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Sportswriting Can Be A Helluva Hobby, But A Better Job!


sportswritingIn sports, as in life, it seems that bad things come in threes. Three strikes and it’s back to the bench in baseball. A football team can be dragged into last place by a three-downs-and-out offense. And being whistled for a three-second violation is one of the worst ways to lose the basketball in an NBA game. So it should come as no surprise that a trio of the juiciest recent trademark squabbles have come straight from the fields of play.

Leading Off With a Hit

Purple passions flared in court when the owners of Barney, the Madonna of kid-vid, sued the Famous San Diego Chicken for trademark infringement. Chicken Ted Giannoulas ruffled the feathers of Texas-based Lyons Partnership by staging fake fights at baseball and basketball games in which he pummeled a Barney facsimile to the cheers of cynical fans across the nation, the Associated Press reports.

“Specifically, Giannoulas would punch, flip, stand on and otherwise assault the putative `Barney,”‘ contends the suit, which was filed in Texas in late 1997. The brouhaha has been brewing since Lyons told the Chicken to knock off the knockoff display in 1994. But Giannoulas allegedly kept on beating the stuffing out of the ersatz dinosaur.

“We have a sense of humor about Barney, but we take the children who make up Barney’s audience very seriously,” the suit said, adding that kids couldn’t tell the difference between the Chicken’s punching bag and the real Barney. The company is looking for a permanent injunction against the entertainer’s use of a dinosaur costume, along with at least $100,000 in damages for each Barney boxing match.

A counter-punching Giannoulas said the performances were parody protected under the First Amendment. “There have been plenty of parodies of Barney,” he said. “They probably think that the Chicken is easy picking.”

Ka-reemed in Court?

Basketball great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, he of the skyhook that helped him score more points than any other NBA player, is trying for a legal slam dunk on Miami Dolphins running back Karim Abdul-Jabbar for taking both his name and the #33 off of his back. The L.A. Lakers legend has sued the gridiron sensation for infringement.

In 1968, then-UCLA hoops star Lew Alcindor changed his name to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. In 1995, then-UCLA football star Sharmon Shaw changed his name to Karim Abdul-Jabbar. Karim the younger reportedly doesn’t see any cause for concern, saying the name was given to him during a Muslim religious ceremony. Kareem the elder countered that the man who followed so closely in his footsteps could have selected among several other names in that ceremony–and he should have done just that to avoid fan confusion.

“That religious element is why you haven’t heard more joking about this among NFL announcers, and why it kind of went unquestioned when [Karim] burst forth onto the national scene,” noted news anchor Brian Williams on MSNBC.

Making matters worse is the that Karim seems poised for stardom, after becoming the only Dolphin to rush for more than 1,000 yards in his rookie season. And Kareem, recently voted one of the 50 greatest NBA players of all time, is trying to jump-start a movie career that has slumped since 1980’s hit comedy Airplane! to such straight-to-video fare as 1994’s Slam Dunk Ernest.

How difficult is this name game to cover? As Los Angeles sportscaster ,Fred Rogin told MSNBC’s Williams, “We contacted the attorney for Abdul-Jabbar, but we actually became so confused with the whole thing, we didn’t know which attorney we were talking to…. But one thing I can tell you for sure: However this lawsuit ends up, Abdul-Jabbar will be the winner.”

And we’ll keep laughing from the stands.

Buckeyes and Bobcats

In a case of a college rivalry going to new extremes, Ohio University has trademarked the word Ohio for use in connection with all sporting and entertainment events, and on licensed merchandise, reports Knight-Ridder News Service. That move could leave Ohio State University and its Buckeyes chewed up by the Bobcats of OU.

Ohio University pulled off the registration in a stealth maneuver way back in 1993, but it only became an issue recently when school officials told OSU that the word “Ohio” on its cheerleaders’ uniforms constituted trademark infringement.

“I frankly thought it was a joke,” said OSU legal affairs vice president Virginia Trethewey. Unfortunately, it’s a joke with a several hundred-thousand-dollar punch line, and it’s being made at Ohio State’s expense. The two schools are trying to iron out a compromise before their football teams play each other two years from now at Columbus’ Ohio Stadium.

THE NAME GAME

Updates From the Trademark Wars

* The song remains the same, but that’s about it when it comes to the new wave of “trademark bands” that ABC’s PrimeTime Live recently found touring the nation’s mid-level concert halls. An increasing number of bands, including the Coasters and the Vogues, that failed to register their names as trademarks when they hit the charts in the early years of the rock era are discovering that independent promoters have secured the marks and sent acts on the road that include no original members. The promoters point out that they registered the band trademarks legally, and thus have the right to affix those names to any group of musicians they want. Meanwhile, the people who cranked out the original hits are crying 96 tears as they see others cashing in on their hard work. It’s only rock ‘n roll, but in this case it’s pretty hard to like it.

* Proving that you don’t have to know how to spell to make money, nearly 90 people or companies have applied for the trademark to millenium with only one n, reports the Associated Press. What this really spells is frenzy–nearly two years before the calendar turns over, the rush is on to capitalize on the Year 2000 celebration. The US Patent & Trademark Office has already awarded 117 marks that include “millennium” and more than 1,500 with “2000” in them. Literally thousands more turn-of-the-century marks are pending.

Among the millennial marketeers are Playboy Magazine, Official Magazine of the Millennium; Miller Brewing Co., Official Sponsor of the Millennium; and a moving company called Moving into the Millennium. In addition, a California entrepreneur has sewn up the right to plaster Year 2000 on T-shirts, sweatshirts, hats and shorts.

The Discussion

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  • Ramon T October 17th, 2015 at 9:29 am #1

    This is actually my dream job. I love sports a lot that I cannot end a day without watching any kind of game. I think it will be effortless for someone who is really fond of this field.

  • Angela November 11th, 2015 at 8:21 am #2

    My brother just started working as a part-time sports writer and I can sense that he is really enjoying it. He is not like working when he writes because it’s always a pleasure to him.

  • Kori J. January 29th, 2016 at 2:32 pm #3

    I am a sports person and writing is also my passion. I never thought these two would be my source of living. I am happy being a sportswriter and this will be my profession for as long as I live.

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