Book and movie deals pouring in
Silence is a rare treat these days for Frank Bauer and Kenny Chapman, the agents who represent former NFL star Pat Tillman.
That's because their office phone hasn't stopped ringing since news of Tillman's death broke April 23 and circulated around the country.
"There's just so many people that want to do something or have some proposal," said Chapman, who handles marketing deals for the firm's players. "You can kind of tell who the good ones are. They're willing to give any proceeds of what they might do to charity and understand that all this is bigger than them."
In the minority were those just offering to lend their support, financial or otherwise.
Oprah Winfrey called, requesting an interview with the family, but also offered to make a donation. So too did the Maloof family, which owns the Sacramento Kings, Chapman said.
In 2002, inspired by the Sept. 11 attacks, Tillman walked away from a three-year, $3.6 million contract with the Cardinals to become an Army Ranger. He was killed in a firefight the night of April 22 in Afghanistan.
Chapman said that they've been pitched at least 30 proposals, mostly for book and movie deals.
One publisher offered to do a book deal with Tillman before he left the country, but Tillman -- who, after making his decision, declined interview requests -- predictably said no.
"We showed it to him and he said he didn't want to do it," Chapman said. "The most ridiculous thing was that he said he felt bad for us because he knew we could probably make some money from doing a deal."
The decision whether to entertain any book or movie offers will be up to the family, which announced the creation of the Pat Tillman Foundation on Friday. Chapman is currently putting together a folder that he plans to present them when things slow down. A public funeral is planned Monday at the San Jose Municipal Rose Garden.
Although life stories are often relegated to TV "Movie of the Week" treatment, one prominent agent who deals with Hollywood life movie rights has approached writers to suggest writing the Tillman script, believing the story could be appealing enough to be turned into a feature film.
The agent, who requested anonymity, said she expected that many TV networks would want the film and that the rights could bring in significant money because a lot of high-end talent might be attracted to participate in a film. A network could have a Tillman movie out by November, she said, while the soonest a feature film could be in theaters would likely be late 2005.
Time may be of the essence if the family is interested in maximizing profits from a book deal.
"As heroic as his story is, it's not a complex publishing drama that could sustain a book-length investigation like the new Bob Woodward book ["Plan of Attack"]," said Jeremy Katz, executive editor of men's health and sports books, who said he would not be interested in bidding for the rights should they become available. Katz said in order for a Tillman book to get "buzz," he believes it will have to be out before year's end.
However, one literary agent, who requested anonymity, said she thought the rights to the Tillman book could be worth as much as what publisher Alfred A. Knopf paid for "I Am a Soldier, Too: The Jessica Lynch Story." Lynch and writer Rick Bragg reportedly shared a $1 million advance.
Tillman memorabilia continues to flood online auction site eBay. As of 3 p.m. Friday, almost 600 items with Tillman's name in the description were on the auction block. The highest priced item was an American flag allegedly signed by Tillman. Twenty-eight bids had driven the price to $1,795.
Many of the auctions include Tillman's rookie card, which was produced by Upper Deck and Fleer in 2001, after his third season in the league and 48 games into his career. Tillman finally got a card in the sets after he made a request to the NFL Players Association, Chapman said.
Fans looking to buy an Arizona Cardinals jersey with the name "TILLMAN" and the No. 40 on the back might have a tougher time doing so.
That's because, as of Wednesday, an official with one company that allows personalization -- Eastbay -- said the company was informed that the combination of that particular name and number was not allowed. Eastbay is owned by Foot Locker, which runs the NFL's official Web site store, NFLShop.com.
An NFL spokesman said he did not know whether league officials ordered the halting of personalized Tillman jerseys or if the jerseys ordered earlier in the week that passed through the process would even be fulfilled.
Because Tillman was not an active player and was not part of the NFL Players Association, fans should not have been able to purchase a Cardinals jersey with his name and number. Fans can personalize jerseys with their names on the back with no problem, but they are frequently stopped from placing an order if they try to match the names of former players with their numbers. That combination is not authorized because those players have not signed their names to licensing agreements that would pay them royalties.
It is possible that Tillman's family will get the standard royalty from those jersey sales if they so desire. Future production of licensed Tillman jerseys most likely will be determined by the family, as well.
Darren Rovell, who covers sports business for ESPN.com, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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