Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Celebrity Card Collectors, Vol. 1

From time to time, I will spotlight those who are far more rich and famous than us who are also among the sports card collecting community.

First up.....perhaps the greatest player of the post-Jordan NBA.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Is this what your THIRD Chance bracket looks like?

I'm not really sure what to chalk this up to.......people picking based on team loyalties, colors of the uniforms, or just pure blind luck.......but apparently 400 people have made most of us look like idiots by correctly picking the Final Four according to ESPN.com. Granted, they point out that all four teams were in the preseason Top 10 in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches' Poll, but they fail to mention that North Carolina, who barely made the NIT field, was #4.

As for that kid in Illinois who allegedly was perfect through the first two rounds? Let's just say that, like the rest of us, he won't be a millionaire. Poetic justice if you ask me.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Down, but not out......

As David Letterman often says, I wouldn't give Upper Deck's troubles to a monkey on a rock. If you're an avid card collector or dealer, their troubles are well-documented. I'm just beginning to plug back into the hobby, but based on the blogs and message board posts of those who have remained close to the hobby over the past decade, I can come to two conclusions about Upper Deck.

First, most collectors seem to be pretty passionate about Upper Deck's product across multiple sports, with a few exceptions. Second, the company's CEO, Richard McWilliam, seems to be portrayed as a incurable egomaniac......a trait you rarely ever see in a big corporate CEO :-)

The past year has been brutal for the company with multiple lawsuits and ultimate settlements costing tens of millions of dollars, but a silver lining seems to be on the horizon.

Just as it appeared Upper Deck might be in danger of losing licensing for producing cards for the second major sport in as many years, the NFL Players Association's marketing arm announced yesterday that they would renew Upper Deck's license for two more years through 2011.

The loss of the Major League Baseball license and subsequent settlement with Topps over the alleged breach of the MLBPA agreement certainly knocked Upper Deck to the canvas, but the fact that football will still be part of the equation is welcome news to those in the hobby.

If this were a heavyweight fight, Upper Deck is still certainly down, but as of yesterday, any cries of "no mas" are definitely premature.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Investment advice or psychobabble?

There are two morals to this story. First and foremost, that Matthew Lesko guy (you know, the one with that stylish sport coat w/ all the question marks on it?) on the infomercials on VH1 @ 3:30 a.m. is right.....apparently the government really will shower money on people for research on anything. Literally. Second, assuming you believe what you're about to read, there's some valuable investment advice here for both card collectors and dealers. The wider the smile, the better their chances of playing long enough and well enough for Cooperstown. SO HOLD ONTO THEIR CARDS! :-) Anyone who actually follows that investment advice probably also took everything Lenny Dykstra ever said to the bank. So there's this.....

It's All in the (Baseball) Cards: The Wider the Smile, The Longer the Life

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

For fans in the "small markets".......

The Joe Mauer deal has changed Major League Baseball as we know it, at least for the time being. The Twins have become the first "Moneyball" team since the Rockies sprung for $141.5 million for Todd Helton in 2002 to back up the Brinks truck for a single player. The obvious question is....will the Twins be able to develop or acquire the talent around him to be competitive for the life of the contract? As with most situations in life, there are precedents here. One is a success story and one is a cautionary tale.

Let's start with the bad news.....the now infamous A-Rod deal w/ the Texas Rangers. At more than $25 million a year, or about 25% of player payroll going to a single player, owner Tom Hicks was duped by A-Rod's agent, Scott Boras, into overspending for a superstar in what Bud Selig classified as a "small market". That "small market" is, in reality, the 5th largest media market in the country, but Hicks and Selig can't be burdened with details. Coupled with a weak farm system and saddled with the inability to acquire the talent necessary to build around their franchise player, Hicks eventually cashed in his chips and made the rich Yankees richer. As an average fan, I remember wondering why Boras didn't just eliminate the middle man and have him playing in New York or Boston three years earlier. The Rangers are only now beginning to dig out from the A-Rod hole with stronger homegrown talent.

The Rockies just signed Helton to a 2-year extension through the 2013 season, and the team has successfully built around him over the past few years, culminating in that unbelievable World Series run of 2007. They've developed one of the best farm systems in baseball over the past decade, and they've kept payroll manageable in spite of Helton's hefty salary and acquired players to fill holes as needed. They also have seem to have a pretty bright foreseeable future. The difference is a stronger top-to-bottom organization, from the farm system to the front office to the big league player roster.

So which way will the Twins' movie end @ the expiration of Mauer's megadeal? Recent history seems to point more to the Rockies than the A-Rod era Rangers. The Twins have done a masterful job developing talent that has defied Bud Selig's big market mentality for the past decade. They have also locked up their core of young stars early, wisely avoiding huge arbitration deals. Ron Gardenhire is one of the best field managers in the game. The Target Center will be open for business this season, so fans should flock to a state of the art facility, especially now that their hometown hero will be playing there for years. I won't guarantee a World Series, but for now they are in pretty good shape to make a run.

Or the whole thing tanks and he ends up in pinstripes in exchange for some mid-level minor leaguers three years from now........ :-)

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Masters of the King's English

Can anyone pinpoint the moment when people began to insist on inserting an extra "k", or hard "c" in some cases, in the word "escape"?

Brief English lesson.....Journey did not title their great 80's album "Ekscape", Rupert Holmes did not implore his secret lover from the personal ads (who turned out to be his wife) to "write to me and ecscape", and the SUV you drive is NOT a Ford "Eckscape".

Just trying to make a small contribution toward making the world a better place.....one grammatical correction at a time.

In our next installment, I will explain that the vehicles that drive in a continuous loop around a track are NOT "Nascars".

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Another music legend gone......

Seems like I'm blogging the deaths of folks whose work I respect immensely far too often over the past week. If you don't know who Alex Chilton is, read this article, go discover his music (readily available on YouTube + my link to "September Gurls" on here), and thank me later! If you want to know who helped shape the sound of R.E.M., The Replacements, The Smithereens, and some of the other great rock bands of the 80's, it all goes back to them.

May he rest in peace......

Article from the Memphis Commercial Appeal, his hometown paper

You can't write this stuff......

Sometimes the best comedy is 100% organic. For the uninitiated, Lane Kiffin is the head football coach at USC after spending one mediocre but eventful season at the University of Tennessee, a.k.a. The Great Satan. Most importantly, up to this point, 100% of medical experts as well as laymen have identified him as a man. Not much of a man based on his constant moaning about other SEC teams and coaches, but biologically, a man nonetheless. This clearly throws a monkey wrench into the entire operation.......

Lane Kiffin as the sexiest woman alive?

Every little bit helps.......

Thanks to Phyllis Stark, whose articles I linked to a few days ago ("We're only human"), for quoting me in her latest "Stark Country" column on radio-info.com! Take a moment to read it, especially if you're in radio. And remember, it's not too late (yet) to hire me! :-) Put 17 years of experience in all phases of programming to work for you!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

"Casey....Could You Please Play 'Every Breath You Take' For The Woman I Plan To Hunt Down and Kill?"

On the way home from church Sunday, I ran across an old "American Top 40" countdown with Casey Kasem.....circa 1983 I believe. Hearing the "Long Distance Dedication" from a man who was trying to find some random chick he had met in an airport once (with Casey using only first names and general locations) reminded me how much more innocent, and anonymous, stalking used to be :-)

Sunday, March 14, 2010

R.I.P. Mr. Phelps & Captain Oveur

The star of both one of my all-time favorite TV shows (Mission: Impossible) and quite possibly the funniest movie ever made (Airplane), Peter Graves, has left us. With Merlin Olsen passing earlier this week and the "celebrity dirt nap" theory saying they come in threes, any guesses who's next?

We're only human

As I write this, the latest unemployment numbers show the national unemployment rate at 10.4% for February 2010. In my home state of Alabama, it's 11.1%. According to the Christian Science Monitor (Jan. 8, 2010), there are currently 15.3 million Americans out of work. Of those, 6.1 million have been without a job longer than 6 months. I have just picked up a temp job with the Census bureau, but until mid-April I am included in each and every one of those statistics. It's been 18 months and counting up to now.

I have refused to be a victim up to this point. I have started an eBay business that is growing monthly and should provide a very nice side income once I get back to a full time position. I am also in the process of launching a voiceover and audio production business. In the meantime, I pray hard and search hard hoping for a return to a profession for which I have a great passion......radio. There are thousands like me who share that same passion and are having to watch from the sidelines. No one in the business has asked me to be their spokesperson, but my purpose here is to put some faces with the unemployment statistics and give you a good look at the current state of radio. You could take out all references to "radio" in the articles to which I am about to link you and put in just about any other industry in this country.

The best illustration of the current job market came as I was jump starting my own search in Nashville a few weeks back at the Country Radio Seminar. I was staying at a hotel about a mile away from the downtown Convention Center where the seminar was based. About halfway through my mile long commute each morning was a well-dressed guy standing in front of McDonald's with a cardboard sign that read "Finance Grad Needs A Job". It was a daily reminder that I'm not alone.....in unemployment or in the passion I have for my chosen line of work.

Over the past few weeks, Phyllis Stark of Radio-info.com has done an excellent three-part series of columns chronicling many folks just like me who are also itching to get back in the game. I have run the gamut of emotions during this stretch just like these folks, and I hope you'll take the time to take a look at them.......

Radio Consolidation’s Highest Cost: The Human Toll

As Job Market Tightens, Broadcasters Consider Careers Outside Of Radio

Finding A Great Radio Job Still Possible; Here’s Four Who Did

Read them in order, and you'll discover the happy ending I still believe in!

If you're reading this and in radio, I would like to issue you a challenge. First and foremost, I hope you thank God every day that you are still able to do what you love and love what you do! I know you know at least one person currently looking for work who would be an asset to a radio station and group. MAKE the time to make one phone call or send one email on their behalf to a higher up in your station group, a good consultant, or someone with another company for whom you think that particular person might be a great fit. That's all it takes to set off a chain of events that could get that very talented person back to doing what he or she does best! I know you're busier than ever, but I also know that I'm only asking for a few minutes of your time. You can spare it, and it will go a long way toward getting people back to work and making our business great again!

There's enough negativity and cynicism at the moment. I refuse to subscribe to it, and with the help of those still in the business, we can rebuild things from the inside out!!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Passing of a legend......

Just found out about the death of former NFL great and "Little House On The Prairie" star Merlin Olsen. Sad to hear it. I think you would agree that an appropriate gift for the family would be an FTD floral bouquet :-) Only those over 35 will get that.

A nice set of Tweets :-)

Now that I have your attention, this is nowhere near as provocative as the title would indicate. If you're reading this blog, you are a participant in social media and probably understand its value. While it seems like everyone with a laptop, blog, and/or Facebook page is trying to make a quick buck by declaring themselves a social media "expert", that's like declaring one baseball team the winner after three innnings. It's still an emerging beast, and the Bill Gates of social media has yet to be determined.

That being said, social media can be a very valuable cog in your marketing wheel if you use it properly. Since launching my eBay store (shameless plug: The House of Cards), I have used Twitter and Facebook to provide an unmistakable boost in sales. I'll use this blog post to help you navigate Twitter to boost your own sales of baseball cards, widgets, or whatever, but I strongly encourage a presence across ALL social media outlets including any niche message boards and partnerships with other blogs.

To build a successful Twitter page that drives traffic to your business:

  • THINK PUBLIC SERVICE, NOT HARD SELL! - What you're selling is certainly the reason you're there, but don't make it the only thing you're about on Twitter. No one likes the "car salesman" approach. Load your Twitter page with links to relevant content, the latest news re: the product you're selling, and anything else you think your audience and customer base will use and associate your brand with. You're building a community, not a database.
  • USE IT AS A TWO WAY CONVERSATION! - Twitter can provide the ultimate immediate feedback tool for your customers to talk to you. Be willing to listen, and be willing to hear the hard truth about the things you're doing wrong and change them. Customer loyalty goes through the roof when they feel like they have a voice and vested interest in your product.
  • MAKE EVERY WORD COUNT! - Remember, you only have 140 characters to get the word out. URL shorteners are your friend!! I prefer bit.ly, but there are several others out there. Use every last one of those characters. Edit, and re-edit. If you're really good and can say it effectively in 100 characters, use hash tags (#baseballcards, #ebay, #verabradley, etc.) to enhance the chances that users will find your posts and Follow you to provide additional potential customers.
  • GET RETWEETED! - One of the most effective ways to enhance your Twitter experience is to create a buzz among your Followers and casual users. Don't be afraid to be humorous, spontaneous, and spur of the moment to post something that might get picked up and spread like wildfire. DO make sure, however, that the post is relevant and on topic with the message of your business's page.
As I said, I am by no means a social media expert, but as an unemployed media guy just trying to make his way the only way he knows how in this economy, Twitter has provided a proven traffic builder for my eBay business. I hope this info proves useful and you are able to implement a few of these things successfully. You're welcome to take a look at my Twitter page, Follow me if you like, and provide any constructive criticism on how I could be doing it better and creating even more business!

Best of luck with your own businesses!! There's room for everyone out there.....even in this economy.