Christian Lopez, Overtaxed Yankee Fan, The Sequel (Where He Becomes A Charity)
You all remember, Christian Lopez, right? (It's only been like 24 hours since I last wrote about him. Please tell me you remember.) Just in case, Lopez was the ample Yankee fan who on Saturday, in the name of all that Derek Jeter has done for Yankee Nation, walked away from a sure-fire six-figure payday and gave the ball that the Yankee captain hit for his 3,000th hit back to him for nothing. Nada. Zip.
The Yankees and Jeter rightly stepped up and dropped season tickets for the rest of the year and several pieces of Jeter-signed memorabilia on him, which was really cool until everyone realized that the IRS was figuratively waiting outside Yankee Stadium twisting its handlebar mustache waiting to take a $13,000 bite out of Lopez.
And that's where our story continues today...
All along, the thinking had been that someone within the Yankees, maybe even Jeter himself, would step up and foot the tax bill for the 23-year-old Verizon employee. (Of course, Lopez's thinking had been that maybe the IRS would cut him some slack and maybe let the whole "tax on gifts" thing slide.)
I'm pretty sure the thinking wasn't that Lopez would all of a sudden turn into a de facto charity, a modern day version of George Costanza's "Human Fund," but I'll be damned if Lopez benefactors didn't start coming out of the woodwork.
It started with Miller High Life (according to ESPNNewYork.com):
Miller High Life issued a statement Wednesday saying that the company would cover Lopez's tax bill.
"Miller High Life believes you should be rewarded for doing the right thing, not penalized," Miller High Life brand manager Brendan Noonan said in a statement. "We want to recognize Christian Lopez, and in turn everyone like him, for doing the common sense thing and help him continue to live the High Life."
The genius of Miller High Life cannot be understated. I'm not sure what the publicity that they generated for their brand today with this announcement would cost to run on television, radio, or print, but it would be a LOT more than $13,000. Hell, they'll probably generate ten times that in revenue from Yankee fans alone celebrating the tax liberation of one of their own.
I was fine with Miller High Life stepping up, seems like a win-win.
The next announcement is where things started to feel a little weird. Enter Modell's Sporting Goods:
The 2009 Yankees World Series ring came courtesy of Mitchell Modell, CEO of Modell's Sporting Goods, who got the ring because Modell's sponsors the Yankees. That wasn't all Modell gave Lopez: Lopez will receive five percent of the entire chain's Yankees merchandise sales for one week. Both Modell and Brandon Steiner, CEO of Steiner Sports, guaranteed Lopez at least $25,000 each.
The money will help with any taxes and student loans, which Lopez says top out at $100,000 from his days at Saint Lawrence University.
Modell called Lopez "truly a true New Yorker" and "a class act."
Steiner even taught Lopez how to properly sign a baseball.
Wearing a broad smile, a personalized Yankees hat, a DJ3K shirt and a new piece of jewelry, Lopez admitted at Modell's in Times Square he was "absolutely speechless right now."
Yeah, I'm speechless, too. I've heard of companies telling us things like "a dollar from every purchase goes to stomp out (fill in name of terminal condition here)." I've never heard of a percentage of sales going to pay off the student loans of a baseball fan. Why didn't Modell's just have Sally Struthers cut an infomercial holding a picture of Lopez and telling us "For the price of a Saturday night out, we can help change the life of one debt-ridden Yankee fan..."
And finally, this....
In addition, Topps will produce a trading card featuring Lopez that will be included in sets later this year. Company vice president for sports Mark Sapir says Topps employees were impressed by Lopez's selfless act.
Sapir says Topps also will have Lopez choose the image for its 2012 Derek Jeter card.
Christian Lopez rookie card. That's a thing. Or will be.
Look, when Lopez decided to just give Jeter the baseball, I was the first one to call him out for how stupid he was, how little capitalistic instinct he had, and how I would have sold the thing for whatever eBay would get me. I also probably would have gotten my teeth kicked in before my car left the Bronx parking lot.
Lopez got to meet his hero (Jeter), got all kinds of signed swag, got tickets for the rest of the season and the playoffs, got a beer company (repeat, a BEER company) to pay the tax bill, got a sporting goods company to essentially run a seven-day telethon to pay off his college loans, got his own baseball card, and has the love and adulation of the entire Yankee fan base because he gave the ball back to Jeter no questions asked.
So, yes, you win, Christian Lopez. I lose.
Now go see if Krueger Industrial Smoothing wants a piece of the "Lopez Fund."
Listen to Sean Pendergast on 1560 The Game and Sporting News Radio (Sirius 94, XM 208) from noon to 3 p.m. weekdays and follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanCablinasian.