Last Thursday for our weekly war story, I talked about a difficult situation I’d encountered in my days running the Hula Bowl that was handled with class and respect by an agent I’ve had a long-running relationship with. Today, the other side of the coin.
In those days, though the Hula Bowl was the No. 3 game, it was a hard sell to established agents and top players. Though the game was being played in America’s paradise, East Coast-based players faced a 7-10 hour flight to get to Honolulu on a commercial airline flying in an economy class seat. We were also the first game in the cycle, meaning players would have to miss the first week of combine prep and/or they’d be playing a bowl game almost right up to departure time for Hawaii. There were also concerns about how many scouts would make it to the game and other considerations that are a normal part of the process. Bottom line, I had to be in ‘sell’ mode 24-7, always recruiting, always trying to keep invitees and their agents happy.
Sometime late in December, I got a call from an agent who had signed one of our better receivers and one of our few invitees from the SEC. Obviously, a touchdown-scorer from the nation’s most glamorous conference was a key part of our roster, and would help draw scouts, so I was pretty angry when he called to tell us the young man was withdrawing. But my anger doubled when the agent casually reassured me with this: ‘Don’t worry about it, I’ve got you another guy.’
Well, I was younger then, and maybe I would handle things better today, but that really made me blow my top. I tried to control my anger on the phone with the guy, but I’m sure I was tempted to throw something as soon as we were done. Why? Because not only was he pulling one of our ‘A’ players, but he wanted me to do him a favor by substituting in a ‘B’ player. I felt, and still feel, that getting an agent’s player into a postseason all-star game does the agent and his client a tremendous service (though most agents feel they’re the ones doing the favor). So when he dismissed me, then expected me to happily take his lesser client, well, that was tough to take.
The football business is a rather small one, so you see the same faces every year. At the time, I didn’t know this agent especially well, but I’ve continued to move in the same circles as he does, and I’ve since found other reasons to believe my trust in him would be misplaced. It is what it is.
If you’re aspiring to work in this business, let me just say that you’ll come across many people who are self-serving and disrespectful. That’s life, but maybe people like that are more common in the gridiron game. Never repay disrespect with your own rancor, but also trust your gut and your instincts. Those who burn you once are probably going to be inclined to try to burn you twice. Avoid that if you can.