Rubbing shoulders with superstar athletes can be thrilling for mere mortals like myself. (I ran junior-varsity cross-country as a high school senior. Not kidding.)
But can professional athletes teach us management skills? Keep your expectations within reason.
Increasingly, Philadelphia financial firms are corralling sports executives, professional athletes, and coaches to speak, with the idea that "behind-the-scrimmage line" backstories will uncover secrets to success.
Maybe, maybe not. But it's an experience for which Philadelphians are paying big bucks.
Phil Mickelson's caddy, Jim "Bones" Mackay, will speak Wednesday in Center City for the Thuzio Executive Club about "maintaining relationships at the highest level" and his 20 years caddying for "Lefty."
A fairly new subscription-based business, Thuzio offers a menu of services by athletes - personalized videos, lunch, rounds of golf - for a price. Most recently, its Philadelphia chapter hosted NFL retiree Terrell Owens and former New York Giant Tiki Barber. Club members got to ask personal questions of both last month in an appearance at Estia restaurant.
By his own admission, Owens is no shrinking violet. Soon to compete on Donald Trump's Celebrity Apprentice, the 40-year-old T.O. "made waves with his outspoken ways and flamboyant personality, as well as his football prowess," according to his official website. Among other teams, the six-time Pro Bowl wide receiver played with the Eagles and regularly mocked rivals on the field. His performance for, and dismissal from, the Eagles resonate with Philly fans to this day.
Hence, business folks (mostly guys) hung on his every word.
Thuzio memberships start at $6,000 a year and go up to $55,000.
Cheaper options? On Tuesday, Penn State Great Valley in Malvern will host "The Leadership Secrets of Football's Master Coaches," a seminar created for the Pennsylvania Institute of Certified Public Accountants. The course explores "connections between championship teams and successful companies" and "vital competencies and behaviors all financial leaders have in common," according to the group's website (picpa.org).
Lombardi Leadership Model and 12 Lombardi leadership lessons are also on deck. Yes, that Vince Lombardi, winner of five NFL championships during his tenure with the Green Bay Packers, who conducted grueling training camps, and demanded absolute dedication.
Institute members pay $245, non-members $345.
Viewed as business leaders, even caddies and back-office executives traffic in corporate functions, speaking engagements, VIP meet-and-greets, and old standbys such as product endorsements, fantasy draft parties, camps, and autograph signings.
In September, former Eagles coach Dick Vermeil spoke at JG Domestic restaurant and bar in the Cira Centre about how he turned a team around and took it to the Super Bowl.
"The whole idea behind having Vermeil talk was to learn from him: How did he team-build to success? We want our members remembering something they learned," said Thuzio founder Jared Augustine, who started the business with Mark Gerson in 2012.
"Our clients are 80 percent businesspeople, from all walks of life and all industries," Gerson said.
Gregory Basile, regional sales manager for Comcast Business in Plymouth Meeting, said he joined Thuzio because "it's great for networking."
Personally, Basile said, he liked Vermeil because "he spoke about leadership, how he had the camaraderie with his players, not like a spouse or children, but on-field respect, like a love for a brother or sister."
Vermeil runs a winery now and "told the story after the story, what he and others do after the spotlight," he said. T.O. talked about making a comeback, saying, "I might still want to play" again for the NFL.
"Rubbing shoulders with athletes makes them more like real people and like they deal with the same environments we do. It's great to find out the story of what they do after they leave pro status. They talk about what they bring from the field to what they do now."
Basile, who has been managing salespeople for 20-plus years, said, "I have to manage them based on personality. Some are crazy, and some are not. Some of the best you have get to be a little strange at times. These coaches had opportunities to do that. T.O. had to be managed a different way.
"Some coaches can do it, some can't. I don't have the luxury if one of my reps isn't that great with people. They are showing how they can do that, rather than get rid of them."
Like the Eagles did with DeSean Jackson?
Professional female athletes are out there on the paid circuit, too, based on the WomenTalk sports directory for athletes (http://womentalksports.com/athletes).
Some we'd love to hear?
Jennie Finch, the softball pitcher Alex Rodriguez refused to hit against, as detailed in book The Sports Gene. Gabby Douglas, the Olympic gymnast. Julie Chu, Harvard grad, top scorer in NCAA hockey, and USA National Hockey Team member.
And, of course, Taney Dragons pitcher Mo'ne Davis.