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The man "most responsible for establishing the Ravens' winning culture" is GM OZZIE NEWSOME, who has "overseen the team since it ceased being the Cleveland Browns in 1996," according to Tim Graham of the BUFFALO NEWS. Ravens coach JOHN HARBAUGH on Tuesday said, "What makes Ozzie Newsome such a great general manager? Can I name the ways? How long would it take? It would be a long list." Newsome said, "I think it’s having the right relationship with the coach, the owner and the president. I try to make myself available. I try to be honest with any and everything that I try to tell them." NFL player agent JOE LINTA, who represents Ravens QB JOE FLACCO and C MATT BIRK, said, "The times that I have dealt with him, you never walk away not knowing where he’s coming from." Newsome "apparently is a master at all forms of player acquisition." Former Jets GM MIKE TANNENBAUM said, "He’s tough in trade negotiations. He is hard. He drives a tough bargain, a fair bargain. You’ve got to be prepared. We’ve proposed some things in the past, and he’s a formidable adversary when it comes to doing deals" (BUFFALO NEWS, 2/1).
FROM THE GROUND UP: SI.com's Don Banks wrote a win on Sunday would give Newsome two titles in the game's "salary-cap era, amid the restrictions of a free-agency system that demands the rebuilding of a roster every four years or so." This year's "rather unexpected Ravens Super Bowl run is the exclamation point on the most successful five-year period in the relocated franchise's relatively brief history." Former Colts, Panthers and Bills GM BILL POLIAN said, "What's impressive is that he's rebuilt that team in effect two or three times. ... For a general manager to keep a team in contention for 12 years, in this day and age in the salary cap era, it's the most difficult thing to do in sports." Banks wrote, "Talk to anyone who has watched Newsome and his work up close, and they'll repeat a variation of the same theme: He made the rare transition from great player to great team executive and personnel evaluator by prioritizing listening and learning before talking, and being able to assimilate vast amounts of information and condense it down to its most salient points" (SI.com, 1/31). SPORTING NEWS' Clifton Brown wrote Newsome is "superb at his craft, the architect of one of the NFL's most consistent franchises." He would "rather give credit than take it." Based on Newsome's history, the Ravens "should continue winning." The Ravens 12 years ago "won their first Super Bowl with a team that Newsome built." Brown: "Clearly, he has not lost his touch" (SPORTINGNEWS.com, 1/31).
STRONG & SILENT: In San Jose, Tim Kawakami wrote 49ers GM TRENT BAALKE "has -- no shock -- turned down all interview requests and dropped totally off-radar this week." Baalke is defined by the "talent he has added to the 49ers roster and by the lengths he'll go to avoid talking about how he's doing it." 49ers coach JIM HARBAUGH said, "He is in the get-the-job-done category, not the take-credit-for-getting-the-job-done category." Kawakami wrote Baalke is "100 percent scout, absorbed in the details of grinding through tape and research, and not at all in any of the public conversation." 49ers CEO JED YORK on Thursday jokingly said, "Has he ever talked?" Kawakami wrote there there are some "rare bits of knowledge" about Baalke. He "loves the Sharks and is close friends" with GM DOUG WILSON. He also is "a fitness freak" (MERCURYNEWS.com, 1/31). SI.com's Jim Trotter wrote Baalke "hates the spotlight as much as he does a selfish player." That attitude causes him to "get lost in Harbaugh's considerable shadow at times, but he's OK with it." For him the bottom line "is the team, and he works to ensure that Harbaugh and his talented staff have the necessary groceries to cook up a good meal" (SI.com, 1/31).
Pro Football HOF voters on Saturday “will consider a group of finalists that includes” late Ravens Owner ART MODELL, but his inclusion “is far from certain,” according to Mark Maske of the WASHINGTON POST. There is a “lingering bitterness about Modell’s decision to move his team from Cleveland to Baltimore.” Even with a new Browns franchise in Cleveland, “many in that region have refused to forgive Modell.” ESPN Cleveland's TONY GROSSI conducted a social media poll that showed 81.8% of 3,400 respondents "were against” Modell’s HOF candidacy. Still, Modell’s influence in “shaping the NFL" after he purchased the Browns in '61 for $4M is "undeniable.” He was the NFL’s Broadcast Committee Chair “for 31 years and helped orchestrate the launch” of “MNF.” He also “aided in the establishment of NFL Films.” Former Ravens coach and current Fox NFL analyst BRIAN BILLICK “called it ‘regrettable’ that sentiment over the team’s move from Cleveland could keep Modell from being enshrined in Canton, Ohio.” Current Ravens Owner STEVE BISCIOTTI said, “I’m not asking Cleveland to understand. I’m not even asking Cleveland to forgive. I just know that Cleveland’s rabid fans should not be the reason that they keep him out” (WASHINGTON POST, 2/1). Bisciotti added, "I do think he’s the most accomplished person in the history of the NFL that is not in" (ESPN.com, 1/31).
MAKING THE CASE: ESPN.com’s Jamison Hensley wrote Modell “eventually will make the Hall, and he undoubtedly deserves to be there.” There is “no debate that Modell contributed enormously to the sport's popularity and growth.” Hensley: “You simply can't write the history of pro football without Modell, which is the best reason anyone can give as to why his legacy should be honored in Canton.” Although fans will “never see any justification for uprooting a team, history says that shouldn't block Modell from going into the Hall of Fame.” It is “unfair for Hall of Fame voters to hold Modell to a different set of rules” than late Raiders Owner AL DAVIS, who relocated his team from Oakland to L.A., and late Rams Owner DAN REEVES, who moved the team from Cleveland to L.A. in '46 (ESPN.com, 1/31). In a special to the Cleveland PLAIN DEALER, Ravens GM OZZIE NEWSOME wrote, “Although I love the Baltimore Ravens and am proud to be the team's executive vice president and general manager, I never played for this team. I am a Brown. And I believe Art Modell should be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.” He added, “He was an architect of the game we love today.” Newsome: “To my benefit, but so historically important, Art Modell is the first owner in NFL history to hire a minority to run his football team. I will be forever grateful for that” (Cleveland PLAIN DEALER, 1/31).
DOUBLE WHAMMY: FOXSPORTSOHIO.com’s Pat McManamon wrote Modell “fired PAUL BROWN, the greatest coach and greatest innovator in NFL history,” and that “move alone changed the fortune of a franchise.” Modell also “hastened JIM BROWN’s retirement" by getting into a contract spat because he wanted Brown to return from filming "The Dirty Dozen" in time for training camp. Modell “didn’t give, and ran Brown away from the game.” The HOF is for “the best of the best, the most special players and people from NFL history.” It is “not a Hall of sentimentality or perceived influence.” McManamon: “With respect to a lot of good people in Baltimore whose opinions are worthy of respect, Modell doesn’t meet the standard” (FOXSPORTSOHIO.com , 1/31).
THAT'S OLD SCHOOL: In N.Y., Mike Vaccaro wrote a common theme for both Modell and former 49ers Owner EDDIE DEBARTOLO is that their “shadows loom, their influences remain.” Both men "wound up ceding control of their teams before they really wanted to.” DeBartolo was 21 years younger, but “in many ways his ownership reflected that old-school version of the NFL: paternalistic, parochial, perennial.” One of the “staples of old NFL Films is the sight of DeBartolo, drenched with champagne, hugging every one of his players after a big win.” Vaccaro: “Not just JOE MONTANA. Not just ROGER CRAIG. Everyone. Modell was exactly the same” (N.Y. POST, 1/29).
In New Orleans, Keith Spera wrote in the “annals of Super Bowl 2013 corporate branding, perhaps no company’s efforts are more ambitious than Bud Light’s." The beer brand “has, literally, taken over the Wyndham Riverfront New Orleans Hotel” and re-branded it the Bud Light Hotel. The company long ago “blocked out all 200 rooms,” and those rooms are “now stocked with Bud Light towels, pillows and shampoo bottles.” New carpet and lighting are colored “Bud Light blue.” The temporary construction projects are “more dramatic,” with the front cab stand and driveway “converted into a VIP lounge; the fountain now sprouts bottles of Bud Light.” There also is a “3,500-capacity tent erected in the parking lot.” That tent will host “three of Super Bowl week’s biggest private concerts.” On Thursday night, LIL WAYNE and BIG BOI performed in the tent, and EA Sports’ Madden Bowl video game competition was held there as well. On Friday, there will be the Rolling Stone Live party with PITBULL and FLO RIDA and a Saturday concert with STEVIE WONDER and GARY CLARK JR. In addition to the Wyndham, Bud Light “also blocked out the nearby Queen & Crescent Hotel on Camp Street to host staffers and additional guests” (NOLA.com, 1/31).
SCENE & HEARD ON THURSDAY: ESPN’s MIKE DITKA, SUZY KOLBER, ADAM SCHEFTER and SAGE STEELE, along with former NFLer DONOVAN MCNABB and Pro Football HOFer THURMAN THOMAS, attended ESPN’s RON JAWORSKI’s Super Bowl charity fundraiser at the Bourbon Vieux nightclub (NOLA.com, 1/31).
FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS: Saints QB DREW BREES will host a Hurricane Sandy Relief Concert with NELLY and SWIZZ BEATS at the House of Blues. All proceeds will “benefit Drew Brees Foundation and Hurricane Sandy relief.” Meanwhile, VH1 and the NFL will host “VH1’s Best Super Bowl Concert Ever” at the Sugar Mill in the Warehouse District. The event is hosted by MICHAEL STRAHAN and CARRIE KEAGAN and will feature music by TRAIN (Baton Rouge ADVOCATE, 1/30)....Axxis Sports & Entertainment will host the 10th annual “Leather & Laces” party with guests to include KENDRA WILKINSON and JENNY MCCARTHY on Friday night and RACHAEL LEIGH COOK and BROOKLYN DECKER on Saturday night (Axxis).
SOIREES ON SATURDAY: JAY-Z will host a pre-Bowl bash for “flamboyantly titled D’Usse Cognac.” Later in the night, BEYONCE’s sister SOLANGE “will DJ with DIPLO at Audi’s After Hours party” (N.Y. POST, 1/29)….The Taste of the NFL will feature Travel Channel’s ANDREW ZIMMERN, “Cake Boss” chefs JOEY FAUGNO and MAURO CASTANO and Miss America MALLORY HAGAN. SOUL ASYLUM will play beginning at 10:00pm CT (NOLA.com, 1/29)….The Seventh Annual DirecTV Celebrity Beach Bowl “will take place at Blaine Kern’s Mardi Gras World,” which was filled with “more than 1 million pounds of sand to accommodate the bowl” (Baton Rouge ADVOCATE, 1/30)….Country music group RASCAL FLATTS and rock group JOURNEY will “perform together on stage at the Sugar Mill in a free show” (USA TODAY, 1/31)....The Gridiron Celebrity Hoops XV at Xavier Univ. of Louisiana will feature TERRELL OWENS, JAMIE FOXX, DEZ BRYANT, LANCE MOORE, DOMINIQUE RODGERS-CROMARTIE, DESEAN JACKSON and DARNELL DOCKETT (THE DAILY).
Fox Sports Digital named Yardbarker co-Founder & CEO PETE VLASTELICA Senior VP/Digital. Vlastelica replaces JEFF HUSVAR, who had been Fox Sports Digital Exec VP & GM since December '09, and will now shift to a new role within Fox Sports working on special projects and business development aiding network co-Presidents & co-COOs ERIC SHANKS and RANDY FREER. Fox Sports purchased Yardbarker in October '10, a deal overseen by Husvar. Since then, Vlastelica has assumed a broader role within Fox Sports' digital operations as Senior VP/Product Strategy. Vlastelica will now report directly to Shanks and Freer, and have oversight for FoxSports.com, Fox Sports Next, Fox Sports Local, Yardbarker and WhatIfSports.com. He also will have a parallel role to Fox Sports Senior VP/Mobile & Advanced Platforms CLARK PIERCE, with work in collaboration with Pierce. The leadership shift is one of additional planned changes for FoxSports.com over the coming year (Eric Fisher, SportsBusiness Journal).
BOSTON TEAM PARTY: The Red Sox named Phillies Baseball Communications Manager KEVIN GREGG Media Relations Dir, replacing PAM KENN, who was promoted to Senior Public Affairs Dir (Red Sox)....NESN named former NBC Sports Network Coordinating Producer MIKE BAKER Remote Coordinating Producer for Red Sox telecasts (NESN).
CAMPUS CONNECTION: Old Dominion Univ. named B.J. BURTON Dir of Olympic Sports Marketing & Baseball Operations (ODU)….UNC-Wilmington named Development Dir ADAM KEEN Associate AD/Major Gifts (UNCW)....Arkansas State Univ. named Mercer Univ. Assistant AD/Compliance JOEL WEEMS Associate AD/Compliance (ASU).
EXECS: WWE named MONTY SARHAN General Counsel & Senior VP. Sarhan replaces MICHAEL LUISI, who was promoted to WWE Studios President. Sarhan will report to Chair & CEO VINCE MCMAHON (WWE)....Billy Casper Golf appointed KYLE RAGSDALE to the newly-created CMO position. Ragsdale previously was Vox Media VP/Business Affairs & Finance (Billy Casper Golf).
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In London, John Lichfield reported DAVID BECKHAM's US$13.4M per year contract with Ligue 1 club Paris Saint-Germain "will be given to a children's charity" in the French capital. Beckham said, "It's always for me about playing football. But one of the reasons why I agreed to come to Paris is that I won't receive any salary." Lichfield: "Cynics might suggest that this is a neat way of avoiding the punitive new taxes on the super-rich which are to be introduced in France later this year" (INDEPENDENTco.uk, 1/31). Also in London, Ben Rumsby reports PSG will "pay accommodation and security expenses for Beckham and his family while they are in Paris but he will be paid nothing else" (London TELEGRAPH, 2/1). Meanwhile, in London, Oliver Kay writes the move "will only strengthen Brand Beckham" (LONDON TIMES, 2/1).
MAN OF THE HOUR: SI's Michael Bamberger profiles PGA of America President TED BISHOP and writes the recent ban on anchoring putters "would have been a big issue without Bishop, but he has made it much bigger and he has been comfortable through it all." The debate is "probably the most important issue the PGA has faced since the breakaway, not counting the 1990 Shoal Creek debacle." But Bishop looks as if he has "stood in front of rolling cameras all his life." Golfer DAVIS LOVE III said, "He's comfortable because he's prepared." Bamberger writes Bishop "refuses to look at his term as a ceremonial, same-old, same-old stint with a rubber stamp in hand." Bamberger: "He's an analytical man, a jocky wonk" (SI GOLF, 2/'13 issue).
ON ROCKY TOP: If the Univ. of Tennessee football team makes a bowl game, "every coach will receive" an 8.33% bonus. Coaches will receive a 12% bonus for "making an upper-tier SEC bowl -- the Capital One, Outback, Cotton or Chick-fil-A bowls -- and 16 percent for an appearance in a BCS bowl or the new four-team playoff." An SEC title-game appearance or a BCS title win are "worth an extra 4 percent each." The coaches also will "receive $5,000 annually from camp revenues" (KNOXVILLE NEWS-SENTINEL, 1/31).
NAMES: The NFLPA on Thursday awarded Steelers QB CHARLIE BATCH with the Byron "Whizzer" White Award. The award comes with a $100,000 donation to the Best of the Batch Foundation, which was founded in '00 (PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE, 2/1)....Warriors F DAVID LEE will donate $250 to the Us Against Cancer charity for every win the team amasses during the ’12-13 season (Warriors)….T’Wolves F DERRICK WILLIAMS, along a close friend, will open a streetwear store for men in downtown Tucson, Ariz., which is “scheduled to open Feb. 15” (ARIZONA DAILY STAR, 1/31)….The PGA Tour named The Players Championship Sales & Marketing Dir JARED RICE as its top sales person for ’12 (PGA Tour)….NASCAR driver BRAD KESELOWSKI on Thursday was honored at the Michigan State Capitol. The governor’s office also “proclaimed Saturday as ‘Brad Keselowski Day’ around the state” (DETROIT FREE PRESS, 2/1)….Former MLBer MARK GRACE on Thursday in a Scottsdale, Ariz. court pleaded "guilty to endangerment and DUI," and by doing so avoided “what could have been a lengthy prison sentence.” A judge imposed a sentence that includes "work-release jail time as well as three years of supervised probation" (AZCENTRAL.com, 1/31)….Pro Football HOFer THURMAN THOMAS' new sports bar inside the Batavia Downs Casino will be called "34 Rush" (THEDAILYNEWSONLINE.com, 1/31).