Monday, August 22, 2005

BIG TIME AGENTS

I am reading a recent book about baseball agents, License to Deal, by Jerry Crasnick, about these two guys out in California, Matt Sosnick and Paul Cobbe, who decided to become agents in major league baseball. Interesting stuff.

One of the biggest challenges those agents faced was getting clients. That's basically the biggest roadblock to becoming an agent. You have to convince a client to take you on and hope that the guy doesn't defect to these big agencies ( The Scott Boras Corporation, Beverly Hills Sports Council etc.) that are always out there stealing clients from people. You hear the frustrations from these guys trying to build long term relationships with these players, only to see these big agents come in and sweep them away.

The more I read about the agenting business and the more I watch Super Agent, about football agents, the more you realize this is a difficult, cutthroat business with no morals. The smaller agents all have a big uphill fight on their hands, period, trying to convince their clients that their claims of better personal service are more than a line of bull. You see it on Super Agent all the time. "Why should I hire you if you haven't got any number 1 draft picks?!" They all have to go the extra mile to prove they can provide superior service and more personal attention, but these athletes don't care. For them it's "show me the money." And convincing them you will deliver all that money is a big chore if you don't have any clients or even very few clients.

The hard truth is that sometimes these big agents don't care about all the clients. They may have lots of contacts, but who is to say they're going to use those contacts to help you. If you're a smaller agent with a big star for a client I guarantee you that agent will work his tail off for that one client. With these bigger agents that client might be treated like another number. That's why I think it's important for these potential clients to make sure they get good personal service, no matter what size agency they go with. That's very important.

One thing that Super Agent shows to some extent on TV is what a real grind it is to sign up talent. Maybe players don't hold reality TV series on a regular basis to hire agents. But the agents truly do have to fight off eight or nine others for top talent, so that part of the competition for Shaun Cody is realistic.

What they do not show on TV are the ways these agents try to get around this. What they all have to do is try to sign prospects up as soon as possible, while they are teenagers, usually. These baseball agents have to be prepared to go to Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, anywhere they can find talent and sign them up. Hockey agents have to do the same thing, going to these midget games looking for 15-year-old phenoms they can represent. Then they have to meet the parents and stuff. The sport of hockey is set up in a similar fashion to baseball with a minor league farm system and so on, so I imagine it's a similar recruitment process for these hockey agents. I suppose it is similar to what you see on Super Agent, with parents grilling these agents and so on.

Anyway I'm finding this License to Deal book to be interesting reading, I'm learning a lot about the agenting business reading it. Being a sports agent is great, but it's a rough business.

UPDATE: By the way tonight's Super Agent is one I'm really enjoying; they're showing the agents handling a mock negotiation and how these agents are handling really tough discussions, and showing their various styles. Interesting.

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