ESPN pundit Simmons must apologize to Irv Lerner …


   It’s a pretty good bet that if you are going to swing at 150 pitches or so, you are going to foul a couple of them off, so it’s understandable that ESPN’s Bill Simmons would come up empty on a handful of his observations about our National Convention.
For those who might have missed it, the acerbic chipmunk Simmons (shown at right waiting at the airport at the end of his odyssey in a photo purloined from his Photo Gallery) put together an otherwise wonderful photo collage from the Cleveland National, showing almost 150 images of all the cool stuff at the show, neatly adorned with usually suitably acid commentary.

   I am not so defensive that I worry about the prevailing stereotypes that baseball card collectors are overweight, dress horribly and by all appearances probably were compelled to pay to lose their virginity (I don’t think two cans of Campbell’s Tomato Soup and four packs of Salem Menthols smuggled past the Shore Patrol constitutes actual payment anyway).
   Naw, that kind of pithy commentary is to be expected from those late to the party. None of them fazed me in the least, until he got carried away and called Irv Lerner an asshole. I am something of a smart-ass myself, so I fully understand that missteps will be part of the landscape, but I hope to heaven I stop well short of the kind of defamation we saw here.

Verbatim (beneath a photo of Irv at his table): “This guy calls himself ‘The Ring Man.’ When I started to take a picture of his display of championship rings, he snapped angrily, ‘NO PICTURES!!!!’ Sure thing, Ring Man.”

(Time for a tangent: One of my favorite rules of collecting is “never buy from a dealer who’s an a-hole.” It’s just not worth it. You’ll always have the stink of the jerk who sold whatever you bought on it. Unfortunately, many of these guys are unfriendly; it’s a relatively lonely business filled with unhappy people who act like they have more power than they do and don’t mind spitting chicken fingers on you as you’re trying to negotiate a price with them. The way to combat these people is by not giving these people money. I know, crazy. What’s amazes me is their willingness to throw away any rules for selling that work in any other walk of life: being friendly and reasonable; having a sense of humor; avoiding any condescending or derisive remarks; not keeping a customer waiting because you’re busy telling another dealer a stupid story about your personal life; engaging the customer immediately instead of appearing put out because they’ve interrupted your lunch or your phone call; etc., etc. It’s one of those professions in which, when you deal with someone normal and friendly, you feel obligated to thank them for being normal and friendly. Sad but true.)

   While there is much truth to some of his criticism broadly speaking, since our crew has struggled mightily through the years with mastering the fundamentals of sound business practices, attaching the observations alongside a photograph of Irv Lerner was a sad, ill-informed and unfortunate mistake.
   I have purposely not talked to Irv about the whole affair so that the responsibility for this lies only with me. What our ESPN reporter may not understand is that Irv, one of the true pioneers in our hobby and a fine gentleman, has been mugged and robbed in a parking lot during a major card convention, leaving him presumably a bit uneasy about media undertakings that might conceivably lead to a similar occurrence.
   If anybody wants to pooh-pooh such a theory and dismiss it out of hand, go ahead, but it seems to me to be an utterly defensible response to what must have been a traumatic experience.
   And so, if the head of a municipal workers union can demand an apology from the President of the United States for making an ill-considered remark, I figure I’m on pretty firm ground in demanding one here.
   Mr. Simmons, you owe Irv that much. For the rest of us cash-on-the-barrelhead virginity-losing, Hawaiian shirt-wearing, lonely, ill-mannered reprobates, there is no offense taken.

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