As many of you have noticed, it has been quite some time since I last posted a story to Tales from the American Football League.  Several readers emailed, asking if I was all right, and hoping that I would get back to writing about our favorite professional football league.  I am fine.  My health is great, as is everyone’s in my family.  There were some extenuating circumstances that kept me from writing.

First, let me apologize.  It has been more than two months since my last post.  AFL-related things have happened in that time, and I did not inform our community of them.  Sadly, we have lost Bob McNamara, Charlie Powell, Austin “Goose” Gonsoulin, and most recently, Jeff Staggs.  Gene Mingo has been inducted into the Denver Broncos Ring of Honor.  The 2014 football season has begun, and we (myself included) are in need of our AFL fix.

The reason for my absence was my attempt to take advantage of what I thought was a wonderful opportunity for my family and community.  I have one other sporting passion besides the AFL, and that is lacrosse.  I played in high school and college, and have been coaching my kids for the past four years.  I love the game but am frustrated at what I perceive to be a lack of attention to the young lacrosse players living in my geographic area.  In an effort to build our local lacrosse community, a friend and I had the idea to open a local lacrosse store.  We wanted to open a retail store, organize youth clinics and leagues, and promote the sport in East San Diego County.

I had to raise considerable capital for this venture.  I looked at my options, and decided to sell roughly 85% of my sports memorabilia collection.  This was a very difficult decision for me, as I have been a collector since getting my first box of baseball cards at the age of five.  But I was dedicated to this idea, and found an auction house that offered a considerable cash advance on my collection.  A good friend, and former AFL player, offered to be my silent partner, and so we pushed forward with moving my collections.  With the funding secured, another partner and I embarked upon four months of meetings with a retail business counselor who led us through the process of identifying our customer base, developing a business plan, and locating a store front.  We began reaching out to the local youth and high school lacrosse community, and making connections to our future customers.  We soon found a wonderful location, and with offers of discounted construction from good friends, started to plan our store remodel.  Everything was moving in the right direction for us, and it appeared that we would be hitting our desired opening date of October 1.

It was around this time, in late August, that things came crashing down around us.  With most other things secure, I reached out to equipment manufacturers to open our accounts.  I expected them to be excited at the opportunity to obtain new retail outlets for their equipment, but their responses were decidedly less enthusiastic than I had anticipated.  One-by-one, manufacturers refused to open accounts with us.  I have excellent credit, was fully-funded, had a fantastic business plan and great location, connections to local clubs, team and players, but they did me no good.  I tried everything that I could think to do; orders larger than stated minimums, cash upfront for orders, no terms needed…  None of it worked.

After speaking with several people in different positions within the community, I learned that I was basically the victim of large business.  None of the manufacturers wanted to bother with independent accounts when they could simply work with a few large chains and box stores.  I could not open a store with nothing to sell, and I eventually scrapped my dreams.  In a way I was fortunate, as I had not yet signed a lease or made other financial commitments, so in that instance I could walk away.  However, it crushed me to lose my dreams and much of my collections.

In the midst of this effort, I backed off from writing for Tales.  I was putting in a ton of time preparing to ship my memorabilia, and planning for the store.  My articles fell by the wayside.  I am now free of those time constraints, though sadly, much of my collection, which was a source of so many stories, is gone as well.  I still have my signed cards, action photos and a few other pieces, but five pallets of memorabilia are no longer at my fingertips.

Moving forward, I am going to begin writing Tales again.  They may not be an everyday effort as before, but I want to get back to it.  I will need to find a new occupation (memorabilia sales were a large part of my regular income), but something will come about (if you have any suggestions for me, I’d love to hear them).

In the end, I’d like to say thank you to those who reached out and asked if I was all right.  Those emails were a nice surprise when I was otherwise frenzied, and I have saved them all.

Now, let’s get back to the wonderful American Football League!  Who’s excited?

Thank you,

Todd Tobias