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Tigers and Red Wings Owner MIKE ILITCH "remains focused on a few dreams he has not yet achieved -- including a World Series crown," according to Mitch Albom of the DETROIT FREE PRESS. In a Q&A, the 82-year-old Ilitch "patiently and cheerfully discussed everything from his hopes for a World Series title to his thoughts on mortality." The following is an excerpt from the Q&A:
Q: Do you ever get sticker shock with player contracts -- like the one you just gave PRINCE FIELDER?
Ilitch: It's big numbers. Initially, they're unrealistic numbers. But if you want stars, you gotta pay the price. ... And fans want to see stars. They come out to see stars.
Q: Does the gamble still make you nervous?
Ilitch: Well, there's the business side and there's the instinct side. The business side tells me (Fielder's contract) might be a bit lengthy -- he'll be 36 at the end of it -- but my instincts tell me, "Go ahead, Mike." And I follow my instincts.
Q: Isn't that a little strange, they're gonna be with you for eight or nine years, all that money, and you're just meeting them for the first time?
Ilitch: Yeah. That's the risk. I'm thrilled to be getting (players) with such outstanding records. But ... I'm always prepared for a bust. If I couldn't handle it, I wouldn't dive in.
Q: Of all the players in both sports that you've signed, is there one that was the biggest bust?
Ilitch: (Pause.) Nobody jumps to mind.
Q: How about JUAN GONZALEZ?
Ilitch: Oh, that was a farce. That was an embarrassment. ... That was by far the worst one I was ever involved with.
Q: Some say that, because of your age, you're pulling out all the stops to win a World Series now -- and that's partly behind moves like Fielder's contract.
Ilitch: Yeah, there's truth to that. I want to do everything in my power to get the best shot, because time is running out. No use kidding myself.
Q: With STEVE YZERMAN's new career in Tampa, do you ever look back and feel badly that he wasn't able to stay with the Wings?
Ilitch: Yeah. ... When he came to tell us he was gonna leave, in that room right there, he said, "Where's Mrs. Ilitch?" And I said, "She's in the back. She can't handle this. She'll start to cry." I could see it kind of jolted him, it was that emotional. It was a shock because we all thought he was gonna stay here. But then things changed. He decided he wanted to be a GM.
Q: What about your new hockey arena?
Ilitch: It's gonna get done. ... It's gonna be downtown. I don't know if I'll see it built, but it'll get done. Definitely in the next few years. We've invested a lot of money in it already.
Q: Can you put into words what a World Series championship would mean to you?
Ilitch: I don't want to make a big deal of it. But I think, by my actions, it's pretty obvious (DETROIT FREE PRESS, 4/5).
In our continuing series, SportsBusiness Daily/SportsBusiness Journal asks top sports personalities for their thoughts, ideas, aspirations and likes. Today, Golf Digest Chair & Editorial Dir JERRY TARDE.
What I Like...
An insight: The most powerful question to ask yourself every day: What would you do if you had no fear?
An influential person in my career: Father HURLEY: Inspiring high school priest who forced me to decide between debating team and newspaper, which led me to forget the law and dive into journalism.
An out-of-the-box idea: How about a game that takes 150 acres, five hours a day and thousands of dollars a year to play. You'll never get any good, kids and old women will beat you, and once you play, you'll think it's the greatest game ever.
A timeless idea: Handwritten thank-you notes.
A business deal: Signing TIGER WOODS as a Golf Digest playing editor 1997-2011; not a bad run.
A sports facility: Augusta National, where chicken sandwiches are still $1.50.
A sports event: Open Championship at St. Andrews, where golf has been played for 500 years.
A hire: DAN JENKINS, when Sports Illustrated thought he was done. It turned out, he was only getting started.
A brand: Titleist -- built on the pyramid of influence.
A trend: Unleashing magazines on tablets: print goes Hollywood.
An innovation: GPS as publishing game-changer.
A pro league or team business initiative: Golf in the Olympics, Rio 2016.
A story that bears watching: DONALD TRUMP buying golf courses.
An idea or invention I wish I had thought of: Velcro.
A fantasy job: The one I have.
What I Like About...
My job: The people I get to hang out with.
Sports: The rule of law.
Sports business: Retiring to do what?
Sports media: Old enough to remember when Media was a bus stop in Greece.
Sports technology: NBC Golf simulcast on Golf Channel.
Competing: Is 100 percent preparation.
The future of sports business: Interactive cable programming.
Sports fans: Coming out to watch KEEGAN BRADLEY.
What I Would Like To…
Change: Making everything more affordable.
Change in what I do: Not have to go through airport security.
See: Tiger win and lose gracefully.
See more of in sports: Famous athletes signing autographs for kids.
See more of in sports business: Underpromising and overdelivering.
See less of in sports: Athletes so rich they disconnect from the fan.
See less of in sports business: Overpromising and underdelivering.
See different: Athletes saying what they really mean and not being pilloried by the media who asked the question.
Eliminate: Knee-jerk criticism of golf by pandering politicians.
What I Don’t Like…
In general: Having to park in a state other than the one in which the sporting event is being played.
Pet peeve: Golf commentators named “Sir Nick.”
In sports: Repeating the same TV commercials -- except for the ones with the baby who talks like an adult.
In business: Agents who tell you they’ve asked their player when you know they didn¹t.
About sports fans: Accepting rudeness and mediocrity.
What I Like…
People: Stealing a Dan Jenkins, I like people who like me.
About myself: That I’ve surrounded myself with people smarter than I am.
Heroes: PICASSO, because the moment he got good at something, he had the courage to stop doing it and move on.
Players: ARNOLD PALMER, because he unfailingly treats everyone with grace and humility.
Teams: Wake Forest Deacons, New York Yankees, American Ryder Cup team.
Possession: Golf Digest -- I think a sense of ownership is critical even when you’re a lowly employee like me.
Time of year: The Masters through British Open, because outdoors is better than indoors.
Magazines: The New Yorker, Vanity Fair, Hemmings.
Websites: Ours, of course, plus GeoffShackelford.com, Daily Beast.
iPad apps: Instagram, Rue La La, GolfLogix.
Chores: Answering email.
Hobbies: Fly-fishing, horse racing.
Trips: Three-day member-guests.
TV: The Masters, the Olympics.
Concerts: BEYONCE, ELTON JOHN
Food: Snapper soup at Pine Valley.
Dessert: Macaroons at the Links Club.
Scent: South Jersey pine.
Vacation spots: Abaco, the Bahamas; Manchester, Vt.
Quote: “In crisis management, there’s just four rules: Get it right, get it fast, get it out, get it over. … If you try and eliminate one of those steps, you’ve got troubles.” – WARREN BUFFETT
Brown Univ. named Hofstra Univ. AD JACK HAYES to the same position (PROJO.com, 4/5)….Ilitch Holdings named BRIAN BEAUFAIT Dir for its Little Caesars Amateur Sports program (Ilitch Holdings)….Lammi Sports Management named PETE MONFRE Senior VP/Sales (BIZJOURNALS.com, 3/30)….The Delaware Sports Commission named DAVID ARTHUR Exec Dir (DSC)….Earlham College named MIKE BERGUM AD (Earlham).
Do you have an executive announcement? If so, please send to email@example.com.
In Oklahoma City, Jason Kersey noted Vikings RB ADRIAN PETERSON yesterday pledged $1M to the Univ. of Oklahoma athletic department, "the largest gift ever to OU from a former Sooners football player." The donation "will go toward the construction of Headington Hall," a new dorm for student-athletes, and "will establish the Adrian Peterson Football Scholarship Endowment." In recognition of Peterson's gift, the football program "will rename its meeting room currently referred to as 'The Red Room,' to 'The Adrian Peterson Team Meeting Room'" (OKLAHOMAN, 4/5).
MASTERS DIVISION: In Charlotte, Ron Green Jr. notes The Masters has a “new, sprawling hospitality facility called Berckman’s Place” behind the fifth green and 16th hole, where a parking lot used to sit. If it is “possible to be understated and spectacular at the same time, it is.” It is “not small and it’s not open to everyone, but it’s very impressive” (CHARLOTTE OBSREVER, 4/6). Augusta National Chair BILLY PAYNE earlier in the week indicated that Berckman's Place "will be a substantial contributor to Masters Foundation for the growth of the game" (AUGUSTA.com, 4/4)....IBM CEO VIRGINIA ROMETTY "is expected to attend" The Masters this weekend in a move "that will likely bring more attention to a now-raging controversy over whether the all-male golf club should admit female members" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 4/6).
FRESH, MAN: In Louisville, Kyle Tucker notes Univ. of Kentucky C ANTHONY DAVIS appeared on ABC’s “JIMMY KIMMEL LIVE” Thursday night and “cracked a few jokes and successfully deflected Kimmel’s repeated attempts to get Davis to acknowledge his plans about staying in school or heading to the NBA.” Asked if UK basketball players “have to go to classes,” Davis said while smiling, “Coach Cal is forcing us to go to class. I don’t know why. We just won the national championship." Asked what the first thing he wants to buy when he goes to the NBA, Davis responded, “The first thing I’m going to buy is a car” (COURIER-JOURNAL.com, 4/6). For more on Davis' appearance, see Friday's issue of Morning Buzz.
NAMES: Lightning Owner JEFF VINIK "is part of a group that submitted an offer Wednesday to purchase the financially troubled Channelside Bay Plaza," the entertainment complex adjacent to the Tampa Bay Times Forum (TAMPA BAY TIMES, 4/6)....Yankees 3B ALEX RODRIGUEZ is officially on Facebook. While he established the page last September, Rodriguez "didn't start updating it until March 30" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 4/6). Rodriguez said, "I just felt the time was right. Social media has gotten so big now." He "already has 716,000 'likes'" (ESPN.com, 4/5)....Rapper NAS and guitarist GARY CLARK JR. will collaborate on music for ESPN’s live coverage of the NFL Draft, which airs April 26-28. Two songs, “Train” and “The Don,” from Nas’ upcoming album and Clark’s “Bright Lights” will be used “in highlight packages of draft prospects and as commercial bumpers.” Nas will also “add some original lyrics” to Clark’s song (HOLLYWOODREPORTER.com, 4/5)....In New Jersey, Rich Mardekian notes Yankees 2B ROBINSON CANO and Fuchs EMS and Medical Transportation Services of Fair Lawn are “collaborating on an ongoing goodwill initiative that is helping to standardize professional emergency medical care throughout the Dominican Republic.” Cano traveled to the Dominican Republican on Jan. 20 to “secure, donate and deliver seven modern ambulances to the City of San Pedro de Macoris” (Bergen RECORD, 4/6)....IndyCar and NASCAR team Owner CHIP GANASSI and Steelers coach MIKE TOMLIN attended Thursday’s Phillies-Pirates game. Tomlin was “wearing a No. 22 ANDREW MCCUTCHEN jersey and Aviator sunglasses” (PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE, 4/6).