BOBBLE, BOBBLE, TOIL, AND TROUBLE
This bobblehead craze . . . well, itÕs got my head spinning. I just donÕt get it. And IÕve tried. As much as I love sports Ñ and IÕm just as much a sucker for a nice collectible as the next guy Ñ I just donÕt understand the bobblehead phenomenon. You shape and paint the likeness of a sports hero Ñ or bench-warmer, it doesnÕt seem to matter Ñ attach the oversized head, via spring, to what amounts to a one-size-fits-all body, and youÕve got a ceramic (or plastic) ÒdollÓ for life. It would be one thing if this was a fad of sorts, kind of like those obnoxious crown-shaped air fresheners youÕd see on car dashes years ago. But these babies are fetching some cash! My dadÕs an economics professor. I know of supply and demand. The manufacturers are keeping the supply under control, for obvious reasons. But the demand? Why?
A recent cyber-trip to eBay provided an alarming lesson on bobble value and its relationship to the star-power of athletes. The lesson? There is no relationship.
For some perspective, weÕll start with a pair of locals. A bobblehead of the Memphis GrizzliesÕ shoo-in for Rookie of the Year, Pau Gasol, was Going for around $20, as was that of GasolÕs teammate, Jason Williams. It should be noted, now, that the Williams bobblehead Ñ designed free of hair in homage to the early-season J-Will Ñ looked more like one of those creatures that stepped off the ship in ÒClose Encounters of the third KindÓ than it does our loveable, dribble-happy point guard. Which is a sizable flaw, if you ask me, in the mission at hand. If I purchase a Jason Williams trading card, poster, or photo, I can look at my souvenir, share it with my buddies, even frame the image as a tribute to an NBA star. If I were to cover up the uniformed body on that bobblehead and show it to friends, theyÕd be sure I was displaying Bruce Willis from Ò12 Monkeys.Ó
Back to the eBay price comparison. Dallas sports fans will be happy to know they can have a bobblehead of Troy Aikman Ñ owner of three Super Bowl rings and a mortal lock for the Hall of Fame Ñ for around $10. Now, if they happen to be Mavericks fans and want a bobblehead of Eduardo Najera Ñ a popular bench player still best known for having his noggin opened up in a head-on with Mateen Cleaves at the 2000 NCAAs Ñ theyÕre looking at a starting price of $79.95.
Even sports fans who donÕt the difference between a Zamboni and Zanzibar are going to recognize hockey legend Mario Lemieux. Probably one of the three or four hockey players that would in fact be picked out of a lineup anywhere in the U.S., to say nothing of Canada. Well, Super Mario has a bobblehead, designed in Olympic attire no less. Last I checked, the price was a very reasonable $13. When I scanned down to find Marian GaborikÕs bobblehead, imagine the shock at his price tag: $60. Or Ilya KovalchukÕs: $25. If you know who Gaborik (a member of the Minnesota Wild) and Kovalchuk (Atlanta Thrashers) are, you need to pack your bags, grab all the Molson from your fridge, and head back to Manitoba. I donÕt
care about any law of supply and demand . . . when Gaborik fetches four times as much as Lemieux, somethingÕs amiss.
Overpriced toys, designed in unrecognizable likenesses of often mediocre professional athletes. Gimme more! What the heck ever happened to trading cards, people? Or hey, IÕll even concede some value to the line of sports figures designed by Starting Lineup. IÕve got three of them in my office, actually, a baseball player, a football player, and a hockey player. With SLUs, you at least have a somewhat poseable replica of a given athlete, sculpted with head-to-body proportion in mind. Nothing like a good Seventies-era Star Wars figure, but a reasonable attempt at least.
Perhaps most disturbing is the fact that, whereas most marketing efforts around celebrities are done in ways that flatter the star, bobbleheads would seem to accomplish the exact opposite. An individualÕs appearance is reduced to what amounts to caricature (thus the easy Willis/Williams bald confusion). The Elvis bobblehead distributed by the Grizzlies April 5th could just as easily have represented one of those obnoxious New Kids on the Block from the early Nineties (donÕt ask for a name). But can you imagine what itÕll go for on eBay?!
The kicker for me was seeing where Hall of Fame shortstop Ernie Banks fits in the bobblehead ranks. One of the most likeable athletes to ever suit up on American soil, Mr. CubÕs toy was priced at $15. A bobblehead of ESPN sportscaster Stuart Scott Ñ yes a talking head bobblehead Ñ was going for no less than $51. Is your head spinning, too?
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