Making contacts as a sportswriter in the greater New York area played a tremendous role in helping Barry Meisel form a career changing partnership. One that ultimately lead to the launching of MeiGray Group, a company which focuses on a booming collector passion, the game-worn jersey.
“I’ve been a collector for years. When I first started my sports writing career, when I graduated college in 1979, I thought it would be a cool idea to have one shirt from every team I covered,” said Meisel. “This was before game-worn jerseys were a gleam in just about anybody’s eye. It was a souvenir that once in awhile people had. There was no game-worn jersey hobby; at least I didn’t know there was one.”
Barry started his collection with some minor league teams and one each from the New Jersey Devils, New York Rangers and Islanders of the NHL, and one from the New York Giants of the NFL. But that was just the beginning.
“In the early 90’s I got more involved in collecting and I started buying from dealers, and I saw that there was a real passion about collecting.”
As time progressed, Meisel became more avid as a collector, and while building his collection, he noticed that people involved in this hobby, the dealers, were literally working out of the trunks of their cars. “There was no real authorized approach to the authenticity or credibility of these items,” said Barry. “It was very disorganized. So a light bulb came on, and I thought this might be a fun business and there has to be a better way to do this.”
Growing tired of the travel involved in being a sportswriter, Meisel decided to take a chance and see where it would lead. He says between himself and his partner, they were a match made in heaven. “He had the one thing I didn’t have, money, I had the one thing he didn’t have, contacts. We had a guy with money and no contacts and guy with contacts and no money.”
The next step was to approach the teams with the idea. Meisel went to the organizations he was familiar with, the NY Rangers, Devils and NY Giants. “My partner said if we get one of the contracts we’d be a business, if we get two of the contracts we’d be in great shape.”
The teams however needed more commitment from Barry. “I approached the NY Rangers, the NJ Devils, (the two teams I had most recently covered), and the New York Football Giants, the team I was covering at the time. Each of them said if you left the Daily News, the newspaper I was working for at the time, obviously we’d know you were serious about this and not just a lark, and we’d be interested in listening to you.”
Meisel did in fact leave his post at the Daily News, and MeiGray got all three contracts from the teams he had approached. Since then, many teams have contracted MeiGray to handle their game-worn merchandise.
“We have now done the Philadelphia Eagles of the NFL, the Texas Rangers in Major League Baseball, as well as signing a contract with the NHL. We currently have 21 teams participating in our National Hockey League Game-worn Jersey Authentication Program.”
As far as the journalism field goes, Barry says if you are looking to “Work in Sports”, you had better be prepared to start at the bottom. “Be prepared to work hard, be prepared to pay your dues, in the sense that you are not going to just start covering the glamour events. You’re not going to just graduate from college or get a job at a top paper and have them send you to the World Series or the Super Bowl.”
Meisel says to treat every event as if it were the only on happening, or the biggest event on the planet. “I always tell the story of treating the JV high school volleyball game as if it is the Super Bowl. If you write that way and think of it that way, your writing will become of the caliber that will one day enable you to get the plum assignments that may get you to the Super Bowl. But if you say, this is only a high school volleyball match and you treat it as such, you’re not going to make it.”
Famous ESPN anchor man Chris Berman is a fine example of such a work ethic. “Chris Berman treated every event that way back when nobody was watching ESPN and nobody knew what it was. He was acting like he was on a network watched by billions of people, and now he is.”
Finally, Meisel added that despite a lot of hard work, the journalism field can be very rewarding, and that you won’t learn it unless you actually do it. “What I would say most to any young journalist is that in this business, maybe more than most other businesses is, that you actually have to do the work. You cannot become a journalist unless you write. It is a business where you have to write for your college paper, write freelance articles that you try to get published. It’s something that you learn by doing. That takes a lot of lonely hours not sure if you are going to make it.”