@DigSportsDesk 75 Over Sixty Awards
By TERRY LYONS, Editor in Chief (@terrylyons)
BOSTON – On December 12th, the sports industry gathered in New York to pay tribute to the “New Voices” Under 30 years old, a special gathering of accomplished, young voices of the sports business world. The nominees and eventual winners of the new franchise for the SBJ/SBD were both “inspirational and aspirational,” as the nomination criteria suggested.
The basic requirement at that youthful gathering? Nominees were born after January 1, 1990. That event was great and it paid tribute to new young minds of people that deserve respect.
In addition to the new voices, the industry pays tribute to “40 Under Forty” – a tribute to the up & comers in the sports industry, such as Boston College’s dynamic, young Athletic Director Martin Jarmond.
For our final While We’re Young (Ideas) and Sports Business column for 2019 we’re bringing back our DIGGIES Awards, a first with our own 75 Over Sixty Awards. It’s a column, saluting our leaders, our mentors and many of the people who built the foundation of what was once “a job in sports” but has now become known as the icons of the “Sports Industry.”
Here is the Inaugural Class of Digital Sports Desk’s DIGGIES 2019 and our 75 Over Sixty:(Listed in alphabetical order with a requirement to celebrate a birthday before January 1, 1960).
Val Ackerman – The former WNBA President is now Commissioner of the BIG EAST Conference and a leader in sports administration on the collegiate level.
Marv Albert – The standard by which all sports play-by-play commentators are measured against. For New Yorkers, that’s magnified 100x for his work with NBA, New York Knicks and NY Rangers.
Phil Anschutz – There wouldn’t be Major League Soccer in the USA if it weren’t for his work as founding owner. The AEG (Anschutz Entertainment Group) and AEG Live subsidiaries of his company are sports’ major player in all aspects of the business, from team ownership to live venue operations and ownership, to staging events.
Micky Arison – Seventy-year-old chairman and former CEO of the Carnival Cruise Line entity is the owner of the Miami HEAT and a major influence on the NBA. Smart man! He hired Pat Riley in 1995 and hasn’t looked back.
Thomas Bach – The ninth and current head of the International Olympic Committee is a 65-year old lawyer from Germany who succeeded Jacques Rogge in 2013. This summer, Bach will oversee the staging of the XXXII Olympiad in Tokyo.
Steve Ballmer – The former CEO of Microsoft and the current owner of the Los Angeles Clippers basketball team is the man who changed EVERYTHING in sports franchise valuation. His 2014 $2B purchase of the team seems like a bargain as we approach 2020.
Gary Bettman – The 67-year old former NBA General Counsel took over the NHL, as Commissioner (from NHL President John Ziegler) in 1993 and has endured three lockouts during his tenure only to bring the league to its most stable and forward-looking decade soon-to-come. He was elected into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2018.
Larry Bird/Earvin “Magic” Johnson – For anyone involved in the NBA in the ’80s until nowadays, there’s two names that rise to the top (along with former NBA Commissioner David Stern). With Bird in Boston and the Magic Man in LA, the NBA was reborn. They’ve both maintained their authenticity until this day, with Bird now an advisor to the Indiana Pacers and Johnson in his prominent and very public role in business and enterprise.
Arthur Blank – The 77-year-old Blank is co-founder of Home Depot and owner of the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons and the MLS’ Atlanta United. He’s a power broker in the operation of the National Football League, via Finance, Audit and Compensation committees. In other words, he’s the guy Sports Business Journal’s No. 1 most influential person in sports in NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell reports to on a daily basis.
Christine Brennan – The Hall-of-Fame sports reporter was the first woman at the Miami Herald and the first female reporter for The Washington Post assigned to the NFL beat. Still a major influencer in 2019-20, she gives back to alma mater Northwestern and is a mentor to all in the sports media world.
Hubie Brown – If you judge a sports color commentator by his/her ability to share knowledge and actually teach during a broadcast, you’ll recognize 86-year-old Brown as possibly the best-ever at teaching the nuances of the NBA game to his viewers. The former NBA head coach gets it done and maintains a full schedule for ESPN all the way to the NBA Finals.
James Brown – A personal fave here, “JB” is the dean of The NFL Today who is simply the first class act and extremely reliable sportscaster who we’ve followed since his days as a student at DeMatha (’69) and Harvard (’70-73). Rock solid is JB.
Mary Carillo – She’s amongst the most influential people in tennis and she only played on the circuit from 1977-80 (she won the ’77 French Open mixed doubles with John McEnroe). That fact shows the power of Mary Carillo and her ability to communicate to casual sports fans and tennis aficionados in the same extraordinary manner. Her work on tennis, Real Sports and the Olympics has proven her excellence.
Lou Carnesecca – “Little Louie” is the grandfather for St. John’s and New York City basketball enthusiasts. The 1992 inductee of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame is now a youthful 94 years old with his 95th coming on January 5th, 2020. Surely, Louie will be watching his beloved Johnnies at Xavier on his upcoming birthday.
Jerry Colangelo – The former head-honcho of the Phoenix Suns franchise and now Managing Director and mover-shaker for the Basketball Hall of Fame and USA Basketball took those two stumbling sports franchises to stability during the decade. USA Basketball earned and redeemed gold at Beijing in ’08 then defended in London (2012) and Rio (2016), yet the dismal 7th place finish this past summer at the FIBA Worlds shows the cyclical nature of sports.
Cris Collinsworth – The 60-year-old (turning 61 on January 27th) former Cincinnati Bengals wide-out has become the best of the best in terms of NFL color commentary, teaming with co-DIGGIES winner Al Michaels on NBC Sports’ Sunday Night Football. Let’s hope NBC’s Molly Soloman (a future DIGGIE to be sure) taps Colllinsworth for Tokyo 2020 duties as his daily reports from Beijing ’08 were entertaining and informative.
Bob Costas – Speaking of the Olympics, the voice of NBC Sports’ coverage of the Olympic Games from 1988-2016 and the anchor of a generation of big time sports event coverage for nearly 40 years is now quite happy calling baseball for the MLB Network. His work in sports can only be rivaled by the late Howard Cosell of ABC sports and CBS’ Sports (and now VSiN co-founder) Brent Musburger.
Jim Delany – The 71-year-old Commissioner of the Big Ten will step down from his post on January 1, 2020 and pass the reigns to Kevin Warren. Delany served the Big Ten from 1989 until the close of business this month and during that time, created the Big ten Network. He had previously served college athletics in the NCAA and Ohio Valley conference.
Ed Desser/Len Deluca – My TV and programming gurus have long-served the professional and college sports ranks, Desser at the NBA and Deluca at a combo of CBS Sports and ESPN. They both excel at tv negotiations and consulting. (Next year? John Kosner!)
Andy Dolich – The 72-year old Dolich is a respected sports executive and mentor to many in the San Francisco Bay Area, largely for his work with the Oakland A’s (1980-94) and later working with the Vancouver/Memphis Grizzlies and then the NFL’s SF 49ers.
Dick Ebersol – The 72-year old one time chairman and now executive advisor of NBC Sports is known to most sports fans through his work with the Olympics, and securing TV rights for the games for decades on-end. He was also instrumental in the NFL deal at NBC (including SNF) and the NBA on NBC in the Michael Jordan era. (Editor’s note: He’s also one of the guys who will drop everything to help, as he did for me when – months in advance of Sydney 2000 – we were trying to figure out the best way for Alonzo Mourning to get from Sydney to Miami and back to witness the birth of his daughter, Myka Sydney, and Ebersol personally assisted with the best logistical plan).
Helene Elliott – Hockey Hall of Famer and current LA Times columnist Helene Elliott is a first ballot “Hall of Famer” on almost any list. Her versatility to cover any sport at any level made her legendary at the Chicago Sun-Times and Newsday and her NHL work always stood out, enough to earn the 2005 HHofF Elmer Ferguson Memorial Award. That said, take a look at her most recent work too. HERE.
Mark Emmert – The 67-year-old Emmert, former President of the U of Washington, is NCAA president and CEO. He’s only the fifth person dubbed CEO of the college sports organization.
Doc Emrick – The first of two “Doc” entries is the 73-year old (1946 was a great year for sports people) dean of the NHL play-by-play commentators and frequently lauded as the best (in any sport).
Julius Erving – The good Doctor J transformed the sport of basketball during his college and pro career which spanned the ’70s and ’80s. While performing incredible feats, he did so with a grace and manner of professional credibility that set an example for an entire generation of athletes. He remains influential in NBA and Philly sports.
Chris Evert – “Chrissy” burst onto the scene at the ’71 US Open in Forest Hills, (NY) and has been a huge part of every major tennis tourney ever since, most recently as color commentator. Her role as women’s tennis ambassador and longtime rival of Martina Navratilova is now legendary and each have carried the torch admirably.
Donald Fehr – The 71-year old executive director of the NHL Players Association was also the ED for the MLB Players from (1983-2009) during some tumultuous times in player-team owner relations. In 1977, Fehr was hired by the late Marvin Miller. Now he guides the most successful times in NHL-NHL Player relations.
Don Garber – A pair of Commissioners begin with the esteemed Major League Soccer head-honcho, born in ’57, and heading up the incredible growth of the MLS since he left the comfy confines of NFL HQ in 1999.
Roger Goodell – The NFL Commish will turn 61 in February as another Super Bowl reigns supreme as the most watched event in sports. If he’s good enough for SBJ/SBDs most influential, he’s good enough for us! Seriously, the NFL rocks on despite a very tough 2018.
Mike Gorman – Boston Celtics play-by-play man extraordinaire must share this post with Al McCoy – the veteran TV man of the Phoenix Suns. Both are simply amazing at their vocation and even better as simple, down-to-earth great human beings. Hats off.
Peter Guber – Born March 1, 1942, the man behind Mandalay Entertainment somehow gets younger. Is ownership in the LA Dodgers, GS Warriors, Los Angeles FC and some eSports enough? Nah! Let’s delve into Mandalay’s interests in Dick Clarke Productions and a host of Hollywood titles.
Greg Gumbel – New Orleans born (in the magic year of ’46) but South Side Chicago through and through, Gumbel reps the legions of sports broadcasters who have worked their way to the top and remained ‘their cool selves’ all the way through. He’s been both a host and play-by-play of a Super Bowl (along with fellow honoree Jim Nantz, the late Dick Enberg and fellow honoree Al Michaels).
John Henry/Tom Werner – What Boston-based list of Sports Influencers and Icons over 60 years of age would be complete without Red Sox team owners Henry and Werner. No details are necessary here, but we will note Celtics managing partner Wyc Grousbeck is a youthful 58.
Jim Hill – If there is/was/will be a big sporting event in Los Angeles, Hill will be there. Unlike so many local sports anchors who remained anchored in the studio, Hill is always out there covering the story and meeting the players and coaches. In doing so, he gains respect and is listed here to rep a number of others (Bruce Beck in NYC comes to mind).
Jeremy Jacobs – Along with the team owners of the other Boston-based sports franchises, the Jacobs family has maintained business for the NHL Bruins and the (old) Boston and (new) TD Garden, along with the recent Hub on Causeway multi-purpose sports/entertainment expansion and renovation. Jacobs tagged building president Amy Latimer to head up the efforts and that was a gem of a move.
Sally Jenkins/Leslie Visser – When it comes to American sportswriting legends, Jenkins and Visser are listed at the top of the heap. Jenkins is the dean, while Visser has worked Finals Fours, NBA Finals, US Open tennis, NBA, NFL/MNF, the World Series, Triple Crown Horse Racing, the Super Bowl and the Olympic Games, the only person to do it all.
Sheila Johnson – With a net worth of over a billion, Johnson was the first African-American woman to have co-ownership of sports franchises in the NBA, WNBA and NHL.
Jerry Jones – The ever-present owner of the country’s richest franchise, Dallas Cowboys team owner Jerry Jones is listed amongst the most powerful people in the NFL and American sports. He’ll have his work cut out for himself in this off-season, unless the Cowboys pull off a miracle this weekend.
Robert Kraft – The owner of the New England Patriots (an MLS Revs) is a huge power broker in New England sports and in the NFL where he remains influential in Goodell’s inner circle, despite the many issues that have plagued the Pats.
Billie Jean King – Tennis royalty! (It’s that simple). A major player on the woman sports movement who remains active even after selling her share in World Team Tennis.
Stan Kroenke – Always among the most powerful people in sports, and let us count the ways; He owns and operates the Denver Nuggets (NBA), Colorado Avalanche (NHL), LA Rams (NFL), Colorado Rapids (MLS), Colorado Mammoth (NLL Lacrosse), and Arsenal of the Premier League. Kroenke Sports and Entertainment along with Pepsi Center in Denver and RSN Altitude covers it all. Not too shabby.
Mike Krzyzewski – The 72-year-old coach of the Duke Blue Devils mens basketball team has been instrumental in USA Basketball and College Basketball for decades, dating back to March 1980 when he took the head coaching title in Durham. The Cameron Crazies will always look out to Coach K Court.
Rod Laver – Like Billie Jean, Martina and Chris Evert, Laver is the men’s tennis all-time great and senior ambassador to the sport, especially in his native Australia. For the USA, we only mention the likes of Stan Smith, Jimmy Connors and John McEnroe to compete. Young’uns like Pete Sampras and Andre Aggasi (48, 49 respectively) will have to wait their turns, as will Roger Federer (38), the GOAT.
Ted Leonsis – The 62-year old owner of the Washington Wizards, Caps, Mystics, along with the Monumental Sports entity and network is a multi-platform, multi-level investor and entrepreneur who was once founder of America Online (AOL). He maintains a state-of-the-art facility in Capitol One Arena (formerly Verizon Center, among other names) and a forward-looking approach to all things digital in sports.
Donna Lopiano – What does a six-time National Champion and a nine-time All-American at softball have to do to earn all-time great status on every sports list ever compiled? How about become the CEO of the Women’s Sports Foundation and later Sports Management Resources.
Susanne Lyons – (No relation) – The Board Chair and President of the USOC in this, the year of the 2020 Summer Games in Tokyo, deserves mention as one of the most influential in sports.
John Malone – The man with the money (all $7.2 billion of it)! Suffice to say, if you control the TV in this country, you control it all. The Chairman of Liberty Media, former head of TCI, and the billionaire media mogul who keeps a low profile in the world of communications is among the most powerful execs in all of business, never mind the sports on cable tv.
Rob Manfred – The 61-year old Manfred succeeded Bud Selig as Major League Baseball Commissioner in 2015 and has guided the league to stability and labor peace. Manfred is hitting his challenges (dwindling tv ratings, aging audiences, needing better digital strategy but MLBAM and the MLB.tv App remain the best in practice.
Brian McIntyre – Who on this list is the greatest PR Guy in sports history? ‘Nuff said.
Bob McKillop – Recently nominated for his rightful spot in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, McKillop keeps winning games at Davidson College, even though the A-10 Conference provides plenty of challenges. Who is the best coach in college or Carolina? Toss a coin for Coach K or McK.
Vince McMahon – The 74-year-old chairman and CEO of the WWE and founder of Alpha Entertainment, the holding company for the fledgling XFL football league is amongst the most well-known sports executives on the planet.
Al Michaels – Do you believe in Miracles? The miracle is that it’s nearly 40 YEARS since the Miracle on Ice in Lake Placid (1980 Winter Olympics) and the 75-year-old Michaels is still doing it all, including the play-by-play for the best weekly tv show in all the land with NBC’s Sunday Night Football telecasts.
Leigh Montville – Boston’s best writer and one-time Sports Illustrated scribe on call, Montville just might be the best sportswriter in the land. From books on the Babe and Ted Williams to the Mysterious Montague and Ali – Montville cranks it by Typing….
Jim Nantz – Was mentioned above but certainly deserves his own segment as the voice of CBS Sports and every “big” event aired on the network, including The Masters, the NCAA Final Four and Super Bowls.
Willie O’Ree – The sports documentary film WILLIE tells the story of the 84-year-old NHL pioneer better than any quick one-two liner written in this column. Be sure to see WILLIE when it is released.
Terry/Kim Pegula – In 2011, they saved the Buffalo Sabres (NHL) and in 2014, they placed the winning bid for the Buffalo Bills, with both moves cementing their place in Western New York State forever. Multi-billionaire family ties have expanded to NWHL and two NLL franchises. The family is also making a play into the Healthy Scratch franchise program.
Tony Ponturo – He once had Anheiser Busch (think Bud, Bud Light, among others), massive sports, tv/radio spending check-book but he now advises Turnkey Intel and teaches at NYU Tisch, Columbia and Wharton. He tried his hands on Broadway, too, with Lombardi, Magic/Bird and Bronx Bombers.
Bill Raftery – With Doc Emrick the only possible exception, Raft is the most beloved television personality in all the land. He’s earned his credentials as the dean of NCAA Final Four color commentary, combining efforts with Nantz and a youthful sidekick in Grant Hill. Raftery’s camaraderie with Jay Bilas on ESPN broadcasts is unmatched in current broadcasting teams.
Michael Rapino – The President and CEO of Live Nation Entertainment since 2005, Rapino serves-up 50 million tickets and some 35,000 events per year. Ticketmaster alone would merit praise, never mind the rest of Live Nation’s entertainment and sports juggernaut.
Bill Rhoden – The 69-year old worked as sports columnist at The New York Times from 1983 until his retirement in 2016 and informed/entertained all with his weekly Sunday morning appearances on ESPN’s The Sports Reporters.
Pat Riley – The 74-year old President, leader and guiding light of the Miami HEAT has done it all in the NBA, from playing to coaching the Showtime LA Lakers to coaching and leading the Knicks and HEAT. He’s got Miami quite competitive yet again in 2019-20.
Michele Roberts – The Executive Director of the NBA Players Association wields as much power as any exec in sports. Roberts took on her role at the NBPA in 2014. Recently, there were published reports of potential division in the ranks of the union, but that was denied by Chris Paul, the President of the NBA Players’ union.
Bob Ryan – When an NBA Insider shouts “Hey Commish,” Ryan responds. The anchor and dean of the Boston Globe sports pages, he remains quite busy in the Boston sports world with his Red Sox seasons tickets and his sports podcast with College sports/Hoops guru Jeff Goodman. Ryan prints an occasional column in the Sunday Globe.
Satch Sanders – The fact Sanders’ mention comes right next to Ryan’s would make the Boston Globe columnist quite proud. That’s Satch. First class and what the NBA is all about, as a leader, pioneer of the sport and of the Player Development departments in every team/league and a mentor to all who are fortunate enough to work alongside him. Sanders was just honoring fellow teammate Paul Silas at the Boston Garden’s annual “Tradition.”
Harvey Schiller – He’s done it all, from heading up the US Olympic Committee to running the YankeesNets regional sports network, from heading up the SEC Conference to becoming the President of Turner Sports. He’s also been recognized as a pioneer and innovator in sports.
Vin Scully – Although he is now retired, there is room to pay tribute to the best and that’s what Scully is/was/will always be when the discussion turns to baseball broadcasters. The 92-year-old Fordham man fully retired from LA Dodgers broadcasts as of September 2016. His final broadcast of a Dodgers’ home game vs Colorado will go down in history as one of the best of all-time.
Dave Sims – A possible surprise entry, but when the Seattle Mariners visit to ballparks such as Fenway Park, Yankee Stadium or pretty much anywhere – Sims is in demand, mainly for his friendly and professional relationships surrounding his many years in the game. The Mariners’ tv play-by-play man represents so many. We’re always glad to see/hear him.
John Skipper – The 64-year-old Executive Chairman of DAZN and former ESPN head is long into a revitalization after his December, 2017 resignation from the Worldwide Leader.
David Stern – The NBA announced its former NBA Commissioner, David Stern, was stricken with a sudden brain hemorrhage and underwent emergency surgery within minutes/hours of 911/EMS responders treating him at a Manhattan restaurant at lunchtime on December 12. The league updated his status on December 17 to state he remained in serious condition. Stern’s place in sports history remains obvious, as the entire industry supports and pulls for a full recovery in the days/weeks and months ahead. (on January 1, 2020, the NBA announced Stern had passed away).
Ted Turner – The first sports/tv/entrepreneur and icon. He founded Turner Networks, via TBS and later TNT and then the big step in cable news history with 24-hour CNN (Cable News Network) which changed everything. He was co-owner of the NBA Hawks and MLB’s Braves and is now retired, but influential.
Suzyn Waldman – Another member of the great year of 1946, the Newton, Mass born Waldman is the respected voice of the New York Yankees after working as a dedicated sportscaster (and theatrical actress and singer) including her stint as a founding member of WFAN-Radio in New York. She is the third woman to work full-time as major league team broadcaster.
Mike Wilbon/Tony Kornheiser -The daily ESPN “Pardon the Interruption” sports talk show has set the standard. Wilbon and his fellow Washington Post colleague bring it everyday and its great.
Kevin Warren – The new Commissioner of the Big Ten is one of the most respected execs in the college ranks. The attorney/sports exec was the highest ranking African-American team exec in the NFL. Now, he’ll take his talents to the Big Ten in Rosemont.
Zygi Wilf – Minnesota Vikings team owner, the chairman of the Minnesota Vikings Football LLC made his fortune as a New Jersey-raised real estate developer. He helped fund the U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, one of the most luxurious sports arenas in the land.
Rick Welts – One of Stern’s proteges, Welts is now in a league of his own as perhaps the very best sports executive in the nation. SportsTechie will honor the Golden State Warriors team president for that lofty position this coming March. Many others recognized his strengths decades ago.
Here Now, The Notes: The notes will be back to full strength on the first weekend of 2020.
Digital Sports Desk posts a once-a-week Sunday Notes column, entitled: “While We’re Young Ideas.” It’s a throwback of sorts to the days when sportswriting and the baseball beat were the best jobs in the entire sports industry, maybe the entire world. One of those sportswriters was named Dick Young and he wrote “Young Ideas” with a “Diamond Dust” section for notes and quotes. … We welcome feedback and suggestions (psst, they call ’em pitches) for mentions within “While We’re Young Ideas” or Digital Sports Desk. Please follow and encourage (at least) another person or two to plug into (@DigSportsDesk) (@WhileYoungIdeas) and (@terrylyons).