EXAMINER PUBLICATIONS – JUNE 17, 2008
By L. Stanley Trzupek
News item: Supreme Court rules against Major League Baseball’s suit against fantasy leagues’ use of players’ names and stats. But – oh! – what might have been…
(The Bay Area, sometime in the near future):
Ralphie! Ralll – Phieeee!!
Yes mom . . .
There’s a man at the door to see you – a Mr. Zito.
Mom, I don’t know any Mr. Zito.
He’s wearing a baseball uniform, one with a big “S” and “F” on it.
You mean Barry Zito? Barry Zito’s here?!
Hi fella – are you Ralph Ferguson?
Ah, yes, yes sir – that’s me – Ralphie Ferguson. Wow, Mr. Zito, what’re you doin’ here? Can I have your autograph?
Hah hah. Well, Ralphie, don’t worry; before I leave, you’ll have a piece of paper with my signature and I’ll have your autograph too – on the same paper!
So what’s this all about Mr. Zito?
Ralphie, are you a member of the Hillcrest Elementary School 4th grade fantasy baseball league?
Oh, yeah. I sure am!
And did you draft me as one of your starting pitchers?
Well kind of. See, I’m an A’s fan, so I really didn’t know too many people to pick, but my best friend, Lumpy Larson, said I should look up on the internet who had the highest salaries, because those guys are going to be really, really good. So anyway, when I found out you had a contract for $126 million dollars, I figured I had to draft you.
Your pal Lumpy gave you good advice, Ralphie In all humility I must hand it to my self: I am in fact one of the highest paid professional athletes in any sport. So why did you say I was “kind of” one of your starting pitchers?
Well, Mr Zito, I kind of – like I sort of ended up benching you – it’s not that I don’t like you or anything, but you do have a 1 and 8 record, with a 5.50 ERA. I was getting my butt kicked with you in the rotation.
Ralphie, you have to realize all world-class athletes go through some tough spells. I think you acted a bit prematurely there. But the important thing is, you did pick me for your fantasy team, right?
Oh yes, I sure did. Why?
Well, Ralphie, the Supreme Court just ruled that fantasy baseball participants cannot use the names or statistics of professional baseball players without permission or just compensation. You see, our names belong to us, and our stats belong to us. If you use them without asking, that’s kind of like stealing. It’s part of something called intellectual property law. It would be like if I used your bike without asking you.
So am I going to go to jail or something?
No, no, nothing like that. The court just set a monetary fine that applies to all fantasy leagues. You just owe me some money.
Gosh, Mr. Zito, how much?
Well, according to my accountant, if you take the portion of the fine that applies to your 4th grade league, and divide it by all the league members, and divide it again by all the major league players you guys drafted, the share that you owe me comes out to 79 cents.
Now what you’ll have to do is sign this consent form here, agreeing to the court’s settlement – you’ll see I’ve already signed it – and pay your 79 cents to me, and everything will be fine.
I guess that’s okay, Mr. Zito, but I just don’t have the money with me now. I will get it to you by Friday, when Mom gives me my allowance.
That’ll be okay Ralphie, but you’ll have to sign this promissory note, and agree to pay an interest penalty. We’ll keep the interest at prevailing pay-day loan rates and then you need to make sure you get the total amount to me by Friday. Try not to forget. My cousin Guido is in charge of collecting late fees, and sometimes he’s kind of impatient.
I’m not sure I understand all that Mr. Zito, but I will be sure to get you your money. But I don’t understand why I have to pay for your statistics. What if I just wrote them down from the newspaper?
Ralphie, you don’t understand. You’re allowed to read my stats, but that doesn’t mean you can do something with them without asking me. They are after all mine. If I don’t play the game, and if I don’t give up the runs, there’s no ERA, right? So that part’s only fair.
Okay, Mr. Zito. Here’s the paper you wanted me to sign.
And here’s your copy of that form, Ralphie. You’ll notice that it’s got my signature on it as well. It’s the autograph I promised you! And by the way, you should think of that signature as my intellectual property as well. So if you decide to sell that form as an autograph, that’s okay, but you do have to give me half the proceeds of the sale. You’ll see that’s something you agreed to in the consent agreement; paragraph 3, section b, sub-section iv, I believe.
Okay, that’s good to know, Mr. Zito.
Well, Raphie, I’ve got get moving. Lot’s more work to do today.
Are you going to see Lumpy and collect from him now?
No, no – I got Lumpy earlier this morning. No, I’ve got to meet with my legal team, and see if I can sue some wiseacre newspaper columnist for using my name in a parody without my permission. After all, the court ruled my name is my intellectual property. Newspapermen aren’t as lucrative as 10 year olds, since they have almost no net worth, but it’s still a lot of fun trying to squeeze something out ‘em. You take it easy now Ralphie. Keep up your enthusiasm for the game, and work on hitting that slider.