[SPORTS VIEW]Team souvenirs are just a fantasy here

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[SPORTS VIEW]Team souvenirs are just a fantasy here

When I get home from work the one thing I always look forward to is checking on my fantasy National Football League roster. For the uninitiated, participants in a a fantasy league "draft" a team of pro players, then manage it, make personnel decisions and compete based on how the players do in real life.

I turn on the computer and check scores and stats, drop and add new players to my roster and contact other people in the league -- friends of mine -- to make trades.

One reason I stay up late doing this is the verbal abuse that I get from my friends because I'm doing so bad.

With a record of 2-5-1, I am dead last in the league. My friends call me things like "Our league's Cincinnati Bengals." (The NFL's Bengals are 0-7 this season).

My friends and I run our league on a free Web site. But because we are having so much fun, we decided we would join a paid site that offers more depth in league play.

When I have time I watch NFL football games on TV, wearing my favorite team's sweatshirt (go Dolphins!), which I bought at a store in the States. On my desk at home I keep a model airplane with the Dolphins logo, while a little statue of Dan Marino stands next to it. I have spent more than $100 on Dolphins souvenirs and I am willing to buy more.

My point is that in Korea it's hard to find these types of sports merchandise, in contrast to the United States or Japan, where they abound. What little is offered here is of low quality, such as T-shirts that you keep for a year and then start using as a car rag.

Sports marketing is still a new business in Korea; many companies that sponsor professional teams have not bothered to bring quality products to the market.

The other day, I asked my sister, a college student who loves the soccer player Hong Myung-bo, whether she would buy more merchandise depicting her idol. She already has a miniature figure of Hong that she bought during the World Cup. Her answer: "Where can I get more? I don't care how much it costs."

There is definitely a market out there, so why aren't the sports teams willing to test it?

American manufacturers likely ignore Korea because they don't realize the potential. Korean companies that sponsor pro teams have no excuse. Those firms need to get rid of a mindset that their club is only a vehicle to promote the company image. There is a bonanza out there in sports merchandise waiting to be explored. Why not sell some gloves or warm wool hats with team logos to the baseball fans freezing out there during this year's late playoffs?

On another matter: I was reading a sports newspaper, at least 30 pages in length, but could not find a single line about the Busan Games for Disabled Athletes, which has been in full swing since Saturday. The day before, on a sports news channel, only 45 seconds were given to the event.

The Disabled Games boost the self-esteem of these brave people and create awareness of the problems the physically challenged face. And don't forget the great human stories that serve as inspirations to us all. But nobody seems to care, except for those few people who have been out there in the cold watching the games.

"Sports View" appears Thursdays and Saturdays in the JoongAng Daily

by Brian Lee

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