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Collecting and comics (cont.)

Posted: Wednesday February 22, 2006 3:44PM; Updated: Wednesday February 22, 2006 5:54PM

SI.com: It's been eight years since you dropped $3 million on McGwire's 70th home run ball. Why didn't the Bonds ball cost as much?

McFarlane: Because I assumed the ball was gonna be good for 30 years. But let me put it in perspective for you: It's not that I got the Bonds ball on the cheap, it's that I arguably, and very easily argue, overpaid for the 70 ball. If you take out the 70 ball price tag, the price for the 73 Bonds ball [McFarlane says he paid about half a mil] is actually in keeping with the trend of the last five to seven years. The most anybody had paid to that point was $120,000.


SI.com: After taking in Mac and Sosa's performance on Capitol Hill last March, are you feeling any buyer's remorse?

McFarlane: No matter what the fallout is, those numbers are going to be in the books for eternity. Somebody may look at it and have a gripe. But if I ever sell one of these balls -- and I have no plans to -- that guy isn't the guy who's gonna put his hand up at an auction. It'll be a guy like me who can get over it. Time is gonna heal all the wounds, and eventually this is gonna be in the past. Hopefully, 30 years from now you'll still see 73, 70, 66 in the record books.

SI.com: Given your love for baseball, why'd you buy an ownership stake in the Edmonton Oilers?

McFarlane: I guess it's one of those conundrums of Todd the Enigma. I was born in Calgary -- so just by default hockey's in my DNA. But for me, it was a bit of an acquired taste. At a very young age, when the DNA was still sort of finding its spot, my dad moved me down to California [at age 5], which is why I sort of became the baseball guy. My athletic ability was honed under the California rays.

By the time I moved back to Canada [nine years later], the hockey bug hadn't bitten me yet. Slowly, time goes by and this young kid named Wayne Gretzky comes on the scene, and he just does what McGwire did and Sosa did: assault the record books.... As a Calgary kid, you weren't supposed to like Edmonton, but I was just in such awe of Gretzky that I became an Oilers fan.

Fast-forward 20 years, and something comes up with the Oilers' ownership. I'm living in Phoenix and I catch wind that the team is up for sale and it might get moved down to the States if we Canadians don't buck up a little bit. We had just lost Winnipeg to Phoenix and the Quebec City franchise to Denver. To keep us from losing another one I just went ahead and threw a little bit of money on the table.

SI.com: You're Canadian. Why do Canucks hate Janet Jones so much?

McFarlane: Because we Canadians have always felt an inferiority complex to America. We just hate on some level that you guys are bigger and faster and taller. All our prime talent, because there are more opportunities in Hollywood, we eventually lose across the border.

Janet was an easy scapegoat. But to say her being a Yankee is what lured Wayne to cross the border is admittedly oversimplifying things to a degree. "The Yankee! She brainwashed him!" It couldn't possibly have anything to do with anything else. I think there is still that sentiment among Canadians that if he were still a bachelor, he would've never left Canada.

SI.com: Are you surprised how quickly Gretzky, given his squeaky-clean status, was tried in the court of public opinion when the recent gambling story broke?

McFarlane: I'm not surprised at the public opinion, because the public can only react to what the news has put in front of them. Actually, I'm not even surprised by the reporting, because it reminds me -- as someone who lives on the fringe of celebrity -- of how deadlines are part blessing, part curse.

I've done a thousand interviews in my life. I would say six got every single fact right. If they can't even get the easy stuff right, then digging deep for real answers becomes a little bit more of a task -- especially if you've only got two hours to beat your deadline.

SI.com: I can think of a few athletes with comic book nicknames, and most all of them play in the NBA. Last weekend's All-Star Game featured two of note: Miami's Dwyane (Flash) Wade and Shaquille (Superman) O'Neal. In fact, most of these comic book handles in the NBA can be traced directly back to Shaq. Why is it these names work so well in basketball and not in other sports?

McFarlane: Basketball is arguably the most athletic of the four major sports. Its players have to be in good shape. They've got to go up and down. They're playing both offense and defense.

It's not like football. Basketball players jump and move -- they do stuff that's just unbelievable! Given that most of us are in awe of the movement of them, it's not that big a leap that they get heroic, melodramatic names, as opposed to, say baseball, which is a little bit more of a thinking-man's sport. You get more Dizzys and Daffys.

Hockey, to me, is the worst because they use no creativity whatsoever. It's usually just a truncated version of their actual name on some level. If you're Brett Hull, they call you "Hully." If you're Mike Sullivan, you're "Sully." Very seldom do they call a guy "Godzilla."

SI.com: If you had to pick an athlete to nickname "Spawn," who would it be and why?

McFarlane: The guy who comes to mind right off the top of my head is Bonds. Spawn is a guy who's caught up in a fantastic, incredible world and he just doesn't care about it. He doesn't give a crap if he's supposed to be working for heaven or hell. He just wants to live his life. And he has a bit of a chip on his shoulder. I'm not saying that's a bad thing -- Spawn is actually patterned after me -- but they're both guys who just sort of march to their own drummer.