Updated: Jun 25
When one of the most popular sports card podcasts, Lukas Tigers and Brons, stopped recording, it felt like the end of an era. The end of the show came suddenly.
Cage Lawyer and Andrew Goldberg, the co-hosts, agreed to end the podcast right after THE MINT convention in Las Vegas.
Cage has continued with his own podcast – an excellent one at that. But I think even he would agree that he alone cannot match the magic he and Goldberg created daily.
As for Andrew, it appears he had enough of the hobby. There was never a specific reason given for why he left the podcast. It was hard to believe he abandoned the Luka Nation Network he painstakingly built over three pandemic-filled, bubble-busting years.
I sent him an email wishing him good luck, thanking him for all the time he spent on the podcast for the listeners. A part of me was hoping he'd give me some insight on his departure, but he replied with a cordial thank you, also wishing me good luck.
I kept wondering, what drove Andrew out? So, I went looking for clues, and the first place I went was in the final recording of the LTB podcast. That episode was released on April 3rd, and the guest was Fanatics Chief Visionary Officer Josh Luber.
The podcast was incisive. In it, you could unmistakably see where Fanatics was heading. For part of the podcast, Luber argues that market fragmentation is bad for card prices. He argues that having fewer marketplaces can create truer market prices.
Andrew then asks, 'Do you think the hobby is in a better place when there's one manufacturer, or do you believe the hobby's in a better place when there's five to 10?'
This is Andrew's signature line of questioning, asking difficult and sometimes uncomfortable questions to the industry's business leaders.
Luber replies that it doesn't matter as long as Fanatics is aligned with the leagues and player associations. He says he believes that Fanatics will lose long-term if they overproduce. Luber does what any clever businessman does; he defends an indefensible position.
He says, matter-of-factly, "Fanatics have to compete with themselves."
We know that all commodity industries are better when there is greater competition. In the episode, Andrew pushes the line of questioning about needing competition to have innovation. He re-engages Luber – unsatisfied with his initial response.
But then Cage cuts it off, basically answering the question for Luber. I believe he commits a mortal sin of interviewing; he lets the guest off the hook. And then, the interview goes in a different direction.
Fanatics has gone on a spending spree since winning the trading card licenses for MLB, NBA, and the NFL. They've entered the sportsbook arena (online and physical), become the official manufacturer of on-ice NHL jerseys, partnered with Nike to manufacture college sports fan apparel, acquired PWCC, and bought the venerable Topps company.
And they're likely working on a possible foray into card grading. This points to a potential Initial Public Offering; we know what happens then. Publicly-traded companies don't care about a hobby's health; they care about share price and making money for their shareholders. It's a lesson straight out of any college business textbook.
When I ask, 'Where are you, Andrew Goldberg?' I'm not just asking about Andrew (though it'd be great for him to come back), but about doing the work he did - someone with access to the biggest industry "players" willing to ask the difficult questions.