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Show Them the Money: 8 Famous and Infamous Sports Agents

In addition to all of the stereotypically negative things you might be inclined to say about sports agents, you can say this: they’re an interesting bunch. Here’s a collection of agents who became famous for all the right, wrong, or unlikely reasons.

1. Josh Luchs

Luchs made news in October when the former NFL agent dished about the corrupt nature of the business in a Sports Illustrated cover story. Luchs broke into the agency business after working as a ball boy for the Los Angeles Raiders and learned the ropes from Harold “Doc” Daniels, who had a reputation for paying players. One of the estimated 30 players Luchs paid between 1990 and 1996 was quarterback Ryan Leaf, who received $500 a month at Washington State in a failed effort to land the future NFL disappointment.

While Luchs was never busted for paying players, his career came crashing down when the NFL Players Association suspended him for one year in 2007 for mishandling a commission check and thereby breaching his fiduciary duty to a client. With that stain on his record, Luchs decided his days of pursuing clients were over. He offered some insight in the article as to why he decided to come clean, claiming he doesn’t want his two daughters to Google his name and read only negative things about their father. “I was a good agent and I took care of my players,” Luchs said. “I don't want my career to be defined by that suspension.”

2. Charles C. Pyle

Pyle, who plied his trade as a theater owner and sports agent during the first half of the 20th century, never had to worry about his children Googling his name. Cash and Carry, as C.C. was sometimes known, represented University of Illinois football star Red Grange.

After Grange signed with the Chicago Bears in 1925, Pyle led the “Galloping Ghost” on a lucrative barnstorming tour of the United States. The tour, which featured 16 games in less than two months, earned Grange more than $100,000. When the Bears rejected the halfback’s contract offer for the following season, Pyle threatened to create a rival NFL team in New York City with Grange as the star. The NFL refused to allow it, so Pyle created his own league, the first American Football League. The AFL folded after one season, but Pyle’s New York Yankees franchise, led by Grange, was admitted into the NFL.

Pyle was a master of selling personality as much as athletic prowess. One of his main clients outside of football was French tennis star Suzanne Lenglen, who played in 40 cities throughout the United States, Canada, and Cuba during a 1927 tour. In 1928, Pyle organized the Bunion Derby, a footrace from Los Angeles, to Chicago, to New York.

3. William “Tank” Black

Black was an All-American receiver and assistant coach at the University of South Carolina before starting his own business, Professional Management Incorporated, in 1988. His first client was a fellow former South Carolina receiver, Sterling Sharpe, the seventh pick of the 1988 NFL draft. Over the next decade, Black’s list of star clients at PMI would steadily grow. In 1999, he represented a record five first-round NFL draft picks, in addition to NBA superstar Vince Carter. “What can I say?” Black told Sports Illustrated at the time “It’s a very financially successful business.”

While some agents may have suspected that Black was bending the rules, few could have predicted that he would be involved in one of the biggest sports agent fraud cases in history, and be the subject of investigations by the SEC, IRS, and FBI. When the dust settled, Black served eight years in prison on money laundering and fraud charges, and was accused of scamming his clients, including former University of Florida stars Ike Hilliard and Fred Taylor, out of nearly $15 million.

4 & 5. Norby Walters and Lloyd Bloom

In 1985, Walters, a longtime agent in the entertainment business whose clientele included Janet Jackson, expanded his business to include sports representation at the suggestion of the younger Bloom, who had worked as a bouncer at New York’s trendy Studio 54. It turned out to be a bad decision. According to Chris Mortensen’s 1991 book about the infamous duo, Playing for Keeps, Walters and Bloom offered 58 college players $800,000 for the exclusive rights to represent them when they turned pro. Walters and Bloom were soon the subjects of a 17-month FBI investigation, after which they were indicted on charges of conspiracy to commit extortion, racketeering, and mail fraud. In addition to accusations that they offered college players money, the indictment alleged that Walters and Bloom threatened players who accepted money but ultimately didn’t sign. Bloom was accused of telling a client and teammate of former Texas standout Everett Gay, “We can get someone from Vegas to come down and see that Everett Gay doesn’t play football again.” The FBI’s investigation revealed connections between Walters and Bloom’s operation and organized crime.

Walters and Bloom were initially charged, but the verdict was thrown out one year later on appeal. Walters continued his career as an agent in the entertainment business. Bloom was shot to death at his Malibu home in 1993.

6. Mark McCormack

McCormack founded International Management Group in 1960 and pioneered the sports marketing industry. He was, by most accounts, one of the good guys in the business, no matter what the head of IMG’s golf division had to say in a 1990 Sports Illustrated article that dubbed McCormack the most powerful man in sports. “We're IBM, the 1927 Yankees, whatever. Everybody hates us.” While playing for the golf team at William & Mary, McCormack met a Wake Forest star by the name of Arnold Palmer. After McCormack earned his law degree at Yale, he met Palmer again at a tournament in Cleveland where he was working at a law firm. A handshake led to a business partnership and McCormack began setting up endorsement deals for Palmer on the side. In 1961, Palmer made an estimated $200,000 in addition to tournament winnings, which was unheard of at the time. McCormack signed Gary Player and Jack Nicklaus, and later branched into other sports, signing the likes of Martina Navratilova and Pele. McCormack died at the age of 72 in 2003. Today, IMG boasts nearly 3,000 employees in 30 countries.

7. Leland Hardy

Hardy, a Wharton School graduate whose unique career has included stints on Wall Street and as a professional boxer, as well as 15 years as the business advisor to Serena and Venus Williams, is responsible for what is widely regarded as one of the worst rookie contracts in NFL history. While working for rapper Master P’s firm, No Limit Sports Management, Hardy negotiated the contract for former Texas running back and the No. 5 pick in the 1999 NFL draft Ricky Williams. The eight-year deal included a record $8.84 million signing bonus, but very little guaranteed money. If Williams had a tremendous eight years, the incentive-laden deal called for him to earn as much as $68.5 million. If Williams failed to perform, he could earn as little as $11.6 million over the course of the contract. Williams, who didn’t reach most of the benchmarks in his contract, fired No Limit Sports and signed with Leigh Steinberg in 2003.

Hardy is doing just fine, though. The entrepreneur and owner of thousands of domain names purchased newyork.com for a small fee in 1994. Today, experts estimate he could sell it for $6 million.

8. Dwight Manley

Dennis Rodman was reportedly $1 million in debt when he first met Manley at a Las Vegas casino in 1993. I saw “a diamond in the desert that just needed some polishing,” Manley told Sports Illustrated in 1997. “It was so obvious.” Manley, who sold his rare-coin dealing business when he partnered with Rodman in 1995, helped turn the controversial player into a marketer’s dream. After Rodman was traded to the Chicago Bulls in 1995, he signed a book deal for an autobiography, “Bad As I Wanna Be.” In 1996, Rodman appeared in multiple ads, filmed the movie “Double Team” with Jean-Claude Van Damme, and earned $9 million in non-basketball income. Manley, who later represented Karl Malone among other NBA players, has also produced a History Channel documentary about California Gold Rush-era money and served as a consultant to the FTC and IRS in cases involving valuable coins.

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Food
Hate Red M&M's? You Need a Candy Color-Sorting Machine
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iStock

You don’t have to be a demanding rock star to live a life without brown M&M's or purple Skittles—all you need is some engineering know-how and a little bit of free time.

Mechanical engineering student Willem Pennings created a machine that can take small pieces of candy—like M&M's, Skittles, Reese’s Pieces, etc.—and sort them by color into individual piles. All Pennings needs to do is pour the candy into the top funnel; from there, the machine separates the candy—around two pieces per second—and dispenses all of it into smaller bowls at the bottom designated for each variety.

The color identification is performed with an RGB sensor that takes “optical measurements” of candy pieces of equal dimensions. There are limitations, though, as Pennings revealed in a Reddit Q&A: “I wouldn't be able to use this machine for peanut M&M's, since the sizes vary so much.”

The entire building process lasted from May through December 2016, and included the actual conceptualization, 3D printing (which was outsourced), and construction. The entire project was detailed on Pennings’s website and Reddit's DIY page.

With all of the motors, circuitry, and hardware that went into it, Pennings’s machine is likely too ambitious of a task for the average candy aficionado. So until a machine like this hits the open market, you're probably stuck buying bags of single-colored M&M’s in bulk online or sorting all of the candy out yourself the old fashioned way.

To see Pennings’s machine in action, check out the video below:

[h/t Refinery 29]

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Pop Culture
The Strange Hidden Link Between Silent Hill and Kindergarten Cop
Universal Pictures
Universal Pictures

by Ryan Lambie

At first glance, Kindergarten Cop and Silent Hill don't seem to have much in common—aside from both being products of the 1990s. At the beginning of the decade came Kindergarten Cop, the hit comedy directed by Ivan Reitman and starring larger-than-life action star Arnold Schwarzenegger. At the decade’s end came Silent Hill, Konami’s best-selling survival horror game that sent shivers down PlayStation owners’ spines.

As pop culture artifacts go, they’re as different as oil and water. Yet eagle-eyed players may have noticed a strange hidden link between the video game and the goofy family comedy.

In Silent Hill, you control Harry Mason, a father hunting for his daughter Cheryl in the eerily deserted town of the title. Needless to say, the things Mason uncovers are strange and very, very gruesome. Early on in the game, Harry stumbles on a school—Midwich Elementary School, to be precise—which might spark a hint of déjà vu as soon as you approach its stone steps. The building’s double doors and distinctive archway appear to have been taken directly from Kindergarten Cop’s Astoria Elementary School.

Could it be a coincidence?

Well, further clues can be found as you venture inside. As well as encountering creepy gray children and other horrors, you’ll notice that its walls are decorated with numerous posters. Some of those posters—including a particularly distinctive one with a dog on it—also decorated the halls of the school in Kindergarten Cop.

Do a bit more hunting, and you’ll eventually find a medicine cabinet clearly modeled on one glimpsed in the movie. Most creepily of all, you’ll even encounter a yellow school bus that looks remarkably similar to the one in the film (though this one has clearly seen better days).

Silent Hill's references to the movie are subtle—certainly subtle enough for them to pass the majority of players by—but far too numerous to be a coincidence. When word of the link between game and film began to emerge in 2012, some even joked that Konami’s Silent Hill was a sequel to Kindergarten Cop. So what’s really going on?

When Silent Hill was in early development back in 1996, director Keiichiro Toyama set out to make a game that was infused with influences from some of his favorite American films and TV shows. “What I am a fan of is occult stuff and UFO stories and so on; that and I had watched a lot of David Lynch films," he told Polygon in 2013. "So it was really a matter of me taking what was on my shelves and taking the more horror-oriented aspects of what I found.”

A scene from 'Silent Hill'
Divine Tokyoska, Flickr

In an interview with IGN much further back, in 2001, a member of Silent Hill’s staff also stated, “We draw our influences from all over—fiction, movies, manga, new and old.”

So while Kindergarten Cop is perhaps the most outlandish movie reference in Silent Hill, it’s by no means the only one. Cafe5to2, another prominent location in the game, is taken straight from Oliver Stone’s Natural Born Killers.

Elsewhere, you might spot a newspaper headline which references The Silence Of The Lambs (“Bill Skins Fifth”). Look carefully, and you'll also find nods to such films as The Shining, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Psycho, and 12 Monkeys.

Similarly, the town’s streets are all named after respected sci-fi and horror novelists, with Robert Bloch, Dean Koontz, Ray Bradbury, and Richard Matheson among the most obvious. Oh, and Midwich, the name of the school? That’s taken from the classic 1957 novel The Midwich Cuckoos by John Wyndham, twice adapted for the screen as The Village Of The Damned in 1960 and 1995.

Arnold Schwarzenegger in 'Kindergarten Cop'
Universal Pictures

The reference to Kindergarten Cop could, therefore, have been a sly joke on the part of Silent Hill’s creators—because what could be stranger than modeling something in a horror game on a family-friendly comedy? But there could be an even more innocent explanation: that Kindergarten Cop spends so long inside an ordinary American school simply gave Toyama and his team plenty of material to reference when building their game.

Whatever the reasons, the Kindergarten Cop reference ranks highly among the most strange and unexpected film connections in the history of the video game medium. Incidentally, the original movie's exteriors used a real school, John Jacob Astor Elementary in Astoria, Oregon. According to a 1991 article in People Magazine, the school's 400 fourth grade students were paid $35 per day to appear in Kindergarten Cop as extras.

It’s worth pointing out that the school is far less scary a place than the video game location it unwittingly inspired, and to the best of our knowledge, doesn't have an undercover cop named John Kimble serving as a teacher there, either.

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