SBD/August 15, 2012/People and Pop Culture

The Mad Hatter: CNBC's Jim Cramer Opines On Various Issues In Sports Business

Cramer shares his love for all things Philadelphia sports with his viewers
Anyone who has watched CNBC's JIM CRAMER on either "Mad Money" or "Squawk on the Street" knows the man is a complete sports nut -- often dropping subtle references to various teams or players, particularly those who play for his beloved Philadelphia teams. While Cramer has now spent nearly 30 years in investing, his first job as a kid was as a vendor dishing out Coca-Cola in the 700 level at the old Veterans Stadium. Cramer took time recently to chat about some issues surrounding sports business, including investing in sports stocks, whether he would buy or sell NASCAR as an investment and his issues with an expanded NFL Thursday night schedule. Also see tomorrow's issue for Cramer's thoughts on all things Philly sports, including the Phillies' record contract for P COLE HAMELS, whether he would be amenable to an Eagles' home game in London and the job done by the new 76ers ownership.

Q
: In this climate, should banks be in the business of paying mega millions to put their names on sports facilities?
Cramer
: I’m of mixed emotions. Just when Lincoln Financial put their name (on the Eagles stadium), the stock started a hideous spiral down that was horrendous. Bank of America could have made better use of their capital. I know that Citi said it was a real good thing for the brand to be on the Mets’ stadium, but I look at these stocks and I would say, "Just go make money and you can put your name wherever you want. But if you don’t make money, I don’t really want to see your name anywhere."

Q
: As a Harvard alum (both undergrad and law), do you feel it’s time for Ivy League schools to get in the arms race with the likes of other big spending universities?

Cramer: Not after JOE PATERNO and Penn State. I feel like this arms race is a bad one. And I think it was (Sports Illustrated’s) FRANK DEFORD who put this idea in my head. But if you play D-I, you should get class credit. ... They give kids a lot of credits for courses that shouldn’t be classes. This NCAA racket is really ugly. My daughter was a recruited athlete and I watched the whole thing unfold. Some D-III schools, some D-I. It’s just not a good world. ... I don’t want Harvard to step up. I think Harvard is fine.

Q: What sports stocks are worth watching going forward?
Cramer
: I tend not to like the sports stocks. Except Nike and Under Armour -- I really like them, they’re great companies. Under Armour keeps surprising. And I really have to hand it to (Under Armour President, Chair & CEO KEVIN) PLANK. Periodically I doubt them and I realize how wrong I was to doubt them. Plank is very real. … I’m really blown away by how good Under Armour is. All I had to do was realize that when my daughter was playing at a high level in high school and that’s all they wanted to wear. That’s all you really needed to know.

Q: Do you get a lot of response for the sports tidbits you drop during “Mad Money”?
Cramer: There are so many guys at ESPN who love the show. If you ask me who I’m most proud of that like the show, it’s the ESPN guys. When I hear them refer to the show or when I’m involved with anything around ESPN, it sends me to the moon because ESPN is the greatest. ESPN becomes my home page during Eagles season. I worship them. They’re just unbelievably good. I’m a big subscriber to (ESPN NFL insider ADAM) SCHEFTER. Schefter is king. He is WOODWARD and BERNSTEIN rolled into one guy. I would not want to go against that guy.

Q: What other CNBC personalities share your passion for sports?
Cramer: Well (“Squawk on the Street” analyst DAVID) FABER is a big Mets fan. When they had a string of losses earlier this season, I encouraged him to go get that book by (Mets P R.A.) DICKEY, who’s a real intellectual. But we do nothing but joke with each other every day. He’s well aware of the collapse of my team and is not afraid to make "subtle" fun when we don’t do well. But he’s a huge Mets fan and I feel bad for him. … I also talk sports with (“Squawk on the Street” co-Anchor) CARL QUINTANILLA, who is from Colorado, but has an affinity for the Eagles. He and his wife have spent time in my box, and I hope they come back this fall. But he’s a great and knowledgeable sports fan and a delight to talk sports with. … My “Mad Money” stage director KYLE REMALY is the commissioner for our fantasy football league. Everyone has to participate in the fantasy football league if you’re going to be a part of “Mad Money.” But he’s a Cowboys fan, so as much as I like him, I despise him. He’s very misdirected. I have him in the box for Cowboys-Eagles games, but there are strict rules.

Q: What sports business story are you following for the rest of 2012?
Cramer: The story that I watch is a little odd. I always want to know jersey sales. I want to know whether the Eagles are going to sell more jerseys than the Steelers. I’ve got around 20 jerseys. … I was fascinated when (MICHAEL) VICK came to the Eagles and everyone wanted to buy his jersey. That showed forgiveness. I think jersey sales are a non-phony number that I count on to gauge real fan support.

A quick sports business version of the “Lightning Round.” Buy or sell the following:

Q: NFL?
Cramer: Huge buyer. I told (NFL Exec VP/Business Ventures ERIC) GRUBMAN the other day that I have to have the NFL on “Mad Money” before the season starts. I’m a monster buyer of the NFL.

Q: NBA?
Cramer: Between hold and buy. It’s better than I think. This past season was exciting. And in full disclosure, I’m trying to get a Nets (ticket) package because I have a place in Brooklyn that is like 10 blocks from the new arena.

Q: NASCAR?
Cramer: Sell, sell, sell. There’s nothing there. Sorry. It might offend some people, but sell, sell, sell. … I’ve been to the Coca-Cola 600. I was bored to tears. I’d rather watch I-95.

Q: Four-team college football playoff?
Cramer: Weak hold. These kids do go to school. This just makes a mockery of school.

Q: Sports gambling in New Jersey?
Cramer: Sell. We have enough ways to participate. Too many sucker bettors. Stick to fantasy leagues.

Q: Sports in 3D?
Cramer: Sell. Overrated. Don’t need it.

Q: Expanded schedule for NFL on Thursday nights?
Cramer: Sell. It’s a real pain in the butt for me to get to Monday night or Thursday night games coming from my set in Englewood Cliffs (N.J.). I mean, I don’t miss any home games, but the Thursday night games are a real stretch for me.

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