Politics & Business

Bowie Man Poses as Hank Paulson to Pay Off Mortgage

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This man gets points for chutzpah!

In 2009, 35 year old Bryan Gardner sent CitiMortgage a $353,000 fake money order “drawn on the account of the Secretary of the Treasury Hank M. Paulson, Jr.” for the full amount owed on his Bowie home. And it cleared!

According to Business Insider, Gardner then sold the property for $254,900 and distributed the proceeds to others. 

“You’d be amazed at how many people try and pass off (fraudulent) stuff. But does it ever work? No, it rarely works,” said Paul Pelletier, a former top-ranking official in the Justice Department’s Fraud Section, expressing surprise at the success of the scheme.

The evil genius Gardner filed for bankruptcy protection in February, and surrendered his Ford Expedition and Waldorf home. 

He has been charged with one count of mail fraud.

Read more: http://www.zerohedge.com/news/man-pretends-be-hank-paulson-make-fake-353000-mortgage-payment-citi-succeeds?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+zerohedge%2Ffeed+%28zero+hedge+-+on+a+long+enough+timeline%2C+the+survival+rate+for+everyone+drops+to+zero%29&utm_content=Google+Reader#ixzz1VHlPt17X

Big Fish Q&A with Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake

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When Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake presided over Harborplace’s 30th anniversary ceremonies in July 2010, she unabashedly declared, “I remember being here when I was 10 when Harborplace opened. It was a fantastic day. I also used to work here as a puppet master at the Puppet Master.”

As a rule, politicians should probably avoid uttering the phrase “puppet master.” Even more important: best not to confess to operating as one in public. And yet, in this case at least, the admission was entirely harmless. While the job does not appear on Rawlings-Blake’s resume, as a young woman she worked as a puppeteer. Conjure in your mind Punch and Judy, Lamb Chop and Hush Puppy, and the Muppets; banish from your brain guileful, covert political manipulator.

The daughter of Howard “Pete” Rawlings (chair of the Maryland House of Delegates’ Appropriations Committee) and Dr. Nina Rawlings (a pediatrician), Rawlings-Blake was born in Baltimore and raised in the city’s Ashburton neighborhood. After graduating from Western High School in 1988, she earned an undergraduate degree in political science from Oberlin College in 1992, followed by a law degree from the University of Maryland in 1995. At that point she embarked on dual careers in public service and legal services: elected to the Baltimore City Council from the 4th District in 1995, two years later signing on as an attorney with the local Legal Aid Bureau.

From 1998 to 2007, Rawlings-Blake worked as a staff attorney for the Baltimore Office of the Public Defender, while continuing to serve as a council member, moving to the reconfigured 6th District in 2004 after the city switched to single-member district representation. She ascended to City Council president in 2007 and mayor in 2010, in both cases succeeding Sheila Dixon.

Rawlings-Blake, 41, lives in the city’s Coldspring neighborhood with her husband, Kent, and their daughter, Sophia.

Sum up your life philosophy in one sentence.  

Make it happen.

When did you define your most important goals, and what are they?

I defined my goals at a very early age. I have so much love for Baltimore that I grew up knowing that I would use my skills and talents to make our city better. My most important goal is to make Baltimore a better place for my family and all of our families. Our city should be a place where families can choose good schools for their kids; where our streets are safer and families feel more secure in their homes; where neighbors work together and businesses choose to invest and create jobs.

What is the best advice you ever got that you followed?

Watch and listen to everything around you. Know your community and neighbors, and get involved in anything that can help you make the lives of others better. 

The worst advice, and did you follow it? Or how did you muffle it?

“Quit politics.” I heard that right after I was elected [to the City Council] in 1995 and started studying for the bar exam. An older lawyer told me that I could be one or the other, and people wouldn’t respect me as a lawyer while I was in office. I studied hard, passed the bar on my first try, and practiced for about 10 years on behalf of indigent clients in Baltimore.

What are the three most surprising truths you’ve discovered in your lifetime?

I’ll name two. 1) That the squirrels that my mom named Michael and Suzy weren’t the same two squirrels every day when we saw them. 2) Unfortunately, that your metabolism really does slow down after 30.

What is the best moment of the day?

When I wake up and see my family.

What is on your bedside table?

My BlackBerry.

What is your favorite local charity?

 The Maryland Food Bank. 

 

What advice would you give a young person who aspires to do what you are doing?

Work hard, be honest, and protect your integrity.

Why are you successful?

I’ve been a successful public servant because I have a passion for helping others. The people I serve know that they can count on me to be honest.

Which book, film, TV show, or video game have you introduced to your daughter that has had a profound, positive effect on her? Describe that effect.

Sophia loves black history books, and a biography of [Olympic gold medal winner] Jesse Owens inspired her to begin to run track.

Orioles’ players have “at-bat” music, a song snippet–personally chosen by each team member to represent him–that plays over the Camden Yard sound system when they step into the batter’s box. What would be your at-bat song?

DJ Khaled’s “All I Do Is Win.”

If re-elected mayor, which item will be foremost on your agenda–the specific initiative you immediately strive to accomplish?

My top priority for the next four years is addressing those issues that have the greatest impact on all of Baltimore’s families. We must redouble our efforts to create more jobs, make our streets safer, provide children with a quality education, and empower our neighborhoods. All of these issues hold equal value and must receive equal attention in order to move our city forward.

Baltimore Food the Latest Craze in L.A.

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Three thousand miles from home, Chef David Lentz has created a little piece of Baltimore in Southern California. The Maryland native and Boys’ Latin alum is the owner of The Hungry Cat, one of L.A.’s top restaurants with locations in Hollywood, Santa Barbara, and Santa Monica, the latter of which appeared on this season’s hit television show Million Dollar Decorators.  

From the second you enter the restaurant and read the menu, it’s clear that Baltimore has had an influence; a specialty cocktail called, “The Pimlico” heads off the drinks list, old black and white photos of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge and Ocean City flank the walls, and, most importantly, the menu is almost all seafood.

As is the case with most Marylanders, Lentz says, “I was exposed to seafood at a young age. I have fond memories of crab feasts, fishing, and generally just having fun in the water. I think my food reflects those experiences.”

Speaking of crab feasts, shortly after opening the original Hollywood location, Lentz introduced Los Angeles to the ultimate Maryland treat with an event he dubbed Crabfest. For $75, guests receive a prix fixe Maryland menu: crabs, crab soup, a crab cake, and assorted dessert. Lentz says that he “wanted to bring a slice of Maryland to Los Angeles. It has been wildly successful.” 

In fact, The Hungry Cat overall has been wildly successful, financially and critically. Case in point: Reservations are nearly impossible to come by (we, consequently, ate dinner at 5 o’clock–it was worth it). And Cat has received praise from Town & Country, Bon Appetit, Zagat’s, The Los Angeles Times, and many more. As far as buzz, well, it was just reportedthat Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin recently dined Maryland-style at the Santa Monica location.  If Lady Goop approves, you know it’s good.  

Lentz is part of an L.A. culinary power couple: his wife, Chef Suzanne Goin, runs the renowned restaurants Lucques and Tavern, where President Obama dined when he was in Los Angeles last spring.

Even though he’s doing just fine in sunny SoCal, Lentz says he loves Maryland and misses it.  

“I miss the people…I am a diehard Ravens fan and the Orioles are still my favorite baseball team! Maryland is a great place, blue collar with a big sense of pride… I love to go back and go to sporting events, fish with my cousins and hit the watering holes downtown. I am truly glad I grew up there, it taught me a lot.”

He might miss it, but we’re glad he’s giving Angelenos a taste of what we’re all about. 

Is It Just Me, or Is It Getting Expensive in Here?

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When I moved to Baltimore in 2008, the city’s legendary cheap rent was a major draw. Live in an artistically thriving community within a mid-size city for 200 bucks a month (in an apartment with four of my friends)? Sign me up.

Three years later, faced with the prospect of moving out of my foreclosed Waverly apartment with my wife and infant child, Baltimore no longer seems quite so cheap. There are no affordable options in Mt. Vernon, Charles Village or Hampden. Even Waverly is giving us guff; the only reasonable apartments are deeper into the neighborhood, further away from Hopkins’ Homewood campus.

The problem is compounded when you’re a full-fledged family. When we were preparing for our child, my wife and I were considering many new expenses, but we never thought that having a kid would drive up our rent. Effectively it has. Communal living is less tenable with a baby, and we’ve found many landlords will refuse to even show us their one-bedroom apartments because we’re three people.

What gives? Is the JHU expansion putting pressure on the housing market? Are landlords with dollar signs in their eyes jumping the gun on the projected revitalization of their neighborhoods, and tenants, a notoriously disempowered population, are just taking it? Sure, there are still good deals to be found if you’re willing to live with six or seven other people in a dangerous part of town. But is that for everyone?

Gilman 9th Grader Makes a Splash For Cancer Research

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Fourteen-year-old Jake Smith recently won his battle with pancreatic cancer, but he isn’t giving up there.  The Gilman ninth grader, who was treated at Johns Hopkins, has decided to genetically map his tumor and, in doing so, benefit similarly situated cancer patients and the genetic mapping work at Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center.  

But the price tag isn’t as nice as the cause: The cost for the research alone is $90,000. To foot the bill for the research, Smith is organizing a team for Swim Across America, a local open water swim held off Gibson Island on September 18 that benefits cancer research at Johns Hopkins. Swimmers are still needed for Jake’s team, though Jake has already raised $30,000 toward that $90,000 goal.  

Help Jake reach his goal by donating on the event page for Swim Across America.

Medical Actor Melissa Daum Helps Doctors Perform More Compassionately

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Name: Melissa Daum (the au pronounced like ou in ouch)
Occupation: Standardized Patient   
Neighborhood: Remington
Years in Baltimore: 8

Melissa Daum plays many roles: she’s a grad student, yoga teacher, therapist-in-training, seamstress, and mural painter, but perhaps her most intriguing part-time job is as “Standardized Patient,” for the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. In other words, the 28-year-old MICA graduate pretends to be a patient for trainee doctors, and not all of them know she’s acting.

According to Hopkins, a Standardized Patient is “a person carefully recruited and trained to take on the characteristics of a real patient, thereby affording the student an opportunity to learn and to be evaluated on learned skills in a simulated clinical environment.” Melissa, who’s currently completing a master’s in counseling at Pacifica Graduate Institute, won the role by passing an audition at the School of Medicine’s Simulation Center, where she competed for the job with professional actors. “They brought along headshots and resumes, but that’s not what the medical school needs,” she explained. “They need people who can be pretty real about it, who don’t turn it into a big performance.”

Beyond her relaxed attitude, Melissa has another advantage: She’s sophisticated but looks younger than her age, which means she can represent a wide range of characters from surly teenagers to overwrought moms. “One week I might be, say, a student who’s experimenting with drugs, and the next week I might be a 15-year-old girl who’s come down with a rash after a trip to the petting zoo. I get to wear my own clothes, but we’re supposed to dress the part, so if I’m playing a married woman, for example, I’m supposed to wear a wedding ring.” She’s given a case history peppered with details—some vital clues, others red herrings—but the facts can only be drawn out by the right kinds of questions, asked in a suitable context. It’s a way of helping young doctors practice their history-taking skills, their communication facility, and their all-important bedside manners.

The work doesn’t pay much—$17 an hour plus parking—but there are added benefits, like use of the Hopkins library and the chance to learn about the symptoms of different diseases and the stress impact they have. On top of that, it’s a lot of fun. “It satisfies my theater itch,” says Melissa, who worked as Elton John’s wardrobe mistress when he performed in Baltimore last March–and played lead in all of her high school productions. “There are these rows of doctors offices in the Simulation Center. Sometimes I go from room to room as a patient, and sometimes the doctor comes in to see me, surrounded by a group of medical students.”

She often works with the same male actor playing the wife in a married couple; they fit together well, and, like the stars of a sitcom, have developed a pattern of banter (though improvisation, they’re told, should be kept to a minimum). Recently, the pair took the stage at a pediatric dermatology conference, where they were asked to play the part of every doctor’s nightmare—entitled, wealthy parents, both attorneys, who think they know what’s best for their ailing kid. “I really got into it,” laughs Melissa. “I was looking up medical facts on my iPhone and telling them I thought my child’s condition was an embarrassment to the family. When I get into a character like that, I’ll start thinking about how that person will walk into the room and how she’ll put down her purse.”

But it’s not always easy. “You can’t be shy,” she says. “If you have to play a person who’s really depressed, or in pain, it can be a very uncomfortable situation, emotionally. You can’t meet the doctor’s eyes, you can’t smile at them. As medical students, they want to treat the symptoms of a disorder, but they’re dealing with a complex person, and that can be sometimes unpleasant.”

During her work as a Standardized Patient, Melissa has learned that, as medical students get further along in their studies, their people skills tend to get worse. “As they start to specialize, they get more interested in the technicalities,” she points out. “They want to try out new equipment and discover the pathology. They forget that they’re dealing with a real person with complex feelings. They tend to back away from emotions.”

After the simulation is over, she gets to wear headphones and listen in to the doctors’ critique of the students’ performance. She also listens to the students talk about the person she was portraying, as they attempt, as a group, to make sense of who and what they’re dealing with. Melissa gets to give feedback, too, which is where her therapy training comes in useful. She has to let the doctors know if they seemed awkward, nervous, or rigid, and whether she sensed them backing away from scary emotions.

As a Standardized Patient, Melissa’s learned a lot about medical training and how the young doctor’s mind develops. She’s learned something else, too. “Once I had to be a patient having my eyes examined,” she recalls, “and suddenly there was this whole group of students wanting to look down the ophthalmoscope. They kept sending their friends to see. I asked them what was so interesting, and they said it was the first time they’d seen eyes that were exactly like the ones in the anatomy manual. They said I had ‘textbook retinas.’”

Grand Prix Tree-Cutting Ceremony! (Sign Up to Fight It)

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Sounds like the twisted premise of a “Simpsons” episode in which the greedy township shuns common sense, chops down big, old trees to provide a view of racecars in blurry action…and by show’s end, everyone sunburned and sorry, we all learn an eco-friendly, tree-worshipful lesson. Grand Prix organizers are right now in the process of removing 50 trees along the September race course of West Pratt and Light Streets, fewer than Grand Prix officials wanted to fell, all to improve the sight line. More than 1600 residents have signed a petition to halt the process.

According to Timothy B. Wheeler’s story in The Sun yesterday, the race’s assistant manager was originally quoted as saying that he planned to remove 136 trees before the race. Beth Strommen, director of the city’s Office of Sustainability, promised that won’t happen–50 max–and said she couldn’t account for the released misinformation. She also explained that race organizers have pledged to plant 59 new trees along the race corridor, and 135 elsewhere downtown. City officials have claimed “the trees to be planted by the Grand Prix over the next year would triple the leafy coverage of downtown.”

But tree-cutting critics argue quite logically that new trees won’t provide the benefits of the mature trees we’ve lost. They also complain the race’s already active lumberjacks haven’t upheld the city’s forest conservation code.

The city has signed on to host the Grand Prix for five years, during which time race organizers have supposedly pledged to water and maintain the incoming red maples, sycamores, and crape myrtles, many of which will start as 18- to 20-feet-high entities, not mere saplings. But we’re saddened by the loss of the old trees, some of them confirmed to be “big and healthy.” The city may have signed on for the exhaust-puffing car race, we’re signing that petition.

 

Survival of the Lit-est

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For those hoisting metaphorical “End Is Nigh” signs near their local indie bookstores, 2011’s been positively Revelations-worthy: In Baltimore alone, local clearinghouse Daedelus Books dropped its Belvedere Square location after five years and Borders, the long-suffering and debt-ridden Pepsi to Barnes & Noble’s dominating Coke, liquidated; its Timonium location will close by the end of September.  Factor in the ebook market, rife with shiny Amazon Kindles and smartphones, and it’s all enough to drive a small bookseller into full-blown panic. 
Or, at the very least, to defensive irony.

“The commercials for the Kindle crack me up,” says Normal’s Books and Records owner Rupert Wondolowski, who opened the store with a crowd of artist and writer friends in 1990.  Faced with the threat of technology, he did what any artist-by-night might do: He leaned on satire, pasting “anti-Kindle” propaganda around the store and having a themed sale every Friday. “‘No glare!  It’s so light!’  A used book’s not putting up much of a glare.  And how many weaklings can’t pick up a paperback?”

Of course, among local indies the Kindle features more as a scapegoat–used books are still “way cheaper than the Kindle versions,” Wondolowski points out, and The Baltimore Sun’s Jay Hancock documented booksellers’ sheepish backpedaling from the Kindle-borne e-book scare just last week.  “Even back in 1982, when I started in used books, people were saying the computer was going to screw us,” Wondolowski says.  More pressing?  “There’s also the complete collapse of the global economy.  It’s not so bad yet. You’ll know things are rough when we’re having a 50 percent sale.”

Still, all that tech upheaval provides a tidy symbol for the hostile environment facing bookstores of late.  While some locals–The Ivy Bookshop and Hunt Valley’s Greetings & Readings both spring to mind–are managing to thrive via niche followings, peoples’ reading habits are slowly changing and, clever sales aside, much of the local market has taken some drastic measures to stay in the black.  On Normal’s 21st birthday, for example, the store received an uneasy gift of charity: a benefit concert at the Golden West restaurant via a number of its musician regulars.  (“It was a nice cash infusion for the slow summer months,” Wondolowski admits.)  And Ukazoo Books, a new and used store in Towson, took the 50 percent sale concept as a challenge, loss-leading its way to the bank this June by selling books as low as $1.49 a pop.  But manager Edward Whitfill, who came up with the idea, spins these counterintuitive sales events as a sort of business Darwinism.

“People bought books to give away,” he says of his sale.  “At this point, we’re an instant gratification society.  Will there be room for everybody?  No.  But [Borders’ closing] is probably doing a correction in the size of the market.  They had a lot of debt.  You can blame new technology, but when you’re servicing debt, you can’t explore new stuff.”

Ukazoo, which opened a storefront in 2007 when its owners’ online bookselling service became too big to be legal, has reason to look at marketing innovation as adaptability.  But other locals are more circumspect.  In Hancock’s Sun article, Atomic Books co-owner Benn Ray notes that Borders’ closing is “in nobody’s interest,” citing “repercussions” that may include publishers printing even smaller runs of their quirkier, more under the radar work–for many indie bookstores, the lifeblood of the business.  And Michael Cantor, who founded Salamander Books in the late 1990s and relocated the shop from Hampden to Mount Vernon last year, goes even further, suggesting his livelihood is up against a more permanent change in the culture.

“Books aren’t the go-to for the lay public anymore,” he says.  “ You used to get on the train and there would be a book in 75 percent of the peoples’ hands.  Now they have laptops.  It connects their brains in a similar way, but there’s nothing residual afterwards. You can always press the button or flip the switch.  That’s very attractive.”

Cantor hesitates to dismiss the web out of hand, though.  “Something like Borders’ closing was about the economy,” he says.  “How much does it cost to air-condition a place like that?”  By comparison, he points to the small used business’s many options, including online marketplaces like Amazon.com and ABE Books.  Both have become secret weapons for Salamander and its cohort–places where they can defray dry spells and peddle their wares.  But when asked about long-term survival, he still leans towards community presence.

“At this point, I see the book business not necessarily making the money I need to get by,” Cantor says.  “But it’s not worth ditching it. People want to go to places where they have a connection with the people running them.  Those who think and create are always in search of other individuals.”

It’s a position shared by Wondolowski.

“These are definitely frightening times,” he says.  “But lately I’ve been having a lot of nice, emotional conversations with people who love bookstores.  They may die out for a while, but then where do you go when you’re not on your computer?  The pendulum will swing back.”

Big Fish Q&A with Mayoral Candidate Otis Rolley

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Mayoral candidate Otis Rolley III has a criminal past. But wait! Here in the city of Homicide and The Wire, it’s not what you might think. Not even close.

Back in 1995, when Rolley (rhymes with wholly) was an undergrad at Rutgers University in New Jersey, he spearheaded a student coalition media campaign to oust the school’s president, who had uttered what many considered a racist comment. Going public with students’ grievances, Rolley appeared on NBC’s The Today Show and BET’s Teen Summit, and spoke openly and critically with the Philadelphia Inquirer and Newark’s Star-Ledger. Arrested during a protest near the president’s residence, Rolley faced three misdemeanor charges, but was found guilty of only one: disturbing the peace. His efforts earned him something of a red badge of courage: a 1995 New York Times Young Citizens Award.

Raised one of eight children in Jersey City, NJ, by his mother and stepfather–Rolley did not meet his biological father until age 32–he earned a bachelor’s degree in political science and Africana Studies at Rutgers in 1996, and two years later completed a master’s in city planning at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Rolley moved to Baltimore in 1998 to take a post with the nonprofit Empower Baltimore Management Corp., before segueing quickly into a skein of jobs in city government. After serving as a top administrator in the Department of Housing and Community Development, he was named Baltimore’s director of planning in 2003, overseeing the city’s first comprehensive master plan in nearly 40 years. From there, he worked for 10 months in 2007 as then-Mayor Sheila Dixon’s chief of staff, returning to the nonprofit sector at the end of that year when, as president and CEO, he led the Central Maryland Transportation Alliance. Since 2010, Rolley has worked as a consultant for Urban Policy Development. He announced his bid for mayor in April.

Rolley, who turns 37 this week, lives in Northwest Baltimore’s Cross Country neighborhood with his wife, Charline, and their three children.
 
Sum up your life philosophy in one sentence.      

Don’t tell God how big your mountain is; tell the mountain how big your God is.

When did you define your most important goals, and what are they?

In high school I got my first taste of life beyond the limits of my family situation and income. I saw a world bigger than my block and neighborhood, and it pushed me toward several important goals. I decided then that I wanted to learn as much as possible, create more opportunity for kids like me, and fight for equity.

What is the best advice you ever got that you followed?

Run for mayor.

The worst advice, and did you follow it? Or how did you muffle it?

My older sister advised me to lick a pole in the winter. Unfortunately, I followed her advice.

What are the three most surprising truths you’ve discovered in your lifetime?

1. Hurt people hurt people.

2. It’s all about relationships, or it ain’t about nothing.

3. First-rate people hire first-rate people; second-rate people hire third-rate people.

What is the best moment of the day?

Waking up with my wife, Charline, by my side.

What is on your bedside table?

My Bible, my iPad, and a box of Mike and Ike’s.

What is your favorite local charity?

There are two whose missions speak to me: Family Tree and Center for Urban Families.

What advice would you give a young person who aspires to do what you are doing?

Don’t let anyone tell you to wait your turn or that it’s not your time.

Why are you successful?

God’s grace, and I value what is truly valuable.

Your background in city planning must give you a keen eye for the built environment. What do you consider to be Baltimore’s most iconic building–and why? 

Hands down I’d say the Victorian-era American Brewery building. Beyond it being aesthetically beautiful–I could stare at it for hours–it is also beautifully Baltimorean. It speaks of our past and our future.

No doubt, you and your family have a go-to restaurant, a reliable place that best meets your needs. What is it, why do you like it, and which dish do you recommend?

Salt, because the food and service never disappoint. The Kobe burgers.

If elected mayor, which item will be foremost on your agenda–the specific initiative you immediately strive to accomplish? 

Education reform.

Under Armour To Use Rookies for Endorsements

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It’s difficult to believe, with its two million dollar Superbowl commercials and products ranging from women’s underwear to hunting gear to sunglasses, that Under Armour was once just a guy with an idea looking for retail space. In the years since it was founded, the company has grown from a small, home run organization to a hugely successful corporation partnered with some of the top names in sports. But the company couldn’t always rely on the brand-name power it has today to seal those deals. In those early days, it turned to rookies–young athletes with star potential, but without the seven or eight figure salaries of some of the big names in their respective sports.  

More than ten years ago, Under Armour signed an endorsement contract with the Dallas Cowboys’ Eric Ogbogu, and although he wasn’t always a standout on the field, he made famous the now proverbial slogan, “We must protect this house.”  The method worked then, and it works now. While many star athletes would probably gladly endorse such a popular brand, the Baltimore-based company has stuck to the original formula, and recently joined forces with a small group of young NBA players, including rookie sensation Kemba Walker, to promote its new basketball line.

Isn’t this avant-garde advertising approach a bit risky? Why does such a lucrative company remain quirky with marketing? According to the company, endorsement for them has always been more about building brand integrity than it is about the money. That’s easy to say when you’re a multimillion-dollar corporation, but the company actually has a team that follows the careers of college athletes and handpicks them after graduation, so their mission seems legitimate. Now I just have to figure out how I can get on their radar.

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