Sunday, April 22, 2012

Put the alcoholic drink down. You don’t need it yet every celebration seems to center around some alcoholic toast to something. Most good business deals are closed with a gulp of some smooth yet hot alcoholic gulp. There are still people that can’t take a flight anywhere without buying those cute little bottles of booze on the plane and making them empty real quick; but you really can take that flight without the intake of booze.
Well, we all know that we shouldn’t drink booze that much yet we all have a tragic story in our lives that centers around how too much booze has ruined a career and relationships. Not so long ago Leigh Steinberg was a big man in the world of sports. He was the richest and most connected sports agent in the world. Nobody had such an impressive roster of clients as he had.
He made a lot of money but always stressed that he wasn’t in it for just the money. He said that his mission was to prepare his clients for life after sports. Unfortunately, he didn’t practice what he preached to others and his failings cost him everything. By 61 years old he found himself in his elderly Mom’s home penniless, loosing his home and office, drinking in his Mother’s bed.
Before he hit rock bottom in his life this guy was the most powerful sports agent in the world. Today he is bankrupt and fighting an addiction that he admits cost him everything. It was all self destruction or just too many celebratory shots of booze. He got to a point that all he wanted was more alcohol that it became synonymous with breathing. He admits that he got to the point where he was buying the 17millliter giant plastic container of Vodka.
At his peak in the 1980’s and 90’s, Steinberg represented about 90 of the NFL’s best players. At one point 24 quarterbacks were under his wing including future Hall of Famer Steve Young, Warren Moon and Troy Aikman. Every spring there would be Steinberg sitting next to the next big thing, the number one pick of the NFL draft. In one stretch he represented the top picks 6 out of 7 years.
His annual Super Bowl Parties were the best ticket in town. He says the key to his success was that he presented himself as a visionary preaching morality, integrity and ethics. In fact it was Steinberg that influenced the character Jerry MaGuire in the Tom Cruise movie where he made a brief appearance. The story about the idealistic sports agent that wanted to change the world.
Over the years Steinberg and his players donated tens of millions of dollars to charities. He was also outspoken about player’s safety long before everyone else became an advocate for players. How did he go from being the richest most respected man in the football arena to being broke with only one client by 2010?
He grew up in the 60’s got his law degree from Berkley and thought he would be a public interest attorney or a politician but the star quarterback for the college lived in the same dorm as he and asked him to help him with his pro career negotiations. It was 1975 and the first client he ever had was the first pick in the NFL draft. They ended up with the largest rookie contract in NFL history. He broke into the big time in 1984 when Steve young signed a record setting $42 Million dollar contract with the upstart USFL. So, almost overnight, he rose from a quirky agent to being the super star agent. Yes , the agent that was always the drunkest guy at the party.
Jerry McGuire premired in late 1996 and was a huge success. He then wrote a bestselling book and hit the lecture circuit and embraced the media spotlight but behind the scenes his athletes grew tired of his embaressing drinking episodes and were dropping like flies. About 50 of his clients left as well as a third of his staff. He would drink the entire mini bar in his hotel rooms and was called toxic, unstable and abusive.
The damage was done he never got his clients back and his reputation was destroyed. His marriage of 21 years came to an end and lost his NFL agents License. He was arrested for drunk driving, and got picked up for public disturbances and ended up in diapers in a hospital. He has been sober for 2 years now after extensive rehab programs but last month filed for Bankruptcy listing over 3 Million in debts. I think I’ll just skip the great contract signing drink from now on and just seal the deal with a handshake.

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