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My funeral can’t be any better than this. When I found out I was getting this award, the thought came to me that I had to come up with something really good to express my appreciation, my humbleness, and how delighted I was. But I couldn’t think of anything to say. Until I came across some of the thoughts of the greatest of American philosophers, Yogi Berra. Yogi, upon receiving an award, said he wanted to thank all the people who made this award necessary.
Lifetime Achievement Award winner Jerry Reinsdorf: “I just like to have ideas, and get other people to do the work.”
Photo by:ROXXE IRELAND AND MARC BRYAN-BROWN
I’ve always worked hard, and I’ve tried to be totally honest. But honestly, luck and the work of others have played a much larger part in my success than my own efforts. If I tried to list all the people to whom I’m indebted, I would bore you to tears, so I won’t do that. But in addition to Bud Selig and Bowie Kuhn, who got me into baseball, there are four people who I do need to mention. One is my late friend Sanford Takiff, who befriended me when I first arrived in Chicago and made my wife and I members of the family. Then there is Allan Muchin, who I met in 1961 when we were young lawyers in the IRS. Those were the days when people respected the IRS. He’s been a partner of mine in everything I’ve ever done. Bob Judelson has been my partner since 1970 and he keeps me humble by constantly reminding me of my many shortcomings. And then there is Howard Pizer, who’s been my partner since 1972. Though I’m the one who gets all the credit, he enables me to be a big-picture guy while he does all the work. And he keeps me out of trouble. If anything happened to Howard, I would retire the day after. And he’s the one guy to tell me I’m wrong, and usually he’s right.
The chief executive officer in my business really has the easiest job, because he really doesn’t do anything himself. His job is really three things: long-range planning, public relations and then identifying the jobs that have to be filled, putting the right people in those jobs, and putting people in those jobs who can do it better than he or she can do them themselves. I’ve been blessed to have the greatest people working with me. It’s been a wonderful thing, and why I’ve been successful. Believe me, I’m not a hard worker. I just like to have ideas, and get other people to do the work.
I’ve been blessed with a great family. My parents worked and sacrificed so I could get the education they never had. And they instilled values in me that have been with me my whole life. I hope I’ve passed those values on to my children and grandchildren. I have a wife who permitted me to chase my dreams. My children and their spouses are wonderful and have given me grandchildren who bring me joy every day. My daughter-in-law Nancy is so good that if she ever left my son, Michael, I’d go with her.
Those of us in team sports are very lucky, very, very lucky. Not only because we don’t have real jobs, but because you’re able to bring joy to so many people and we can make the world a better place. The six Bulls championships were celebrated by hundreds of thousands of people, rallies in Grant Park. It brought such joy, and for people in their own minds, changed their lives. The Bulls of Jordan and Pippen weren’t America’s team, it was really the world’s team. It used to be that if you traveled around and said you were from Chicago, somebody would say, “Al Capone, rat-tat-tat-tat.” But after Jordan, if you were traveling someplace and said you were from Chicago, everybody always says, “Michael Jordan. Michael Jordan.” The Bulls changed the view of people all over the world. But for all the championships the Bulls have won, my favorite team was the one that we just saw this year, the one that just lost in the playoffs. They proved that heart and grit and determination can win against vastly superior talent. And I think fans are as proud of that team as they are the championship teams.
Making a community happy, though, the topper of them all is the 2005 World Series team. You could have gone to any cemetery in the Chicago area the next day and the graves everywhere were decorated with White Sox paraphernalia, including that of the late Richard J. Daley. On the parade route, we had an estimated 2 million people. And there wasn’t a single arrest. There were people of all walks of life out on the parade route. The president of the Chicago Federal Reserve was wearing a White Sox jersey. There was a young boy holding a sign, “I’ve been waiting six years for this.” But in reality, it was really 88 years and there was hardly a soul who was still alive and was present for the prior championship. And then Paulie [Konerko] gave me the ball, and you saw that was a tremendously emotional moment. But the joy the teams bring to their fans really brings home the fact that we who own teams are not the real owners. We are just custodians. The real owners are the fans. The teams are theirs and we have the privilege of running them.
While winning is wonderful, you can’t do it very often. And what I’m really most proud of from being in sports are the things that sports teams do for their communities. Bud Selig often says that baseball is a social institution and has great responsibilities. He constantly exhorts us to take that responsibility seriously. David Stern has made the NBA a world-class doer of good things. Both of my clubs have given millions of dollars to worthy causes and have numerous programs of which I am extremely proud. The White Sox have an inner-city baseball program called ACE, Amateur City Elite. The players in this program, more than 60 of them, have received college scholarships to go play baseball. They’re growing baseball players, but more importantly, they’re growing kids who go to college and get an education. The White Sox have a volunteer corps with more than 6,000 members. What we have here are 6,000 people who would like to do some good. But they don’t know what they can do by themselves. And by aggregating them into a corps, they can work together. We have more than 30 events a year and we do such things like refurbishing schools and rebuilding parks. And my grandchildren have been out cleaning up parks, planting, painting a school. I was painting at a school. They had to go over what I did because it wasn’t that good. The Bulls built the James Jordan Boys & Girls Club. The players of both teams are constantly at hospitals and schools. Thousands of items are donated for charity auctions. Robin Ventura, our current manager, when he was a player, he went to what was then called Children’s Memorial Hospital in Chicago. He befriended a young boy who was given months to live. This boy was terminal. Robin kept in touch with him. He kept in touch with him. And then a funny thing happened. The kid never died. And today, he’s in his 30s. And Robin and this boy went back to Children’s recently to tell their story to all these poor kids who are fighting for their lives. And what an inspiration it was for the kids.
Many players of ours have their own foundations and causes they support. Last year, Bulls players made nearly 250 charitable appearances. Former players made about 120 appearances. Last year, 13,000 people were part of Bulls community events. The White Sox have similar statistics. We give away thousands of tickets every year to inner-city kids and organizations like the Make-A-Wish Foundation. All active members of the U.S. military are admitted free to White Sox games and all policemen and firemen get two free tickets every year. A serviceman or woman is honored every night and this a heart-rending thing. But every night, some serviceman is honored and every night, there’s a standing ovation from the fans.
While I’m proud of everything the Bulls and White Sox do in the community, we’re not unique. Through the leadership of Commissioners Stern and Selig, virtually all teams in both leagues have an incredible effect on their communities. We learned today that Kevin Durant gave a million dollars to the victims of the Oklahoma tornadoes. So many players from so many teams make contributions to society. And that’s why I’m proud to be in sports, for the good that is done. While we may argue with our players unions every few years in collective bargaining, both unions are tremendously supportive of what the players do, and without their support we could not do what we do.
When I was growing up in Brooklyn, there were only two things I wanted in life. I wanted a car. My father almost never had a car, and when he did, it was almost always 15 years old. And I wanted the Dodgers to win the World Series. And every year, we lost to the Yankees until 1955 when we finally won the World Series. And to me at that point, in my 19-year-old life, that was the best thing that ever happened. But I never imagined that I would own teams. And that I would meet people like Tony La Russa, Michael Jordan, Bo Jackson, Frank Thomas, Phil Jackson, Scottie Pippen, Charley Lau, a true genius who belongs in the Hall of Fame. I certainly never imagined I would meet those people. And I certainly never imagined that instead of asking them for their autographs, I would give them my autograph on their checks.
This award tonight indicates that my life is in the fourth quarter or perhaps the eighth or ninth inning. But I am hoping for triple overtime or a lot of extra innings. Thank you very much.
USOC CEO Scott Blackmun
Sports League of the Year
U.S. Olympic Committee
Best in Sports Media
NBC Sports Group
Best in Property Consulting, Sales and Client Services
Sports Sponsor of the Year
Sports Team of the Year
Oklahoma City Thunder
Best in Sports Television
Best in Corporate Consulting, Marketing and Client Services
Athletic Director of the Year
Alabama’s Mal Moore (posthumous)
Sports Event of the Year
2012 U.S. Grand Prix
Best in Digital Sports Media
ESPN Digital Media
Sports Facility of the Year
Best in Talent Representation and Management
Best in Sports Technology
MLB Advanced Media
Best in Sports Event and Experiential Marketing
The organization, which was publicly derided by Dick Ebersol in 2009 as dysfunctional following an embarrassing Olympic bid failure, earned two of the top honors at the 2013 Sports Business Awards when it was named Sports League of the Year and its chief executive, Scott Blackmun, was named Executive of the Year.
USOC CEO Scott Blackmun
Photo by:ROXXE IRELAND, MARC BRYAN-BROWN
The USOC topped the NFL, NBA, MLB and PGA Tour to win its category. Blackmun beat out a field of nominees that included Time Warner Cable’s Melinda Witmer, NBC Sports Group’s Mark Lazarus, ESPN’s John Skipper and Los Angeles Dodgers owner Mark Walter.
Their recognition came on the heels of a year in which the USOC signed a landmark revenue-sharing agreement with the International Olympic Committee, landed new sponsors by partnering with NBC to sell joint sponsorship and TV advertising packages, and fielded a U.S. Olympic team that won both the gold-medal count and overall medal count at the 2012 London Games.
“They’ve had a great run and had a great 2012, and they seem to be set up to have a great future as they solidify their sponsor family and look to host the Olympics back in the U.S. in the next decade,” said Gary Zenkel, president of NBC Olympics.
Sixteen trophies were awarded at the ceremony in New York City last week.
Photos by:ROXXE IRELAND, MARC BRYAN-BROWN
But despite its success in London, NBC took only one of the three media awards. Its competitor, ESPN, which locked up long-term rights deals in 2012 with MLB, the Big 12 and ACC, won the Sports Television category. The company also won in Digital Sports Media, largely because of its WatchESPN application and the traffic growth of ESPN.com.
Anheuser-Busch, which sponsors the USOC, NFL, PGA Tour, MLS and MLB, was named Sponsor of the Year. Despite being one of sports’ biggest spenders, last week marked the first time the beer company had been recognized at the Sports Business Awards. It distinguished itself from Coca-Cola, BMW, Pepsi, Sprint and Visa by signing a long-term extension with MLB and creating the Bud Light Hotel, taking over a 200-room hotel in New Orleans during the Super Bowl and hosting private concerts with Lil Wayne and Pit Bull.
“It’s easy to take A-B for granted when it comes to sports marketing,” said Blaise D’Sylva, vice president, media, sports and entertainment marketing at Anheuser-Busch. “But sports marketing at A-B is much more than a 30-second commercial in a broadcast and more than a sign in a stadium. It’s the collective people across our entire organization working with our external partners to leverage sports and beer in innovative and exciting and relevant ways to drive brand health and, ultimately, sales.”
Octagon, which works with A-B, rounded out the list of winners with ties to the Olympics. The agency was recognized as the best in the Corporate Consulting, Marketing and Client Services category, following a year in which it oversaw effective marketing efforts by Olympic sponsors such as BMW and Cisco.
While the night celebrated the achievements of many across the sports industry, it also included some emotional moments. The late Mal Moore, who died earlier this year, was named Athletic Director of the Year, and University of Alabama President Judy Bonner and Moore’s daughter, Heather Cook, accepted the award on his behalf.
“Mal would be humbled to be selected for this distinguished award,” Bonner said. “Make no mistake, we are a long way from Dozier, Ala., where Mal was born, a population of 391. The lights of New York City were something Mal would have certainly cherished this evening. He would have been so touched and honored to be here.”
About 650 attended the event, held at the Marriott Marquis at Times Square.
Photo by:ROXXE IRELAND, MARC BRYAN-BROWN
“My remarks tonight would be drastically different than they would have been a week ago,” said Dan Mahoney, the Thunder’s vice president of corporate communications. “In sports, we talk a lot about ratings, revenue and numbers. All very important. But at the Thunder, our goal every day is the consistency of carrying out what we represent as an organization — community, resilience, team is one, together. It’s not just slogans. It’s what drives everyone in our organization every day. That message has never been more meaningful than it’s been the last 48 hours.”
The Thunder was one of two NBA-affiliated organizations recognized at the event. The Barclays Center, which is home to the Brooklyn Nets, was named Facility of the Year.
Barclays Center was one of two facilities recognized with an award after overcoming major obstacles. The Circuit of the Americas, a Formula One track in Austin, Texas, that was nearly derailed in 2011 by a conflict between race organizers and track developers, was honored as Event of the Year for its success in hosting the U.S. Grand Prix.
“There was some doubt whether our project would happen, but we hustled and we had a great team and a great group of owners behind us the whole way,” COTA President Steve Sexton said. “We embarked on a nine-month journey, pulled the construction together, pulled the race off amidst a lot of complicated logistics. Had a great group of fans. I’m really proud of the team that pulled this off.”