With Fans Like These…

by Russ Roberts on March 27, 2006

in Sports

Bjorn Borg was going to auction off his five Wimbledon trophies but has changed his mind. The Associated Press, via ESPN reports:

   The Swedish great, the only player to win five straight
Wimbledon titles, changed his mind after pleas from his fans,
London auction house Bonhams said Monday.

   Borg had announced earlier this month he would sell his trophies
and two of his title-winning wood rackets in order to achieve
"financial security."

   "After great consideration and reasoning, I have decided that I
will never sell my Wimbledon trophies and rackets and I have
withdrawn them from sale," Borg said in a statement.

   "Trophies of this kind have a meaning that goes beyond my
comprehension of the victories, as they emphasize the bond between
me as a player and all the people, family, friends and fans that
have stood behind me through the years — people that have my love
and respect," he added.

   Andre Agassi and other players urged Borg not to sell the

Do the fans really care whether Borg has the trophies rather than some collector? It’s hard to understand. Wouldn’t a fan prefer that Borg be financially comfortable? Maybe there’s another explanation:

   Borg won all of his Wimbledon titles between 1976 and 1980. The
silver gilt trophies had been expected to fetch anywhere from
$350,000 to $525,000.

   Since his career ended, Borg has had several failed financial
ventures. He fought hard to avoid bankruptcy after a company that
marketed clothing bearing his name ran into deep financial trouble
in 1990 and was restructured.

Would the bond between Borg and his fans really be severed if someone else had his trophies? My guess is that the actual amounts the trophies would have fetched turned out to be dramatically smaller than originally anticipated. Better to be poor and proud than poor and ashamed that no one values your trophies.

Or maybe Borg was shamed into withdrawing the trophies after Andre Agassi spoke of trying to put together a "consortium" (a fancy word that simply means that Agassi didn’t want to come up with all the money himself) to buy the trophies:

"I think there’s a lot of people who could step up to help for sure — Wimbledon being one and myself another."

a statement, the 50-year-old Borg said he had decided to put the items
up for auction because he and his family need long-term financial

Agassi, who won the 1992 Wimbledon title, was saddened by the news.

not right," he said. "The only way you should have a Wimbledon trophy
is if you win it, not buy one. I can’t make any judgements on Bjorn,
but I can say that the thought of a Wimbledon trophy being in the hands
of somebody who has a lot of money is upsetting. Wimbledon is the
greatest tournament in the world."

Agassi said he wants to ensure
the trophies stay in tennis. The 35-year-old wouldn’t reveal who he is
working with, but did say he’d like to see them put in a museum.

think it would be amazing for the fans of tennis to be able to see
them," Agassi said. "But first things first. I’d like to see the sport
come together to figure out a way to make sure they don’t get into the
wrong hands."

I don’t understand this at all. Why would anyone care who has the trophies? Its not like anyone is going to think that the highest bidder actually won them rather than bought them.

So now the trophies stay in the "right hands"—Borg’s. They’re just poorer hands than they otherwise might have been.


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