A couple years ago, I was doing a piece for ESPN on how Arizona Diamondbacks owner Jerry Colangelo had forced his players to sign autographs before games. I went around with Randy Johnson, who insisted that he personalize each autograph. (If the autograph had a name on it, it would make it less valuable, but a person who really wanted to keep it would love to have their name on it). So the guy comes to the front of the line and Randy says, “What’s your name?” and he tells Johnson that he doesn’t want his name on it. Johnson tells him his policy and the guy says his name is Joe. “I’m not signing this,” Johnson says. I later asked him why he didn’t sign it and he told me that the guys who are going to sell it are all named Ed, Joe and Jim. Why? Because if they get to their photo with rubbing alcohol within a certain period of time, they can erase the inscription. Johnson told me they go with shorter names so it’s easier to erase. What a great insight into the ridiculous business that this is. That’s why I really can't completely bash these athletes.
The other issue of course is autograph deals. Autograph companies always say they don’t prohibit their players from signing at games, but signing at games does devalue what they can sell. Barry Bonds rarely signs, but when he signs at the ballpark, it’s usually a B.B.S., not the full Barry Bonds. That you’ll have to get from BarryBonds.com.
One more great autograph story. In the late 1990s, Tony Gwynn went to a San Diego Padres gift shop in Oceanside, Calif., to do a signing. What happens next is classic, according to a story in the North County Times:
"I went into the shop and as I walk into the store I see a picture in the window with Cammy (Ken Caminiti), (Steve) Finley and I," Gwynn told the newspaper. "All of them are autographed, and all of them are forged. All of the stuff, every last 8-by-10 forged. I knew it right away because the T wasn't looped. I always looped the 'T' on 8-by-10s. I see Caminiti's and Finley's every day. And I know it's not mine."
The fact that this was happening at the official store is just priceless.
The Wisdom Of Crowds
It’s a big sports movie week. “Rocky Balboa” hitting yesterday. “We Are Marshall” debuting tomorrow. Now the greatest business story in these two movies is in the crowds. Getting crowds for sports movies costs an absolute fortune. A live human costs about $75 on average per day of shooting, not including food and transportation. That’s a lot of money if you’re looking for thousands to sit in an arena or stadium.
Sylvester Stallone handled this issue like many sports movies have done in the past -- by shooting scenes at a live event. (The Jermaine Taylor-Bernard Hopkins rematch in Las Vegas last December). By doing this, he didn’t have to pay for anyone.
The folks at “We Are Marshall” took another route. Instead of hiring extras, they took a page out of the movies “Seabiscuit,” “Dreamer,” “Cinderella Man” and the classic “Nacho Libre,” all of which had blow up dolls in the stands. Sure enough, there’s a whole business behind all of this. This movie reportedly used the folks at The Inflatable Crowd Company. While there’s no pricing info on the site their competition, Crowd In A Box says it would cost about $8 per blow up per day.
Professional Baseball Video Gaming?
Baseball super agent, Scott Boras, in between negotiating his deal for clients, Daisuke Matsuzaka and Barry Zito, announced the formation of the Professional Baseball Video Game League (PBGL). It’s basically baseball players battling online against each other and their fans. Partners in the project include Boras, MLB Advanced Media and a media company called GGL. Boras’ client, Johnny Damon, will serve as commissioner. Other players in the league will be Prince Fielder (Brewers), Corey Patterson (Orioles) and Derek Lowe (Dodgers) among others. The league will debut this week with Project Gotham Racing 3 for Xbox 360.
The Pittsburgh Penguins didn’t get what they wanted yesterday as the Isle of Capri didn’t win the slots license, which means they won’t help build the team a new arena. The NHL this morning is making it out like there would be a million places for this team to move to. Email me if you think I’m wrong, but I think Kansas City is the only place this team could possible go. What makes this really interesting is that the team is now up for sale again after RIM founder Jim Balsille backed out.
The New Jersey Nets are back on pace to move to Brooklyn by the 2009 season with the Public Authorities Control Broad approving the proposed development built by Bruce Ratner, owner of the Nets and president and CEO of Forest City Ratner Companies. Ratner still has to fight against the people who are suing him for mischaracterizing eminent domain laws, but this was a big obstacle that is now over.