Four-in-a-row phrasemaker anxiously awaits his windfall
It's been a long, nail-biting basketball season for Jerry Leibowitz, and it's only getting worse. As we reported in the fall [Shoptalk, Oct. 21], the longtime fan of the Los Angeles Lakers saw how much moola Pat Riley had made in merchandising deals simply by trademarking the word threepeat (to describe a sports team's three straight championship years) and decided to coin his own term for four in a row, which the Lakers are chasing this season.
He came up with quat-row, which works pretty well, especially considering the large Hispanic population in Southern California. All season long he's been promoting the word, visiting the Staples Center every other game or so, trying to get his quat-row signs on TV. Now he's happy to report that the NBA has approved use of the term on its licensed products—a key step for Leibowitz if he is to realize a significant windfall for his efforts. "[The NBA] knew the phrase has been blowing up here in L.A., and it's been on their Web site a few times," Leibowitz says. "They even said a number of people had come forward claiming to own the trademark. So I had to put together a package of legal info for them."
Now that the NBA is on board, there's just one more thing: The whole scheme will fall flat if the Lakers lose—something they've been doing more of this year. But Leibowitz is trying to remain calm. "There was a point when they were like 11-19 and people were saying, 'What's going on?' " he says. "But I always said they just needed to make the playoffs and they'd be OK."
And watching the games actually helps. "I really go right into fan mode," he says. "I'm not thinking about quat-row. If I felt that added pressure, I don't think I'd be able to watch."
Looking ahead, is he noodling around with any words to describe five in a row? "Not really," he says. "Actually, I'm not sure I want to go through all this again."