At 8 p.m. EST on Tuesday, October 11, 2011, ESPN will premier The Dotted Line, a documentary about sports agents directed by Morgan Spurlock. ESPN provided a DVD screener of the documentary, which I had a chance to review over the weekend.
The documentary begins with Drew Rosenhaus, the most recognizable sports agent in the world, defending one of his clients. But Rosenhaus is certainly not the focus of the show. Instead, ESPN provides commentary from a plethora of current and former agents, NCAA personnel, and went through the recruiting process of a young, upcoming agent named Eugene Lee. Other than a clip of former NFLPA Contract Advisor Josh Luchs taking the cameras with him to UCLA’s practice facility to show just how easy it is for agents to gain access to college athletes, I found the portions devoted to Lee and his company ETL Associates to be the best parts of the show.
The cameras followed Lee, who founded his company in 2003, through the process of recruiting players at West Virginia, University of South Florida, and Notre Dame. He thought he would leave his meeting with the WVU player and have a signed representation agreement in hand. Lee ended up finding out from the WVU player’s high school coach that the player would be signing with a different agent. Lee signed the USF player and celebrated with his co-workers, only to receive a termination letter from that player six weeks later. Lee also signed the Notre Dame player, who went undrafted, but eventually was picked up by the Chicago Bears. The show provided great insight on the highs and lows of recruiting for the smaller, boutique firms. Eugene Lee spent a lot of time and money on recruiting and representing fringe players, and ended up losing out on signing one, was terminated by another, but worked his tail off for the third, who got picked up by a team after Lee put in even more hard work. The question is, how does someone like Lee actually make money?
Another segment of the show was devoted to baseball agent Peter Greenberg. Greenberg became one of the biggest
agents in baseball by focusing on recruiting and representing Venezuelan players. ESPN’s documentary displayed just how powerful Greenberg’s name is in baseball circles in Venezuela. Players hope to have a chance to sign with Greenberg. Typically, it is the other way around, with agents praying that they can sign top talent. The fact that Greenberg negotiated a huge contract for Johan Santana certainly helped the agent establish his solid reputation.
And then there was a segment on agent scandals. Quite a bit of attention was paid to Josh Luchs, who was recently a fabulous guest speaker in the Sport Agency Management class that I teach at Indiana University. Again, the part of the Luchs segment that stood out the most was when he drove his Mercedes right up to a UCLA locker room entrance and showed how easy it was to gain access to the players.
The documentary also included words of wisdom from Mark Bartelstein of Priority Sports & Entertainment, who talked about the immense costs associated with providing training for clients, basketball agent David Falk, who talked about how trust is earned and that it is very difficult to succeed as an agent without cheating, and others.
Be sure to tune in to ESPN at 8:00 p.m. EST on October 11, 2011, and let me know what you think of the documentary.