Virginia Tech Merchandise, Topps Dollar, Curt Schilling's Got Game & More

Virginia Tech Merchandise Skyrockets:


Greg Tuza looked around his ACC Conference Store in Greensboro on Friday morning and responded to a caller who asked what he had left of Virginia Tech items. "No polos. Nope. No logo pins. No face tattoos. No, no decals. We won't have hats for two weeks."

Pretty much all that was left in his ransacked store was Virginia Tech golf towels and baby rattles. There were 394 Hokies t-shirts in his shop yesterday. All gone. "It's very bittersweet," said Tuza, who compared yesterday to the day after North Carolina won the 2005 NCAA men's basketball title.

What I love about Tuza is that he actually has every Hokies item discounted 10 percent to encourage the sale of school licensed gear. "It was something nice I could do in this sea of horror," said Tuza, whose store is located in an area that houses the second-largest group of Virginia Tech alums.

Today is Orange and Maroon Effect Day, where people are supposed to show their support for the 32 victims of the awful tragedy at the school. And as Virginia Tech likely becomes the best selling college gear in the country this week, I implore you not to direct any anger to guys like Tuza, who are selling Hokies gear like never before.

Please understand that retailers like Tuza are merely providing the outlet for people to express solidarity, as opposed to sick people who have reserved domain names and tried to peddle them -- unsuccessfully I might add -- on eBay.

Topps Dollar:

So yesterday it gets reported that the higher bidder in the Topps sale that was won by Michael Eisner's $385 million bid last month actually was Upper Deck. While not surprising, Upper Deck's buying of Topps would really mean the end of the card industry. I remember the early '90s fondly -- Upper Deck, Donruss, Score, Topps, Fleer and Skybox. Score is Donruss, which lost its baseball license last year and faded, while Fleer filed for bankruptcy and its assets -- including Skybox -- were bought by UD for a measly $6.1 million.

I just don't see the Federal Trade Commission ever approving a sale to Upper Deck and that’s probably what the Topps board of directors was thinking when they took the lower Eisner bid. Upper Deck also didn't reveal their full financials to prove they could execute the buying of Topps for obvious competitive reasons, but we all know they have the money.

On Curt Schilling:

Today on CNBC, you'll see my story on Curt Schilling, who's deep into starting his own video game company called 38 Studios. I recently visited their headquarters in Maynard, Mass., and I have to say I was very impressed. Here's an excerpt of our conversation on the day Schilling was getting ready to take on the rival New York Yankees:

Me: A lot of people think you're crazy to get into this business. Why are you doing it?

Curt: I started to talk to people in the industry. Designers, artists, coders and I started to see the horribly flawed business model from a people perspective. And I've always believed in the power of a team. Of getting people to buy into a vision and a goal and when I started to talk to these people and understand that there was something a lot better and a lot bigger available to them it just wasn't out there yet I started to see where I might fit.

Me: How much have you done with what this has become so far?

Curt: I hired them all. No one has come into this company without meeting and getting to know me. We have some incredibly sexy names with R.A. Salvatore from a creative aspect, and Todd McFarlane. And while I am a hardcore gamer and, some would say a geek gamer, the one thing that I think I bring to the table here is leadership. At the end of the day that's going to be my contribution.

Me: What does Curt Schilling bring to the table in this space?

Curt: It was one of the initial things I tried to get my hands around was what it was I was bringing to the table. Obviously exposure, but exposure mean nothing if you can back it up with quality. I think it's opened some doors that otherwise would have been harder to get in. But at the end of the day, my name is going to bring nothing more than what the company will bring.

Me: When will we see the first game from 38 Studios?

Curt: The bottom line is that we will not publish until it is in our minds perfect -- until it is as good as we can possibly make it. We do have plans to launch in late 2010. If we aren't ready, then we won't launch. And that's a staple of who we are and what we will be. When you see something with our 38 studios tag on it it's going to mean something.

Me: So far you've funded this venture all yourself; what do your money managers think of this?

Curt: When I sat down with my financial advisor and made the commitment to do this, one of the things that he told me was, "The only prerequisite I have for you is whatever it is you do you have a passion for." And, at that point, I knew what it was going to be.

And then as I started to look around, I heard, "You are an idiot for doing this. This is the wrong place and the wrong time and you're starting a business in the wrong place." You know, with games like "World of Warcraft" out there and the "Everquest"s of the world, the MMOs, space is crowded, which I think is a kind way to put it and the failure rate is astronomical.

But I don't show up in spring training hoping we finish in third place. I show up in spring training expecting to hold the World Series trophy at the end of the season. I expect these people to think that same way when we come here.

Me: You changed your name from "Green Monster Games" to "38 Studios." Why?

Curt: You are actually the first person to get it. Green Monster Games -- it was cool and fun and our logo with "Munch" was neat and eye-catching and it wasn't because of the Red Sox that we changed it. The problem was it really pigeonholed us into being seen as something we weren't and we didn't want to be. We want to make incredible games but our goals and our vision have us doing a lot of things in the entertainment space. Our intention is to be much bigger than a game development company.

Random Notes:Nike formally announced the signing of this year's NFL Draft class. Did they leave anyone for the other guys? Check out this list: Brady Quinn, Jamarcus Russell, Adrian Peterson, Amobi Okoye, Marshawn Lynch ,Calvin Johnson, Leon Hall, Gaines Adams and Greg Olsen. You wonder if they should have just signed one of the top guys and made a bigger push for last year for Reggie Bush, who went to Adidas.... I love The Brushback, which is essentially the sports version of The Onion. A story I saw this morning, "Vince Young Awarded Madden Cover After Twelve Other Players Decline" really got me....The University of Kansas has signed a 10-year marketing deal with Host Communications worth $65 million.... Babolat has extended its racket, strings and accessories deal with Rafael Nadal for the next 10 years.

Questions? Comments?