Vol. 12, No. 2,856W - The American Reporter - March 18, 2006


LEIGH STEINBERG HAS A TAKE...ON EVERYTHING
by Steven Travers
American Reporter Correspondent
San Francisco, Calif.

SAN FRANCISCO -- Editor's Note: Steven Travers has workedwit= h superagent Leigh Steinberg to help develop the Sports Movie Channel. Rec= ently, Travers and Steinberg talked about sports, Hollywood, theInternet, a= nd how the 21st Century will be connected by all of them.

AR: We have spoken about a cable tv station called the SportsMovie = Channel. Is this the kind of thing that you envision as being partof your m= erger with Assante.

LS: Assante shares my dream and vision of building a high qualitysp= orts and entertainment net system that delivers a massive network of24-hour= sports related programming to 150 stations, 24 hours per day. Thecable sta= tions will need content, and athletics is a natural source ofthat content.

AR: Time Warner and A.O.L. are now merged. What is your take onthi= s?

LS: The Internet will need content, too--Web sites, video, videog= ames; sports shall provide an endless supply of ancillary revenue. I seesp= orts and entertainment merging, the two fields coming together in anatural = progression.

AR: What does Assante bring to the table?

LS: Through Assante we are purchasing Eugene Parker's footballagenc= y, and combining agency franchises in hockey, wrestling, tennis andgolf--we= are creating a real multi-sport agency. Each one shall beautonomous, worki= ng as a municipality feeding a massive marketing arm ofplayer endorsements,= corporate sponsorships, leagues, teams, new stadia,and each will have spec= ial expertise in their field.

AR: You have experience at building stadiums and savingfranchises. = Have you ever thought about being on the other end of thenegotiating table,= as an owner?

LS: I've worked with sports teams and municipalities, trying todraw= financing and referendums for stadium projects, referendums, p.s.l.'sand n= aming rights. We were successful in San Francisco, keeping the Giantsat Can= dlestick until the new stadium could be built. We failed in L.A.when the Ra= ms left. For me, there is more freedom working with differentathletes, cont= inuing to require that they maintain their civicresponsibilities and focus = on charitable organizations. I insist thatathletes be role models, and that= they re-trace their roots to the prepand college levels. An athlete can st= and up and say, "Real men don't hitwomen," or "don't abuse children" and th= at can have a big impact. I canaccomplish more doing what I do now than bei= ng tied to any one place as anowner.

AR: Do you see yourself, in your new role after the Assantemerger, = becoming actively involved with Hollywood from the developmentside as a pro= ducer, and if so, will you specialize in sports contentalone?

LS: Ye= s, eventually I want to be active in all aspects of the filmindustry, not j= ust as a "sports specialty," that's part of our mission.For now we are con= centrating on sports-related themes. Of course, thereare a lot of movies," = like "Air Bud", in which the sports theme is just acoincidence, so it will = all evolve.

AR: Speaking of sports films, was "Jerry Maguire" supposed to beabo= ut you from the beginning?

LS: Cameron Crowe, who directed "Singles" and wrote "Fast Times AtR= idgemont High", approached me in 1993 and asked if he could explore theworl= d of pro sports. He ended up tagging along to a series of events,including = the N.F.L. draft when Drew Bledsoe went number one. To behonest, when I fi= rst got married, it was hard on us because of all thetraveling and commitme= nts.

We were in Palm Desert, and I took Tim McDonald to show him off tot= he owners. We were in a room, and the news program "Money Line" was ontelev= ision when Cameron asked him what he was in it for. McDonald pointedto the = t.v. and said, "It's the money." Thus was born the phrase "Show methe money= ." I've had extensive experience working with actors. CubaGooding went to= the Super Bowl with us, and his character is based onMcDonald. He even pre= tended to be my client. I worked with JerryO'Connell, who played the young = quarterback in the film.

I also worked with Oliver Stone on "Any Given Sunday." He's verytal= ented but not a very nice man. I worked with Al Pacino on his veterancoach = character, and spent part of an afternoon with Cameron Diaz on therole of a= woman in a male-dominated world. I worked on "For the Love ofthe Game" -- = my partner, Jeff Moorad and I were technical consultants andwe went back to= Yankee Stadium for that.

The company Jerry first worked for was supposed to be I.M.G. Theyde= scended on my office and used my wardrobe, and the view outside is theview = from my office in Newport Beach. It's a photo, on a set.

AR: What are your memories of a dormitory at the University ofCalif= ornia?

LS: I was a dorm counselor and Boalt Hall law student, when SteveBa= rtkowski was selected number one in the 1975 draft. I was brimming withlega= l experience not having tried a case. Those were wild days in sportsreprese= ntation, with agents buying players off college campuses. Ownershad the opt= ion of just not dealing with agents if they didn't want to.

AR: Well, only nine years before that, Jim Ringoap= proached Vince Lombardi with an agent. Lombardi excused himself, made aphon= e call, re-emerged and told them, "Mr. Ringo has been traded to thePhiladel= phia Eagles." Still, there had been a period of bidding wars inwhich player= s made huge bonuses. Let's face it, when Pete Rozelle beganthe draft, isn't= that another way of saying he colluded with the owners tohold down prices?

LS: That's exactly what he did, by creating the draft and mergingth= e leagues.

AR: Okay, I'll just say it straight. Rozelle and the ownerscolluded= on the prices.

LS: Right. Joe Namath had made $400,000. O.J. Simpson got $350,000b= efore the merger. The draft is completely unconstitutional.

AR: If S= teve Bartkowski had never come along to change your life,what would Leigh S= teinberg be doing today?

LS: I'd either be a political activist, trying to save theenvironme= nt, maybe a U.S. Senator. Or I might have been involved in someaspect of th= e entertainment business, working in Hollywood. I had a chanceto be a tv ne= wsperson. I definitely wouldn't be a sports agent.

Screenwriter/sports= writer Steven Travers is a former pro baseballplayer, and a product of the = U.S.C Film School and UCLA Writers'Program.

Copyright 2006 Joe Shea The American Reporter. All Rights Reserved.

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