Opinion, Sports

Buyer, beware

It may suggest a major character flaw on my part, but I’m the kind of guy who doesn’t have a whole lot of sympathy for people who allow themselves to get duped.

Now, I’m not a monster; I’m not talking about old people who get bilked out of their Social Security checks by insidious phone scams and the like.

But when it comes to easily avoidable situations? You’re kind of on your own.

Last week, there were probably many sports fans who were taken aback when it was reported that two-time Super Bowl MVP quarterback Eli Manning was caught requisitioning “2 helmets that can pass as game used” from Giants’ equipment manager Joe Skiba.

Brandon Steiner, right, speaks with ESPN Radio Personality Brandon Tierney during a 2009 event in New Rochelle. Steiner’s company, Steiner Sports, is currently embroiled in a legal battle over the authenticity of the sports memorabilia it sells. Photo/Mike Smith

The information, which came out due to an ongoing legal battle between three collectors, Manning, and New Rochelle-based sports memorabilia company Steiner Sports, may have been shocking to the type of person who reserves a special place in their living room to proudly display a wad of Red Man chewed by David Wells during his 1998 perfect game.

For the rest of us, however? Sometimes you get what you pay for—and sometimes you don’t.

Now I’m not casting blame here. Steiner Sports is claiming that the lawsuit is a frivolous attempt to discredit their business and that Manning’s communiqué was taken out of context. They stand by their authenticity verification process, which, if you are in the business of sports memorabilia, is obviously the key component to their whole operation.

But even if everything is on the up and up, I still don’t get the allure of shelling out mega bucks for what is, lets face it, an inanimate hunk of plastic that’s worth about 60 bucks on the street.

It used to be that a true piece of sports memorabilia had some sort of inherent value. The bat that Hank Aaron used to belt his 715th homer; the stick Bobby Orr used in the 1970 Stanley Cup Finals win; these are priceless sports artifacts that belong in museums and Halls of Fame.

They do not belong as a conversation piece in Joe Blow’s sports den.

But increasingly, the only true value of game-used gear is whatever price tag that the memorabilia companies decide to slap on it.

You want to pay $600 for a small piece of LeBron James’ shorts from a mid-January game against the Clippers? It’s all yours, as long as you also spring for shipping and handling.

As an Eli Manning fan, I hope these accusations aren’t true. During his tenure under center for Big Blue, Manning has been a class act and a terrific postseason performer, and I would hate to see something like this tarnish his reputation.

But for all those collectors out there, let this be a lesson. You never know exactly what you’re buying.

And in most cases, whatever you think you’re buying isn’t worth it anyway.

 

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