“The Dotted Line” on ESPN examines professional sports agents

By Tom Comi

Many casual sports fans know little about the role of sports agents other than what they gleaned from the Tom Cruise movie Jerry Maguire, but filmmaker Morgan Spurlock is proving with his new ESPN documentary there is much more — both good and bad — than meets the eye.

Premiering tonight at 8pm ET, The Dotted Line delves into a profession that many people consider one step below Wall Street bankers. Sports agents are the sharks that athletes pay to get them as much money as possible.These are the negotiators who stand between the owner of your favorite NFL team and the players who could take you to the next Super Bowl.

And as greedy as some of these agents are, they do serve a legitimate purpose. Athletes in all sports want to make sure they are getting everything they can for the services they will provide. When you consider injuries and the limited age window involved in pro sports, these athletes have a very little amount of time to make what they can.

Spurlock, the award-winning creator of such acclaimed documentaries as Super-Size Me and The Greatest Movie Ever Sold, went into this project with an open mind. He doesn’t pull any punches about the sleazy part of the industry, but he also acknowledges that it is a legitimate and necessary profession.

In this ESPN production, he tracks agents from the top three professional sports (NFL, NBA and MLB) to learn more about what they will do to generate millions of dollars for their clients. The film also delves into recent college agent scandals and the issues that occur when amateurs turn pro.

In a preview of tonight’s show on ESPN’s website, Spurlock said he was amazed to discover how many hats the top agents wear.

“Once you reach a certain level, you’re not just one guy, there’s like 10 guys,” he said. “That may be an agent, that may be a lawyer, that may be a manager. In the instances of the some of the guys that we profile, that person is usually all three. So they can combine all their expertise to kind of help these people navigate the minefield that is professional sports.”

And as we learned from watching Jerry Maguire, it all comes down to athletes making that one primary demand of their agents: “Show me the money!”