The Chuck Long Sports Auction toyed with the idea of a "Sweet 16" table-centerpiece theme for its 16th annual event Saturday at Jumer's in Rock Island.|
That, though, didn't embrace the idea of sports strongly enough, thought W.K. Juncker of resource development for the Children's Therapy Center, which receives the auction's proceeds.
Instead, all they needed to do was look at photos of Long in his quarterbacking days at Iowa. His jersey number -- 16.
Fitting that Long's jersey fit the bill. After all, without Long, it's doubtful that this auction would have the sweetest of results that it has, selling out each and every year and eclipsing $900,000 in donations to the CTC.
"Chuck Long's involvement has been so very important," said CTC executive director George McDoniel. "Take, for instance, the Ara Parasegian-signed helmet we got in Chicago. Telling them it was for the Chuck Long Sports Auction, they said no problem. If it would have been the Children's Therapy Center Sports Auction, they probably would have said, 'Huh?'
"You need a headliner, one who will be recognized, remembered and liked. That is all wrapped up in Chuck."
Long easily is recognized, with or without the No. 16 he wore throughout Saturday night. Sure, there's that he was a part of the closest Heisman Trophy vote ever -- losing to Auburn running back Bo Jackson in 1985 -- and his NFL days with the Lions and Rams, but here in the Quad-Cities, it almost seems like he's one of us.
Long has been to all but a couple of the auctions, no matter whether he was living and coaching in Iowa, Oklahoma or San Diego. His absences have been family- or job-related. And even when he's not here, he's plugging us.
McDoniel tells of this nugget: "There's a company that made Big Ten icon bobbleheads. Chuck was the one they selected for Iowa. Chuck said that was fine, but only if all of the royalties would go to the Children's Therapy Center. They had to call us to enter into a contract after that. And Chuck was in Oklahoma when all this happened. We were the first thing he thought about. That's amazing."
Right from the start, this event was destined to have a special place in Long's heart.
In 1995, Angie Peterson of the CTC board (then the Easter Seals Foundation) told Long she and Juncker had an idea and would he go with it.
"Typical Chuck, he said, 'I'm in. What do you want me to do?'" related Peterson.
"It was an easy decision for me," said Long. "With a brother who has cerebral palsy, I would do anything I can."
Simply having his name attached has been huge. His Iowa connections -- especially with the recent heavy involvement of the Iowa Football Club -- also made this event continue to defy the odds by getting bigger and better each year into a 16th year.
Saturday's auction not only set an attendance record of more than 400, but also posted an all-time donation total of $76,185.
It also had what might have had the boldest live auction that it has ever had. Included in the 30 items -- an autographed Michael Jordan jersey, an autographed album of the late Whitney Houston and a guitar signed by all of the members of the Eagles rock band.
As if often the case when it comes to securing special items for this auction, there's a story behind some of them.
"I have a niece who got married, and the new husband's best man runs Michael Jordan's sports camps," said Juncker. "I'm always thinking business, so I asked about an autograph, and the guy said he could get us one.
"A lot of little things like that have to fall into place."
The Jordan jersey went for $3,500.
That turned out to be the second-biggest attraction. The Eagles guitar went for $5,100.
Still, that's about half of the record Chuck Long Auction seller from several years ago – a "Let It Be" album signed by all of the Beatles.
"That was a shocker," Juncker said of the $10,000 bid.
Back then, it eclipsed the $7,700 that the CTC had received for a racing helmet signed by Dale Earnhardt Sr. and Dale Earnhardt Jr. That was a month after Dale Sr. died in a Daytona 500 crash in 2001.
That was in the last of four years of the Long Auction being at The Mark. Then came eight years at the Isle of Capri convention hall, with Jumer's being its home since 2010.
Will the 10 grand record ever be topped at the Long Auction?
"That's why you have records, to break them," said McDoniel, "especially at sporting events."
And the fact that a sports auction has such records is quite amazing in itself and says a lot about this one.
In fact, in March of 2014, with a yet-selected table team for the 17th annual, the Chuck Long Sports Auction will go in with a donations total of over $909,000.
Sounds like the easiest of themes to grasp.
It will take another record – another very doable record, of $91,000 in one night, but it will be your chance to "Feel Like a Million Bucks."
And yes, we all know that such a theme nowadays would easily have that kind of sports feel.
Sports editor Marc Nesseler can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Top 5 Long Auction draws in '13
1. Guitar signed by the Eagles rock band $5,100
2. Autographed Michael Jordan jersey $3,500
3. Double Granita Freezer from H.C. Duke & Sons $3,100
4. University of Iowa 'Game Day Experience' $2,600
5. 2012 Masters Flag signed by stars $1,850
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