A Serious Business: Former Sports Agent Tells His Tales

Rick Gregg
November 29, 2018 - 1:52 pm

Ampersand Pubishing

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CHICAGO (WBBM NEWSRADIO) -- "You mean I'm gonna get paid for this?"

Former sports agent Steve Zucker remembers the first time he pinched himself, shortly after leaving a career in criminal law to represent then-Bears quarterback Jim McMahon in contract talks.

"My dad took me to my first Bears game when I was four years old," Zucker recalled. "I sat on his lap and watched Sid Luckman lead the great '44 Bear team. And I remember sitting in my den with my wife Shelly, and Jim and his wife Nancy.  And Jim said to me, 'We haven't talked about your fee'.  He gave me a fee, and a handshake, and that's all we ever had."

{Listen to the full interview below}

But it's all Zucker needed to build a small empire that at one point represented at least ten of the Super Bears of 1986, and branched out to cover such greats as Eric Dickerson and Deion Sanders. Zucker wrote a book about his experiences, called "Playing Games is Serious Business," published Nov. 26 with Ampersand, Inc. publishers. It's the motto of his agency.

"It was some of the greatest years of my life," said Zucker when he was a sports agent, though he jokes that McMahon's antics certainly kept him busy in those early years. For example, the infamous helicopter incident during Super Bowl week in '86.

2/9/2018 - Jim McMahon attending the Grand Opening of "Renegades, Sports Rebels Unleashed!", Cleopatra's Barge, Caesars Palace Hotel & Casino, Las Vegas, Nv
Press Association

"He didn't want the press taking his picture," Zucker said. "So they came over practice in a helicopter — and he mooned 'em. And we asked, 'Why'd you do that?' And he said, 'So they wouldn't take my picture.' He always put me in some crazy [positions>."

Zucker had a key role in the expansion of endorsement deals for athletes, in the creation of character clauses for player contracts, and in the creation of the NFL's drug testing policy, which arose out of a dispute with his client, Richard Dent.

"Right in the middle of the lawsuit," he said, "the NFL attorneys came to me and said, 'What do you want?'  I told them, 'I want a new policy, [and> I want a meeting with [Pete> Rozelle [the NFL Commissioner>.' The following Wednesday I was sitting on Park Avenue across from Rozelle and we negotiated the NFL drug policy, as it was. The union asked, 'What'd you do this for?' and I said, 'Because you didn't.'"

Those stories are included in Zucker's book, which is now available at Amazon and other booksellers and features a foreword written by McMahon. Our full interview — which includes Zucker's thoughts on our Bears Pregame Analyst Jay Hilgenberg, a former client — is available to stream below.