LEIGH STEINBERG is "Jerry Maguire." Maybe not with the Tom Cruise teeth and simian hairline, getting all weepy with young widows and cutesy kids, but all the movie's scenes about the professional sports business are true. Steinberg the superagent will vouch for them.
"Virtually everything in that movie has happened to someone I know," says Steinberg, who served as technical consultant, along with his partner Jeffrey Moorad, to writer and director Cameron Crowe.
The film's portrayal of greedy, shallow, arrogant football players and their groveling agents is a huge hit. Cruise plays Maguire, a quixotic agent who gets fired from his sports marketing conglomerate for writing an impassioned mission statement. He starts working out of his home, hanging on to his one client as the sharks circle. This character can be linked to Steinberg, 47, who started out while still a law student at the University of California at Berkeley, working out of his home for one client, Cal quarterback Steve Bartkowski, the top pick in the 1975 National Football League draft. "Maguire's experience was 22 years ago for me," says Steinberg. "You're very dependent on that one person." Crowe spent a year following Steinberg around to games, owners' meetings, Super Bowls and draft day. The football players in the film are based on clients of Steinberg's, and half a dozen of his stars do cameos as themselves. Crowe has sat in Steinberg's Newport Beach, Calif., headquarters and watched him juggle 17 phone lines at once. The ocean view from Maguire's office is just like Steinberg's. Steinberg, who represents more than 60 NFL players, is known for his stable of quarterbacks. He had football players in his wedding party. So does Maguire. Steinberg's wife got upset with his excessive working and traveling, and so does Maguire's. Steinberg's 5-year-old son, Matt, even resembles the melon-headed, bespectacled 6-year-old in the movie who likes to get on the phone with clients. Matt has an excellent rapport with San Francisco 49ers defensive back Merton Hanks, for example. A Steinberg client, 49ers safety Tim McDonald, gave Crowe the film's most memorable line. When Crowe asked McDonald what he looks for in an agent and a team, McDonald replied: "Show me the money." Only a few major facets of Maguire cannot be traced to Steinberg. Steinberg was never fired, he would never talk back to a client the way Maguire does, and he has never had a major draft pick stolen away by another agent. Steinberg also says he'd never have an office the size of Maguire's, with that much sports bric-a-brac. In fact, his office has three times as much. And, finally, an agent would never be allowed to run through the tunnel and onto the field when his client is knocked cold, then stand around making calls on his cellular phone, as happens in the film. …