December 15, 2005

Frustrated UT fan sparks eBay craze

It all started as a harmless joke. A diehard Tennessee fan recently noticed that a Detroit Lions fan was selling his "loyalty" on eBay and figured he could do the same thing.

He underestimated the passion of college football fans.

As of Thursday afternoon, the highest bid had risen to $900, with bidding slated to close Saturday afternoon. The number wasn't posted by some 9-year old playing with his father's laptop either. The bidder is GoldenPalaceCasino.com, an online gambling site that is best known for advertising its name with tattoos on the back of boxers.

It is the latest in a series of moves that have quickly turned the eBay sale into a national story. After the bid was posted Monday night, it found its way to several message boards and fans started to email it to one another. Then Wednesday a Knoxville television station interviewed "Steve", who will not reveal his identity (his face was blurred for the TV). ESPN's Cold Pizza was next, setting up a live interview with him Thursday morning.

Consequently the attention around the web page announcing the bid, which is entitled, "Buy my football fan loyalty, I'm tired of the Vols," has exploded. It had more than 65,000 hits when this story was first released.

"I'm in awe of what this has turned into," Steve told Rivals.com. "I never expected all this. I was just doing it as a joke at the start. I knew my friend, who is a Notre Dame fan, would bid a dime.

"Now, I can't pull myself away from the computer. I've only slept three hours in the last four days. I probably wouldn't have had the courage to do it if I had known this is the reaction it would cause, but I can't stop smiling. I'm just trying to enjoy my 15 minutes."

Steve, a stay-at-home dad, stipulates that the winning bidder will get to choose his new favorite college team and that he will "root loudly and enthusiastically" for them for the rest of this season if they are in a bowl game and for all of next season.

Steve promises to watch games on television, go to Tennessee games dressed in the gear of his new team and even talk about them at the water cooler (even though he is not working yet).

He originally wrote that if the bid was more than $15 he would put up a car flag of his new team. If it was more than $25 he would don a T-shirt and if it was more than $75 he would wear a jersey on game days.

As the bids began to rise above those numbers, Steve began to make bigger promises, including taking pictures of himself rooting for his new team and then posting them on a domain name (www.pimpdafan.com) he purchased.

SEC fans have shown the most interest and were the catalyst for the rising bids. But there have also been inquiries from fans from Georgia Tech, Memphis, UC-Santa Cruz, Des Moines Area Community College and the Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, a Division III school located in Terre Haute, Ind.

"It comes in waves. It was mostly Alabama fans at first, then Florida kicked in and then it was a lot of LSU," Steve said. "I really don't care who it is as long as it's a major Division I school. I'd hate for it to be some small school. It would be nice to at least watch them on TV.

"The bid from Golden Palace has me a little worried. Who knows what they could have me do? Maybe they'll have me fly around to a bunch of different schools and wear all their stuff."

Some Tennessee fans have offered to purchase back Steve's loyalty and chastised him for turning his back on them in the process. He says he will accept whoever the highest bidder wants him to root for, even if it is the Volunteers.

It was Steve's frustration with his "old team" that motivated him to put the bid up. The Vols were ranked No. 3 in the preseason AP poll and picked to win the SEC, but stumbled to a 5-6 record - their first losing record in 17 years.

But, Steve said it wasn't the record that bothered him as much as the lack of fan support and the recent decision to rehire David Cutcliffe as the offensive coordinator.

"I'm obviously frustrated," said Steve, who normally sells fishing equipment and sports supplements on eBay. "Nobody likes to have a season like that, but this isn't about losses for me. I've been a New Orleans Saints fan my whole life so I can endure losses.

"Bringing Cutcliffe back topped the scales for me. It was the comfortable thing to do. I don't remember anybody hanging on to his legs when he left. In fact, a lot of fans thought it would be great.

"That's where the problem really lies. With the fans. It is the quietest 107,000 people you will ever be around. The Vanderbilt game was the straw that broke my back. For the first time in 12 years I arrived there and was surrounded by empty seats and the people that did show up were talking on their cell phones."

A lot of those same people are now talking about "Steve" and his now famous idea.



 

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