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Show Them the Money: 8 Famous and Infamous Sports Agents

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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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The Elements
9 Diamond-Like Facts About Carbon
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How well do you know the periodic table? Our series The Elements explores the fundamental building blocks of the observable universe—and their relevance to your life—one by one.
 
 
It can be glittering and hard. It can be soft and flaky. It can look like a soccer ball. Carbon is the backbone of every living thing—and yet it just might cause the end of life on Earth as we know it. How can a lump of coal and a shining diamond be composed of the same material? Here are eight things you probably didn't know about carbon.

1. IT'S THE "DUCT TAPE OF LIFE."

It's in every living thing, and in quite a few dead ones. "Water may be the solvent of the universe," writes Natalie Angier in her classic introduction to science, The Canon, "but carbon is the duct tape of life." Not only is carbon duct tape, it's one hell of a duct tape. It binds atoms to one another, forming humans, animals, plants and rocks. If we play around with it, we can coax it into plastics, paints, and all kinds of chemicals.

2. IT'S ONE OF THE MOST ABUNDANT ELEMENTS IN THE UNIVERSE.

It sits right at the top of the periodic table, wedged in between boron and nitrogen. Atomic number 6, chemical sign C. Six protons, six neutrons, six electrons. It is the fourth most abundant element in the universe after hydrogen, helium, and oxygen, and 15th in the Earth's crust. While its older cousins hydrogen and helium are believed to have been formed during the tumult of the Big Bang, carbon is thought to stem from a buildup of alpha particles in supernova explosions, a process called supernova nucleosynthesis.

3. IT'S NAMED AFTER COAL.

While humans have known carbon as coal and—after burning—soot for thousands of years, it was Antoine Lavoisier who, in 1772, showed that it was in fact a unique chemical entity. Lavoisier used an instrument that focused the Sun's rays using lenses which had a diameter of about four feet. He used the apparatus, called a solar furnace, to burn a diamond in a glass jar. By analyzing the residue found in the jar, he was able to show that diamond was comprised solely of carbon. Lavoisier first listed it as an element in his textbook Traité Élémentaire de Chimie, published in 1789. The name carbon derives from the French charbon, or coal.

4. IT LOVES TO BOND.

It can form four bonds, which it does with many other elements, creating hundreds of thousands of compounds, some of which we use daily. (Plastics! Drugs! Gasoline!) More importantly, those bonds are both strong and flexible.

5. NEARLY 20 PERCENT OF YOUR BODY IS CARBON.

May Nyman, a professor of inorganic chemistry at Oregon State University in Corvallis, Oregon tells Mental Floss that carbon has an almost unbelievable range. "It makes up all life forms, and in the number of substances it makes, the fats, the sugars, there is a huge diversity," she says. It forms chains and rings, in a process chemists call catenation. Every living thing is built on a backbone of carbon (with nitrogen, hydrogen, oxygen, and other elements). So animals, plants, every living cell, and of course humans are a product of catenation. Our bodies are 18.5 percent carbon, by weight.

And yet it can be inorganic as well, Nyman says. It teams up with oxygen and other substances to form large parts of the inanimate world, like rocks and minerals.

6. WE DISCOVERED TWO NEW FORMS OF IT ONLY RECENTLY.

Carbon is found in four major forms: graphite, diamonds, fullerenes, and graphene. "Structure controls carbon's properties," says Nyman.  Graphite ("the writing stone") is made up of loosely connected sheets of carbon formed like chicken wire. Penciling something in actually is just scratching layers of graphite onto paper. Diamonds, in contrast, are linked three-dimensionally. These exceptionally strong bonds can only be broken by a huge amount of energy. Because diamonds have many of these bonds, it makes them the hardest substance on Earth.

Fullerenes were discovered in 1985 when a group of scientists blasted graphite with a laser and the resulting carbon gas condensed to previously unknown spherical molecules with 60 and 70 atoms. They were named in honor of Buckminster Fuller, the eccentric inventor who famously created geodesic domes with this soccer ball–like composition. Robert Curl, Harold Kroto, and Richard Smalley won the 1996 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for discovering this new form of carbon.

The youngest member of the carbon family is graphene, found by chance in 2004 by Andre Geim and Kostya Novoselov in an impromptu research jam. The scientists used scotch tape—yes, really—to lift carbon sheets one atom thick from a lump of graphite. The new material is extremely thin and strong. The result: the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2010.

7. DIAMONDS AREN'T CALLED "ICE" BECAUSE OF THEIR APPEARANCE.

Diamonds are called "ice" because their ability to transport heat makes them cool to the touch—not because of their look. This makes them ideal for use as heat sinks in microchips. (Synthethic diamonds are mostly used.) Again, diamonds' three-dimensional lattice structure comes into play. Heat is turned into lattice vibrations, which are responsible for diamonds' very high thermal conductivity.

8. IT HELPS US DETERMINE THE AGE OF ARTIFACTS—AND PROVE SOME OF THEM FAKE.

American scientist Willard F. Libby won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1960 for developing a method for dating relics by analyzing the amount of a radioactive subspecies of carbon contained in them. Radiocarbon or C14 dating measures the decay of a radioactive form of carbon, C14, that accumulates in living things. It can be used for objects that are as much as 50,000 years old. Carbon dating help determine the age of Ötzi the Iceman, a 5300-year-old corpse found frozen in the Alps. It also established that Lancelot's Round Table in Winchester Cathedral was made hundreds of years after the supposed Arthurian Age.

9. TOO MUCH OF IT IS CHANGING OUR WORLD.

Carbon dioxide (CO2) is an important part of a gaseous blanket that is wrapped around our planet, making it warm enough to sustain life. But burning fossil fuels—which are built on a carbon backbone—releases more carbon dioxide, which is directly linked to global warming. A number of ways to remove and store carbon dioxide have been proposed, including bioenergy with carbon capture and storage, which involves planting large stands of trees, harvesting and burning them to create electricity, and capturing the CO2 created in the process and storing it underground. Yet another approach that is being discussed is to artificially make oceans more alkaline in order to let them to bind more CO2. Forests are natural carbon sinks, because trees capture CO2 during photosynthesis, but human activity in these forests counteracts and surpasses whatever CO2 capture gains we might get. In short, we don't have a solution yet to the overabundance of C02 we've created in the atmosphere.

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Big Questions
Why Don't We Eat Turkey Tails?
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Turkey sandwiches. Turkey soup. Roasted turkey. This year, Americans will consume roughly 245 million birds, with 46 million being prepared and presented on Thanksgiving. What we don’t eat will be repurposed into leftovers.

But there’s one part of the turkey that virtually no family will have on their table: the tail.

Despite our country’s obsession with fattening, dissecting, and searing turkeys, we almost inevitably pass up the fat-infused rear portion. According to Michael Carolan, professor of sociology and associate dean for research at the College for Liberal Arts at Colorado State University, that may have something to do with how Americans have traditionally perceived turkeys. Consumption was rare prior to World War II. When the birds were readily available, there was no demand for the tail because it had never been offered in the first place.

"Tails did and do not fit into what has become our culinary fascination with white meat," Carolan tells Mental Floss. "But also from a marketing [and] processor standpoint, if the consumer was just going to throw the tail away, or will not miss it if it was omitted, [suppliers] saw an opportunity to make additional money."

Indeed, the fact that Americans didn't have a taste for tail didn't prevent the poultry industry from moving on. Tails were being routed to Pacific Island consumers in the 1950s. Rich in protein and fat—a turkey tail is really a gland that produces oil used for grooming—suppliers were able to make use of the unwanted portion. And once consumers were exposed to it, they couldn't get enough.

“By 2007,” according to Carolan, “the average Samoan was consuming more than 44 pounds of turkey tails every year.” Perhaps not coincidentally, Samoans also have alarmingly high obesity rates of 75 percent. In an effort to stave off contributing factors, importing tails to the Islands was banned from 2007 until 2013, when it was argued that doing so violated World Trade Organization rules.

With tradition going hand-in-hand with commerce, poultry suppliers don’t really have a reason to try and change domestic consumer appetites for the tails. In preparing his research into the missing treat, Carolan says he had to search high and low before finally finding a source of tails at a Whole Foods that was about to discard them. "[You] can't expect the food to be accepted if people can't even find the piece!"

Unless the meat industry mounts a major campaign to shift American tastes, Thanksgiving will once again be filled with turkeys missing one of their juicier body parts.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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