Big Lead Sports Bar

12/11/2006

The Great Hines Ward Autograph Debate Rolls On

Perhaps you've heard of the Mondesi's House/Mark Madden/Hines Ward Autograph Debate? It's here, it's on ESPN Radio 1250, it's on Wikipedia. Well, another chapter was just added. I'll provide a brief recap to how we arrived at this point:
--On November 13, in my daily link roundup, I made a brief mention of an upcoming Hines Ward autograph signing at Ross Park Mall:
"Hines Ward is signing autographs at Ross Park Mall on December 9. For just $175, he'll autograph your picture or mini helmet. Or you could get him at training camp, which he charges...nothing. My favorite line: "$199 Equipment or Numbers (COMES WITH FREE "SB XL MVP" INSCRIPTION!)". Free? What part of $199 is free?"


--On November 15, I wrote a follow-up article based on the controversy stirred up when Mondesi reader and ESPN Radio host Mark Madden mentioned the Ward signing during his show.

--On November 16, I followed up that article with a piece on how certain Steelers stories have been buried in the Pittsburgh media. This was written based on the news that Madden had been fired from WTAE's Sunday night sports show, and his accusation that Steeler fingerprints were all over his dismissal.
The autograph event was this past Saturday, December 9. I am assuming it did not go as well as planned, because I received an irate email from Bob Friedman, Vice President of Celebrity Placement Services, early Monday morning. Mr. Friedman demanded I apologize to Hines Ward, BC Sports (the site of the signing) and ENV (Hines' memorabilia agent). He also asked for a forum to air his grievances with the way the story was covered by myself and by Mark Madden.
I agreed to give Mr. Friedman the opportunity to tell his side of the story. He responded with this email, which I told him would run completely uncut and unedited, as I received it.
Mr. Friedman's response is below:
"Here is my rebuttal to the Hines article:
First of all, how can you say a store is charging too much if you don't know what they are being charged. Maybe it is the athlete who is charging an arm and a leg. Did you look at the cost of other athletes signatures, what about big Ben. Ben's autograph is more than Hines and Hines is a 4 or 5 time pro bowl player. Dan Marino is $250+, he never won a super bowl.

Memorabilia is big business and to choose a signing out of the blue and without a stitch of knowledge and start crushing the store is not fair to the athlete, the store or the people reading the article that depend on the media for knowledge. You failed to mention that the so called fans who wait for an autograph after or before a game can usually be found afterwards at the nearest convention or sports store or ebay trying to sell what they just raked in. How else can you explain a Hines autograph on ebay going for $30 and having to pay $175 for the same thing from him personally at the store. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure it out.

Next time before you and Mike and Mike or who ever wants to get on their soapbox and cry the blues about something that is easy to get listener support, how about actually knowing what you are talking about instead of trashing hard working storeowners who are trying to support their families.

Here is something to chew on, Hines didn't show up for free, he obviously has a fee which the storeowner has to pay so Hines is guaranteed his money. Is the store owner guaranteed that he will sell out, or even sell enough to break even, never. Is he guaranteed to have good weather or that no other events are going on at the same time, nope. How about that by the time the advertising period is over and the athlete shows up the athlete will still be popular, not really. So the fact that BC charged whatever didn't mean they are guaranteed to get their money back. They are putting out the money to put the autograph available to the public at the hope of a financial gain but with no guarantee.

Do you feel silly, you should. You did a disservice to your readers, Hines, BC and memorabilia dealers everywhere. I am sure you don't care as you will find some other half truth to create that mob mentality you need to survive, but deep down, you are creating a worse atmosphere for yourself, not very smart."
Bob Friedman,
Vice President
Celebrity Placement Services
www.celebrityplacementservices.com
At this time, I would like to rebut Mr. Friedman's rebuttal.
First of all, how can you say a store is charging too much if you don't know what they are being charged. Maybe it is the athlete who is charging an arm and a leg. Did you look at the cost of other athletes signatures, what about big Ben. Ben's autograph is more than Hines and Hines is a 4 or 5 time pro bowl player. Dan Marino is $250+, he never won a super bowl.
My initial comment was based on Hines' past autograph habits since he has arrived to Pittsburgh in 1998. Hines has always been a great athlete to acquire in-person, be it at training camp, in public, or at a corporate event such as the DVD signing at Best Buy after the Super Bowl. Hines has also signed (for pay) in great numbers prior to winning the Super Bowl MVP, when his price predictably jumped. Therefore, a tremendous amount of autographed product already exists on the market and in private collections, via "in person" encounters and paid, private signings. I merely pointed out the actual, advertised price, and wondered how many people would show up, considering the facts I just laid out.
Are there other athletes who charge exorbitant amounts to sign? Absolutely. But to compare Hines to Dan Marino merely because Dan failed to win a Super Bowl is absurd. Marino is one of the most decorated players in NFL history, a true icon in every sense. He's been a symbol of the league and of the Miami Dolphins franchise for nearly 25 years. To compare his autograph price to Hines Ward, whose incredible rise has been relatively recent, is not fair to Marino. But would I say Marino also charges a high amount to sign? Absolutely.
Hines was obviously the primary force behind the $175 price tag. Contrary to what you imply, I do have more than a clue of how the process works, and I realize the $175 is a pie that must be divided several ways. However, that price is based primarily on the discretion of the athlete, and the minimum that athlete will work for. Hines does not clear $175, but he will realize a hefty portion of that figure. As I noted on the site days after the Hines piece, the Penguins' Colby Armstrong appeared at the same store and they charged a mere $8 for his signature. I'm not comparing Ward to Armstrong, but I am comparing two professional athletes with the same corporate appearance. Would any store be able to pull off a Ward signing that they could offer to the public for $8? I think we both know the answer to that question. And if you think all iconic athletes must charge three-figure prices for their signatures, I remind you that four-time Super Bowl champion and Hall of Famer Jack Lambert charges a mere $39 for his John Hancock.
Memorabilia is big business and to choose a signing out of the blue and without a stitch of knowledge and start crushing the store is not fair to the athlete, the store or the people reading the article that depend on the media for knowledge. You failed to mention that the so called fans who wait for an autograph after or before a game can usually be found afterwards at the nearest convention or sports store or ebay trying to sell what they just raked in. How else can you explain a Hines autograph on ebay going for $30 and having to pay $175 for the same thing from him personally at the store. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure it out.
I didn't know that I needed to clear every factual item I find on the internet with the athlete, his corporate sponsor, and his management team. I thought merely reporting the truth would suffice. So tell me, Mr. Friedman, what is untrue about my original statement?
"Hines Ward is signing autographs at Ross Park Mall on December 9. For just $175, he'll autograph your picture or mini helmet."
Did he not appear at Ross Mark Mall? Was it not held on December 9? Did it not cost $175 for Hines to sign a picture or mini helmet?
To quote the often-used "A Few Good Men" Jack Nicholson line, "The truth? The truth? You can't handle the truth!"
All I did was report the truth. If a perceived high price point reflects poorly upon Hines or anyone related, that is not my problem. That is a problem that everyone involved with this event created.
Your eBay analogy merely illustrates the point I made above: there is a vast quantity of Hines autographs already on the market and readily available for purchase. A signed 8x10 usually sells for $40-$60 on eBay. So please explain to me why a hard-working Pittsburgher would fork over $175 for something they could buy for $50?
Next time before you and Mike and Mike or who ever wants to get on their soapbox and cry the blues about something that is easy to get listener support, how about actually knowing what you are talking about instead of trashing hard working storeowners who are trying to support their families.
As I've already addressed, I know exactly what I'm talking about. Cutting my site or Mark Madden down at the knees doesn't make Hines Ward look better. The bottom line is that a scapegoat was needed to explain why the event didn't go off as planned. Instead of looking at the mirror at the people who put this together, you choose to finger the blogger and the talk show host as the reason it underperformed.
If Hines Ward himself didn't make such a big deal about this after Mr. Madden initially mentioned it, the situation would have gone away. But in trying to combat the publicity that Hines felt was not in the favor of the Hines Ward Camp, it backfired. Mr. Madden was also blamed for "bad publicity", when he merely did the same: report the facts. If you're not familiar with the Pittsburgh media, I'm sure you will soon learn that once you get in Mark Madden's doghouse, it's hard to get out. Hines' reaction is what made this story the perceived "big deal" that it became. And your writing a rebuttal to the people of Pittsburgh is keeping this story in the public eye even more.
Here is something to chew on, Hines didn't show up for free, he obviously has a fee which the storeowner has to pay so Hines is guaranteed his money. Is the store owner guaranteed that he will sell out, or even sell enough to break even, never. Is he guaranteed to have good weather or that no other events are going on at the same time, nope. How about that by the time the advertising period is over and the athlete shows up the athlete will still be popular, not really. So the fact that BC charged whatever didn't mean they are guaranteed to get their money back. They are putting out the money to put the autograph available to the public at the hope of a financial gain but with no guarantee.
How any of this pertains to me mentioning Hines' appearance at a mall is beyond me. The weather, other events going on simultaneously, Hines' popularity fluctuations...it is simply not relevant in any way, shape or form.
I realize how the process works, as I learned all I needed to know about risk and reward in Business 101. But thanks for the free tutorial. You front the money, you roll the dice, it may turn out to be a loser, it may be incredibly lucrative.
In business, you also need to come up with a good idea, a good product, and a good price. That will give you an exponentially better chance of succeeding. But again, all the blame is being shifted to the media. Your problem is that you're blaming perceived critics for your failure, instead of looking at the program and price and breaking down the real reasons why it did not work.
Do you feel silly, you should. You did a disservice to your readers, Hines, BC and memorabilia dealers everywhere. I am sure you don't care as you will find some other half truth to create that mob mentality you need to survive, but deep down, you are creating a worse atmosphere for yourself, not very smart."
I do not feel silly in any way, shape or form. If I did a disservice by telling the truth, then I guess I'm guilty as charged. This website did not get the following it has by posting unsubstantiated rumors. It has the following because of the trust I have built with my audience, and by citing references at every chance possible. Are you suggesting I not tell the truth?
I ask you, what could I have done differently to avoid the arrows shot at me by the Ward Camp? Should I have mentioned that he was charging $20 to sign, even though the price was $175? What part of the sentence below would you correct?
"Hines Ward is signing autographs at Ross Park Mall on December 9. For just $175, he'll autograph your picture or mini helmet."
I am not an unreasonable person. When I posted the initial link, I had no bone to pick with Hines Ward, ENV, BC, Bob Friedman, or Celebrity Placement Services. In fact, I considered myself quite the Hines Ward fan. I thought it was merely an interesting bit of information that my audience would enjoy.
That being said, I am under no obligation to any of these groups or individuals to report anything less than the truth. Mr. Friedman, I respect the fact that you're looking out for the interests of your clients, but by chasing folks like myself and Mark Madden, you are barking up the wrong tree. The outcome of this venture was not our responsibility. I appreciate the recognition you have thrown at me for my site's influence, but Mondesi's House did not make or break this event.
This incident aside, I will continue to cover Hines fairly, and praise him when he is deserving, as a true journalist would. I respect the opinions of others, that is why I invited you to publicly blast me on my own site. That is more credit than you gave me, as you insulted my intelligence and told me my opinions were incorrect in your initial email. Yet I still provided a outlet for you to tell your side of the story.
Mondesi's House is deeply rooted in comedy and sarcasm, but it has a serious side as well. I take journalistic integrity very seriously, as a matter of fact. To accuse me of anything less than reporting the black and white facts is simply incorrect. And the last time I checked, it was not against the law to voice an opinion in this country. I thank you for airing your grievances but I respectfully disagree with your arguments.

24 comments:

Andy said...

Nice. Well written Nolo.

Steve Steamerson said...

I would also pay $2 dollars to kiss Mr. Freelove on the lips. I think he should hold a kissing contest. I would be first in line.

Steve said...

I dunno. I log on every morning from Brooklyn because I enjoy your writing. But I come here to read about sports, not sports memorabilia. I know memorabilia's your livliehood, but if anything maybe that's why you SHOULDN'T write about it.

Anonymous said...

That was a badly-written email. How did this guy get to be VP of that company without basic English skills?

Meadowbrookalum1 said...

Mr. Freelove....does it excuse Mr. Ward from charging a high signing fee just because it isn't as much as other pro players? What kind of an arguement is that? Thats the equivalent of saying, "Yea, uh, the defendant should be innocent because he only killed two people and there are other people in the world that have killed more than two." I guarantee that Freelove voted Democrat in the last election.

Well done, dude

Ken said...

Let's say the Steelers decide to make Brian St. Pierre the opening day QB next season. That decision would get some criticism beforehand, correct?

So say St. Pierre starts, and he plays like crap, as people thought.
Using the logic of Hines' agent, St. Pierre's failure would be the fault of his critics. The person who made the flawed decision to start St. Pierre would be blameless.

polevaultking said...

When will public figures learn that when they try to refute bad press it simply makes the situation worse?

louis lipps is my homeboy said...

So athletes sometimes try and charge a lot for autographs... big deal. Hines is just gettin while the gettin's good. I doubt he'll be charging that much a year from now.

And if you don't like it, just vote with your pocketbook... don't go! Then go to Latrobe in August and get your autograph for free.

The only thing I really hate about this is you know a leach like Madden feeds off of it. It's another way he can piss off Steeler fans/garner more listeners.

Anonymous said...

If you are over the age of 16 and asking for autographs, let alone buying them, then you are a loser like Mark Madden.

Joshua said...

His rebuttal was written as though a 5th grade had composed it. I couldn't follow his train of thought without getting a headache. Was he trying to justify the amount charged? Why would he cite eBay prices at $40-60 and then talk about the $175 price? Why would anyone pay $175 to sell something for $40-60?

eh jeh said...

In defense of Mondesi's House, I would have never even have known about the Hines Ward signing had I not read about it here. This guy should be praising you for the mention and free publicity. In no way did your original post come off as an insult.

That being said, I wouldn't pay 175 bucks to have Hines Ward wipe my ass. (No offense to Mr. Ward, I'm sure he'd do a fabulous job. I just have other things I'd rather buy)

Teresa "Heinz Field" Kerry said...

to Meadowbrookalum1, what in the world does Mr. Freelove's lack of logical thought have anything to do with what politcal party he may or may not have voted for? Way to push your political agenda on a sports blog! Your logic is as flawed as his.

mai wen said...

Yikes! Drama drama drama!

Good response Mondesi!

Talk about making a mountain out of a mole hill (that's the saying, right?)

TLC said...

As a long time friend of Mondesi's writer, I remember a not-so-good experience during a signing involving Yancey Thigpen. hmm...I'd really hate to lump Ward in that group. Ward is my favorite Steeler and NFL player. I have been fortunate enough to get a Georgia mini autographed, for free, which looks great on my mantle....contrary to my wife's opinion.
Nolo, great job!!!

Captain Caveman said...

You did a disservice to your readers, Hines, BC and memorabilia dealers everywhere

A disservice to memorabilia dealers?!?!?! Have you no shame?

Anonymous said...

$175 for Hines Ward Autograph!!! I wouldn't pay $10! He makes enough money already

Anonymous said...

meadowbrookalum1- look up logic in a dictionary and let me know yours after making that "political comment". You almost sound as dumb as Mr. Freelove.

Megatron said...

And the truth shall set you free Mondesi, or in "Pig Vomit's" case the truth will haunt you. Why pursue something when you have no merit behind your case. You should have dropped it before it blew up in your face, now you just make everyone look silly, except for Mondesi's House and Mark Madden. Great work Monde, a true inspiration of honesty and intelligence. Hail Mondesi's House, hail!

Dennis said...

Mr. Friedman's non-use of question marks annoys me.

But honestly, why would anyone even bother to go for anything less than free? Ward sits at the table, scribbles a few lines that anyone could call their own signature, and go on to the next person. I'd pay money to have lunch with him one on one where you actually get to talk with him, not just say "Hi, Hines" and leave.

I won't take this out on Ward's on field stuff though because he certainly is a hell of a hard worker and a great football player.

Cecil from Cecil Twp. said...

Poor Bob Friedman.

He gets tired of booking AIR SUPPLY to play the Wayne County Armory and ends up losing his shirt on an ill-conceived Hines Ward signing at a Pittsburgh department store.

Was it Bob who booked Spinal Tap to play at that air force base?

("Workin' on a sex farm....")

The big loser in this sad story is Bob's 2nd grade grammar teacher. I realize he works in a garage with a typewriter and a rotary phone, but his misuse and utter lack of proper punctuation is unacceptable on this site.

Bob, you're banned.

As Al Pacino said in the 1995 cinematic classic, HEAT......"Don't waste my mother-f'n time."

johnstowninclinedplane said...

Neither Hines Ward nor any other athlete is to blame for charging what they do for autographs. They are just satisfying the market. The idiots to blame are the people lined up to PAY ONE HUNDRED SEVENTY FREAKIN FIVE DOLLARS so some guy can scribble on a picture. If no one showed up at these events, the prices would drop to nothing.

Anonymous said...

Don't worry, I don't think many showed up to this one

Alex said...

Hey, while searching for widgets for my blog, I stumbled upon www.widgetmate.com and wow! I found what I wanted. A cool news widget. My blog is now showing latest news with title, description and images. Took just few minutes to add. Awesome!

Glenn Mason said...

I think Hines Ward is a self-promoting, pretentious idiot personally. Looking at his web "store" .. I think he'd sell his own mother if he smelled a profit. Pittsburgh fans make him what he is and how does he repay them? By charging $175 for a stupid autograph ... what a pathetic loser.

Now - if I could get an autograph on that picture of Hines Ward crying like a little school girl ... I'd buy that for a dollar!