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Thursday, December 20, 2012
Tebow, Lin made it tough for Modell

By Darren Rovell

On March 31, Modell’s Sporting Goods CEO Mitchell Modell was finally relieved. After a month and a half of sweating day and night to make as much money as he could off Linsanity, the mother lode had finally come in: 20,000 pieces of Jeremy Lin items.

“Everyone had caught up, and no one who was making the products thought they had a lot of risk,” Modell said. “Then Lin announces that day that he is injured.”

Lin never played another game with the Knicks after missing the rest of the season and signing with the Houston Rockets. Modell, who has nearly 100 stores in New York and New Jersey alone, eventually had to discount Lin items to $1 to get rid of them.

“I took a bunch of Linsanity T-shirts home, threw them in the fireplace and smiled,” said Modell, who has been at the helm of the family business since 1985. “It was better than Duraflame logs!”

Then came Tebow. Like always, Modell went all-in, and sales skyrocketed to the top of the league charts.

It has been a crazy year in sports, but no one has had the ups and downs that Modell has.

First, the Giants won the Super Bowl, then came Linsanity, then Tebow came to the Jets. Modell, who has made a living making big bets in the sports merchandise space, was flying high.

Then Lin hurts himself and leaves town, Tebow doesn’t work out, the Mets and Yankees don’t make any postseason noise, and the NHL hasn’t played a game.

“It was like I was being knocked down by bowling pins,” Modell said. “A crazy roller-coaster ride.”

When the Jets went into their slide, Modell knew that he had too much product, so he aggressively priced all Jets stuff, including Tebow items, at 50 percent off.

Based on how hot Lin and Tebow were, Modell said he still made money off them -- but it wasn’t the cash cow he had hoped.

“I don’t bet on games, but I’m gambling every day, rolling the dice what I should get, how much I should buy,” Modell said. “Every Sunday, I sit in front of the television with so much anxiety. What happens on the field directly affects my business.”

Modell said his wife doesn’t like how he acts, making a scene when a big play happens in front his 10- and 11-year-old sons.

But after the year he had, who can blame him?