Second Life, Txt Msgng, NFL Sleeper & More

David Stern Has an Avatar


The NBA called me last week and asked if they could make an avatar, or virtual character, of me so that I could attend a press conference in the Cisco Wireless Press Center in which David Stern's avatar would be giving a press conference about the NBA entering "Second Life," the new-age version of the life simulation games.

I was a bit confused as to what was real and what was fake, but as more corporations find that there is great branding opportunities and potentially money to be made in this game, it comes as no surprise that the NBA is entering this space.

So here's what they are offering: an NBA Store, where people in "Second Life" can buy NBA jerseys and gear for their avatars (about 300 Linden Dollars equals $1 in real life), fans can play basketball games at the NBA Jam Session and in the Toyota Larry O'Brien Trophy Room -- located in something called T-Mobile Arena -- and fans can take pictures of their avatars with the championship trophy.

I think it's a good move for the NBA as long as no one pulls their avatar's pants down in any of the NBA-branded areas. There have been many reports of rampant sex issues in the game. While Reebok and Adidas are in "Second Life," Nike is not, despite various reports that the shoe and apparel giant has been formally involved.

Text Messaging Won't Stop

I find it comical how the NCAA thinks through its ban of coaches text messaging recruits that the practice will stop. The bottom line is that phone-to-phone communication is too valuable for college coaches, so let me give you a preview of how it is going to work on July 31, the last day coaches are allowed to text message recruits.

"Hey bddy, it's Coach Steve here from SVU. That new rle kicks in 2morrow, so from now on I'll be usin a brrowd phone that no one can trace."

That's it. Just like paying players under the table by having boosters write out checks to an intermediary who gives the player cash after skimming a little of the top.

Walter Thomas Signs with New Orleans Saints

The big NFL sleeper, written about in the New York Times, has in fact signed a free agent contract with an NFL team. The New Orleans Saints signed the 370-pound defensive tackle who only played two collegiate games.

"I think a lot of teams liked him," said his agent Martin Magid, "but with the commissioner's new rule (regarding stricter penalties for criminal activity), I think teams were cautious about drafting him."

Prep School Advertises Ability to Churn Out Draft Picks

The folks at Fork Union Military Academy in Fork Union, Va., are quite proud of Gaines Adams, who was selected fourth overall in Saturday's NFL Draft by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The school issued a news release today noting that Adams is the school's 10th first round draft pick and one of more than 70 alums who have been drafted or signed by NFL teams. The school's recent first round picks include Adams, Chris Perry (2004), Plaxico Burress (2000), Jim Drunkenmiller (1997), Rickey Dudley (1996), Eddie George (1996), Robert Jones (1992), Vinny Testaverde (1987).

There's a reason athletes like Fork Union, by the way. Their grades improve and I'm not sure it's all attributed to the school's "One Subject Plan" schedule (They study one subject for seven weeks at a time instead of the usual juggling of classes.).

Last year, the school was part of a list of 22 schools that were reviewed by the NCAA when it was de-certifying the so-called diploma mills. The school was flagged for "irregular course work and grade patterns." After a review, the school passed the test.

Under Armour Braces for a Tough Day

Under Armour might have the single worst day in its history today, topping its $3.99 loss on Jan. 22, right after Barron's came out and said the stock might be overvalued. Although the company announced that first quarter earnings were up 13.8 percent thanks in part to its baseball and golf business, the street obviously was not pleased with lower margins and second quarter guidance that was deflated, the company said, due to higher marketing costs.

I'm still bullish on Under Armour because of the following reasons -- all mentioned on the conference call:

o Revenues are up 50 percent from where they were in the previous 12-month period

o Under Armour's direct-to-consumer business grew 87 percent in the first quarter and 100 percent over the past 12 months

o Every parent I talked to who was buying stuff for their kid's Little League games told me that they bought some Under Armour. Anecdotes count for something, along with the data (baseball apparel was up 127 percent in the first quarter)

o The bottom line on the marketing costs -- the percentage is commensurate with the spend with companies in the industry

Is this Perfect for Cubs Fans?

The Dallas Mavericks, after their incredible 67-win season, could lose it all tonight if they fall to the Golden State Warriors. Aside from the fact that Warriors coach, and former Mavericks coach, Don Nelson is claiming that Mavericks owner Mark Cuban owes him $6.6 million, I think this could be great for Cubs fans.

In April, you might remember when I said that, in order for Cuban to buy the Cubs, I truly believe he'd want to sell the Mavericks: "Cubs fans should pray that the team makes it to the finals again and gets thumped. I don't see him getting out after winning a championship even though he could probably make more money that way."

Well, imagine how Cuban will feel if he goes through the season his team just went through and gets dumped in the first round? I still don't think he'd be willing to pay as much as it takes for the Cubs, but you can't deny that you can't spell Cuban without Cub.

Peanut Free?

The Minnesota Twins are selling the skybox section in right field at the Metrodome to those allergic to peanuts for four games. Tickets will cost $29 each and the team says that it will be available "exclusively for individuals with peanut allergies and their families." Not exactly sure how they'll prove that.

IMG Acquires Collegiate Licensing Company

IMG announced today that it has purchased Collegiate Licensing Company (CLC), which is the force behind the collegiate licensing business. Under the agreement, CLC will operate as a freestanding unit within IMG's Sports and Entertainment Group.

According to License Magazine, CLC generated $3.5 billion in gross sales in 2006. Major League Baseball was the only sport that topped that at $4.7 billion. Here are the other sports leagues and the licensing dollars they earned in 2006, according to the publication: NFL ($3.2 billion), NBA ($3 billion), NASCAR ($2.1 billion), WWE ($600 million) and the MLS (145 million).

News & Notes

Is there anyone out there who doesn't think that George Steinbrenner is even more of an imposing figure when he just releases statements? I love it…

Alabama not only got a ridiculous 92,000 fans to show up at their Spring Game, they've also reached the $50 million mark towards a $100 million goal for facilities renovation. Early giving estimates suggest that donations to the athletics program are up more than 20 percent from a year ago.

Former Sports Illustrated editor and writer Don Yaeger has opened up a media training firm called 180 Communications. The firm says they trained 12 of the top 27 players drafted in the recent NFL Draft. While at SI, Yaeger and the magazine were hit with a high-profile $20 million lawsuit filed by football coach Mike Price after Yaeger penned a piece about Price's sexual exploits.

The magazine eventually settled the libel suit out of court even though Sports Illustrated said they still stood by Yaeger's story. Yaeger, together with Dan Wetzel, wrote one of the most influential books on the business of sports, "Sole Influence: Basketball, Corporate Greed and the Corruption of American Youth," a great book about the shoe industry. Yaeger is reportedly working on a book called, "It's Not About The Truth," which will be co-authored by former Duke University men's lacrosse coach Mike Pressler.

Questions? Comments?