Curt Schilling, Shilling

Let us consider how totally full of bull former Sox pitcher and current Republican shill Curt Schilling really is.

Just two months ago, Curt Schilling sat down with Fox News’ gleefully smarmy host Sean Hannity to brag about his new video game company, 38 Studios, and commiserate with Hannity about the many burdens President Obama and big government Democrats placed on noble people like him, a job creator. He wailed:

“Every dollar I can’t commit to my company that’s paid in taxes is paying a government that I believe is too big and doing way too much that I don’t want done.”

Schilling complained about this burden at a time when virtually every single dollar that he was spending on “his” company, and every single dollar in wages that he was paying to “his” employees, was a dollar that had been provided to him through a $75 million taxpayer-backed loan that he obtained from the state government of Rhode Island in July 2010. And the money he’ll be using in the near future, if there is one, will come from transferable tax credits that he is now seeking. The kind he didn’t want, so he said in an earlier radio interview.

This was a deal that Schilling reportedly initiated. It was a deal pushed through by the former Republican governor of Rhode Island. It was what he wanted.

It was a deal to loan a very large amount of taxpayer money on a very risky proposition, to an unproven business in a sector that’s profitable and already crowded. Worldwide spending on video gaming probably exceeded $74 billion in 2011. By comparison, Major League Baseball had about $7 billion in revenue last year. This deal was about picking a winner in a very competitive sector, not making a new technology possible.

This was a deal that was pushed through even before the rules for such deals had been written. This is from a story that appeared on appeared on, July 27, 2010:

“Rhode Island signed away more than half of its brand-new loan program to Curt Schilling’s company before state officials had developed rules and regulations for it because it was too good a deal to pass up, a top official said Tuesday.”

I, for one, would really like to get the email address of whoever that “top state official” in Rhode Island was. Because I have a “friend” in Nigeria who has $10 million that he says the government wrongly deposited into his bank account and he needs a trustworthy person to help him spirit it out of the country. You know, the Nigerian Bank scam.

Here in Boston, a state run by all those Massachusetts “socialist anti-business loons,” there is a thriving video game development community, of real entrepreneurs and bootstrappers who support of one another’s efforts and who run lean, innovative operations. I first learned about it all in a story written by BU student Michael Trinh in a journalism class I taught at BU last semester. I gave a call to Alex Schwartz, the CEO of OwlChemy Labs and one of the entrepreneurs Trinh wrote about, to get his take on the loan to Schilling.

Schwartz described the beginnings of his now successful company as being funded and fueled by Ramen. As in Ramen noodles. He and his small team lived on next to nothing, dining often on the kind of food-like substance that you can buy in plastic bags at CVS. They started writing code in basements, moved up to coffee shops, and then to MIT’s labs. Their first success was Snuggle Truck, a small game that first debuted at Pax East. It got press, got bigger, transformed, and it eventually sold more than 2 million copies. All with no help from the state government.

“It’s almost a slap in the face to someone who really is bootstrapping — to see someone given tens of millions just because of their name,” Schwartz said when I asked about Schilling.

Schwartz also spoke about the great pitfall of Gaming Grandiosity.

“… start with something small — do something end-to-end to ship a game. It is kind of a death sentence to try to start with something grand — to start out big is basically a recipe for failure.”

And that’s what Schilling was trying to do: go for something really big. And the landscape out there is indeed littered with the wreckage of big, costly failures. Even when experienced hands are at the helm, things happen like Vanguard: Saga of Heroes, which had star-power, Microsoft’s backing, and still bombed big time. Betting on a video game is no different than gambling on the success of a new Broadway play or a big-budget movie. The payoff can be big, but the odds can be long. Absolutely fine to do that, to take that gamble, but not when the profits will be private and the losses will be public.

In his interview on Fox with Hannity, Schilling cheerfully talked about how in Rhode Island, it was good to see the “Republicans and independents to do right by the people.”

It would have been nice if Schilling let the people who watch Fox News know that a WPRI-TV poll around the time the loan was being handed out to Schilling found that the majority of voters in Rhode Island opposed it. A mere 28 percent of those polled were in favor of it.

In that interview, Schilling proudly declared:

“I was raised to understand and know the difference between right and wrong. I’m not looking, never have been, for handouts.”

Just two months later, after missing a loan payment, Schilling pressed for an immediate vote to give him and his company another million-dollar handout. The taxpayers of Rhode Island may eventually be on the hook for well over $100 million.

So, in the end, how full of it is Curt “I’m a bootstrapping job creator” Schilling? In my view, pretty flipping full.