Don’t look now, but six- to eight-inch plastic figurines are taking over the reigns of professional and college sports.
How can a doll take over MLB, NFL, the NBA and the NCAA? Easy — these dolls have heads that bobble.
What began as a publicity stunt to draw fans into the nearly desolate Metrodome has turned into a major market for collectors and sports fans alike.
These athlete-replica dolls with oversized heads are selling tickets at professional sports venues, and they are taking over eBay. What you can get for free (if you’re 14 and under) at a baseball game is now worth at least $20 or $30 on auction. And the team giving the promotion doesn’t even have to be good to make their doll a must-have. Take the Brewers, for example. The 61-77 Brew Crew’s last giveaway of Robin Yount is going for at least $25 on eBay right now.
What’s the appeal of owning one of these? As far as I can tell, it’s just for bragging rights. Former Herald sports editor Andy Bitter went to a Timberwolves game and came home with a Sam Mitchell doll. Before that game, I never heard Bitter mention Mitchell, but once he had the doll, he was more than willing to tell the story of how he obtained the Mitchell bobble head.
But that was one doll; being a Wolves fan, Bitter really liked his doll and was genuinely amused at the way it bobbled. It’s the freakish collectors that want every bobble head ever made that concern me. I worked with a guy this summer who bought a doll every day off eBay. Name a doll, he had it. But he would never sell the dolls (he knew he could have gotten $200 for his Ichiro). It had just become a game to him.
But don’t think the fans are the only ones going crazy over this latest collectors’ fad. The athletes are also becoming bobble-obsessed. While most athletes will admit that it is an honor to have a replica made of them — with a bobbing head, no less — there are egos that come into play. Hall of Famer Dave Winfield sent his doll back to the manufacturers because he didn’t think he was given enough credit for his height. Winfield was alarmed that his doll was the same height as much shorter former teammate Kirby Puckett and insisted that the correction be made.
But when you’re a rookie, sometimes you don’t get the chance to preview your doll. When ESPN the Magazine did a photo shoot of NFL bobble heads at training camp in their last issue, they were issued the original Michael Vick doll. No one had seen the doll, not even Vick. So when the magazine’s photo editor called the Falcons to see if they would allow them to use the training room and players for their photo shoot, the deal was sealed when they found out ESPN had the doll in its possession, and Vick would be allowed to see it before it was photographed.
Athletes aren’t the only ones getting their own dolls; sports media are now entering the market. Brewers’ announcer Bob Uecker, Minnesota sports writer Sid Hartman and ESPN’s Dan Patrick were all recently molded in plastic.
And now the college mascots are bobbling their way into the market. Bucky has his own doll (there’s a photo of it on bobbleheads.com) but there’s no word yet on whether or not he thought his doll was flattering. Most of the other Big Ten schools also have bobble heads coming out, with the Buckeye and Goldy Gopher already being requested on one bobble-head message board (yes, there are message boards).
Yet as I sit here and laugh at the stupid antics grown adults will do for a doll that barely resembles the player it’s modeled after, I am reminded by my roommate that I am just as bad. I got caught up in the game on eBay, and refusing to admit that a Dan Patrick doll can’t be obtained, I went straight to the source and emailed Dan. In case you’re wondering, Dan doesn’t have any more of his dolls either.
But the key to my sanity is that I don’t collect the dolls for myself — I just get them for other people who want them. Well, with the exception of my Kevin Garnett doll, which I kept just because his head bobbles so much it’s actually entertaining.