had fun with the lessons, but the game just doesn’t suit my taste. Guess it’ll have to be tennis again! And if I get to know sports… could give a gal an upper edge. :D
    .-= Money Funk´s last blog ..Menu Plan Monday: Weight Loss Happy =-.

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