01 Aug 2007
by Mike Tanier
Back in 2005, Mike Tanier wrote the original story about the Fantasy Football Hall of Fame (FFHoF) and its visionary creator Virgil Parks. We caught up with Parks again one year later for an update. But since then, ESPN appropriated Parks' idea without his consent. Their new Fantasy Football Hall of Fame advertising campaign is crushing Parks' efforts to get the real FFHoF off the ground. As part of our continuing effort to stick up for the common man, we dispatched Mike Tanier to interview Parks.
Tanier: How did you feel when you saw the ESPN Fantasy Football Hall of Fame advertisements, which seem to be a blatant rip-off of your idea?
Parks: I was astonished. I was disappointed. But mostly I was hung over. I saw them on Friday morning after dollar drafts night at P.J.'s. Ruthie was tending bad, the cute blonde with that amazing dragon tattoo at the base of her â€¦
Tanier: Focus, Virgil.
Parks: Right. Anyway, two aspirins, an Arnold Palmer, and a soft boiled egg later, I knew I had to call two people: my lawyer, and my friends at Football Outsiders.
Tanier: You seem to have a clear-cut case here. I mean, you copyrighted the name Fantasy Football Hall of Fame, right?
Parks: Um, no. See, some years ago a business partner convinced me to switch from copyright to Copy-Lite, a low-cost alternative legal protection source. With copyright, you file some paperwork and get an ironclad guarantee that no one can claim your intellectual property. With Copy-Lite, you cross your fingers and rely on everyone else to be honest. Copy-Lite never failed me until now.
Tanier: So what's your course of action here?
Parks: Oh, don't worry. I still have a case. I mean, your article appeared both here and on FOXSports.com in December of 2005. Deadspin also picked it up, as did some other news sources. Unless the four-letter network has some material from before that date (fat chance) it is clear that they nabbed my idea. I plan to sue for 3.5 bazillion dollars.
Tanier: That's a considerable amount. Are you afraid of taking on a media giant like ESPN?
Parks: I've done it before. I sued NBC over the Smurfs in 1982. I proved that my 13-year old nephew got a tattoo on his arm because he wanted to emulate Hefty Smurf. Got a good settlement for pain and suffering, too. I'm the reason why Hefty's arm was digitally altered in all subsequent broadcasts. Peyo carried a grudge against me to his grave, the Belgian bastard.
Tanier: Do you think that ESPN maliciously stole your idea?
Parks: Oh, I know what you are thinking. It isn't the most original idea in the world. There are some similarities between my Hall, as outlined in your article, and ESPN's concept, but they could be the product of any brainstorming session. This isn't like your precious FO "research" that you guard so carefully. But you know what? The Football Outsiders article about the Fantasy Football Hall of Fame is still the top result on Google. Either the advertising agency didn't do a routine Google search to find me, so they ran with their idea, or they did a routine Google search, found me, and decided I was ripe for the plucking. So it's either incompetence or theft. I don't care which it is. I just want my 3.5 bazillion dollars.
Tanier: Have you suffered material losses?
Parks: Oh, it is a desperate crisis. The real, original FFHoF cannot raise money anymore. We were working on a Drew Bledsoe statue, and we hoped to make it as lifelike as possible. We hoped to hire MIT engineers to develop special alloys that would make the Bledsoe statue 25 percent more immobile than a regular statue. That project is out the window. We can't afford to hire curators, cafeteria staff ... heck, Mike, we can't even afford to pay your stipend for all of the work you do as Recording Secretary and Media Consultant.
Tanier: You pay me in tavern peanuts.
Parks: Yes, but so does Football Outsiders. And that's the point, isn't it? Advertising agencies receive tens of thousands of dollars to design campaigns like the Fantasy Football Hall of Fame. Networks like ESPN spend millions implementing those campaigns. You and the other FO writers aren't really looking for those types of paydays, though I bet you wouldn't turn them down. What you really want is credit. Mention Football Outsiders or Pro Football Prospectus, and maybe we'll sell a few hundred more books. Mention Mike Tanier or Aaron Schatz, and maybe they can demand more as freelance writers or get better assignments. That's all someone has to do, and while you won't hand over the DVOA formula or anything, you'll be pretty darn generous with your research or ideas. It has to be discouraging when the bigger fish won't even acknowledge what they borrowed, let alone pay for it.
Tanier: It is discouraging, Virgil. But this isn't about me. It's about you and the FFHoF. Where do you go from here?
Parks: We're adapting. I'm talking to some investors about an NFL Draft Hall of Fame. Brian Bosworth. Trev Alberts. Ryan Leaf. I know a guy who knows Mel Kiper Jr.'s barber and can get a lock of his hair. Some contractors say that for the right price they can build an authentic Brady Quinn Isolation Chamber. If I strike it rich from this lawsuit, we could break ground on the new museum by 2009.
Tanier: Sounds great. I am on board to help.
Parks: Thanks, homeslice. And remember: you heard about the NFL Draft Hall of Fame here first!
17 comments, Last at 04 Aug 2007, 9:53am by NemoNC