MLB’s first entry into NFT craze – Lou Gehrig's speech – doesn’t pass the smell test

Lou Gehrig’s famous “Luckiest Man Alive” speech will be featured in MLB’s first NFT.
Lou Gehrig’s famous “Luckiest Man Alive” speech will be featured in MLB’s first NFT.
Image: AP

Add “non-fungible” to the list of words that define 2021.

According to Investopedia, non-fungible tokens or NFTs are “cryptographic assets on blockchain with unique identification codes and metadata that distinguish them from each other,” which makes perfect and total sense to the everyday Joe. Major League Baseball has decided to dabble in this world after watching NBA Top Shot’s success, and decided to do so with a single release of Lou Gehrig’s “Luckiest Man” speech on July 4.

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MLB already has a series of NFTs with your dad’s favorite sports card brand, Topps. This release of the Gehrig speech will be their first offering with new partner Candy Digital, which is a new venture being launched by Fanatics apparel founder Michael Rubin, cryptocurrency investor Mike Novogratz, and sports representation entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk.

I’m glad they decided at a very minimum to include the fact that proceeds from this marketing ploy will go to ALS research, but it still seems in bad form, and at its core is nothing more than a publicity stunt.

Who in their right mind decided that the best way to launch this new NFT venture is on the back of a farewell speech that was given because a horrific disease robbed one of the all-time greats of his career — and eventually his life? Roll the tape!

“When you think about NFTs, there is this concept of it being a fad,” Kenny Gersh, Major League Baseball’s executive vice president of business development, said in a telephone interview. “What we’re looking to do, with the Candy [Digital] people, is to build a long-term sustainable business. What better person to symbolize durability and long-term success than Lou Gehrig?”

I mean, I get it… but.. Yeesh. This is not about Gehrig and his longevity as a baseball player. Painting it as such is a slap in the face to his name and to his family. This is about a new business venture that the league is attempting to twist into a charitable exercise for the first release, while using the Gehrig name for PR and for exposure. Yes, let’s auction the first one off for charity, with the second release set to hit the market with a higher markup than a Coors Light at a ballgame.

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Baseball is built for this NFT Space — with a game that is predicated entirely on moments featuring one player in the spotlight. There is no shortage of (or limit to) moments to choose from. Kirk Gibson’s dramatic pinch hit walk-off in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series, for instance. That would be a good one. So would any of a million (two million?) others. MLB apparently wanted to go a different direction.

Using MLB’s “Iron Man” in a manner fitting of Tony Stark selling missiles while toasting “to peace,” is as gross as it is fitting.