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Volume 24 No. 158

People and Pop Culture

Burton completes his first novel,
"The Darkest Mission"
Syracuse Univ. David B. Falk Professor of Sport Management RICK BURTON has taken his first step toward becoming a literary giant in the thriller genre by completing his first novel, "THE DARKEST MISSION." The book incorporates his passion for sports and history, and weaves a tale beginning in the skies over Berlinin a B-17 bomber during World War II. It follows a sadistic Nazi colonel, incorporating the dreaded East German Stasi secret police and continuing on through the intrigue of the Cold War and beyond. The book is scheduled to be released today from publisher Long Reef Press. It initially will be available through, but eventually can be purchased at most traditional retailers. For his first interview on the novel, Burton spoke with Television Editor Paul Sanford about the creative process, literature and whether readers can expect more literary projects from him in the future.


Summer vacation plans: I'm going to London next week speaking at an Olympic conference over there and then going to Lausanne, Switzerland, for some work with Syracuse University tied to the Olympics and then a university in Greece asked me to teach a course in sponsorship in ancient Olympia in June. If I can put it all together, I'll probably be back to Australia sometime in July.

Q: What was the inspiration for the novel?

Burton: In 1983 or so when I was working for Miller Brewing Company I was in public relations there and I got a letter from a radio operator from a B-17 and it was the 40th anniversary of their last flight. They had named their B-17 after the Miller High Life product and back in the '40s, the Miller High Life logo was a girl sitting on a crescent moon. This guy had sent in a letter saying would we be interested in helping them get together for a reunion. So it was kind of an early day sponsorship, and it was nothing more than we'd all like to get together in Milwaukee and see each other. I put it together ... and I fell in love with the B-17 and the concept of 10 guys in a plane all having to work together as a team. I had this big sports background and I thought to myself, "I'd love to create a story that has a B-17 in it." I think that's the earliest genesis of where this book comes from.

Q: So have you been sitting on this idea for 28 years or so?

Burton: It's been a long time kind of brewing, and I finally pulled all the different pieces together really across the last two years and was finally comfortable enough (to write it). The book industry and the way people read thrillers has changed ... so when you write a thriller you've got to actually keep the pace moving, and what I had to do was keep refining this. I had to make the plot and the pace go faster and faster because that's pretty much what people want to read. If you're going to read a thriller, you want to be thrilled.

Q: How long did it take to write the book?

Burton: It's probably taken me the better part of the last year to pull all the pieces together. Anytime you write a whodunit or a mystery you've got to actually almost like work backwards from your endgame, and you've got to make sure that nothing that happens in the early chapters doesn't throw off what's going to happen in the later chapters. I would say certainly in the last two years I've been able to really get the thing completely tied up.

Q: One of your main characters is an ex-NFL linebacker turned priest. Is the character based on a real NFLer?

Burton: He's not but it references it in the book that I have him play for the Green Bay Packers and I have him kind of influenced by REGGIE WHITE. I think Reggie was less of a traditional priest, and I allowed my character, who needed to be a unique character and not really based anyone, to have been influenced by Reggie in seeing that that kind of spirituality figured into modern sport.

Q: Who are some of your literary heroes?

Burton: The guy that I probably read the most of when I was a kid was ALISTAIR MACLEAN and as I came through time JOHN LE CARRE, KEN FOLLETT, ROBERT LUDLUM, and I'm undoubtedly writing in space that those guys have kind of travelled over. But that was the style I wanted to draw from.

Q: Was writing a novel on your bucket list?

Burton: I was just out of college and I went for a job interview with Miller Beer in Fulton, New York, and I got to the plant manager and the plant manager asked one of those standard, trick questions that you ask of candidates. He said, "What do you see yourself doing five years from now?" As a 21-year-old I couldn't imagine five years from now, and I said to him, "Well, I've always wanted to write the great American novel, and five years from now I'd like to do that." Of course, that is completely the wrong answer, and as it turned out I didn't get the job. ... I didn't write that great American novel five years later; I wrote it kind of 30 years later, and I don't want to be a one-trick pony. Once you try and commit yourself to the concept that you're a writer, the jump to novelist is that much harder.

Q: Are there other writing projects you would like to do?

Burton: I want to write another World War II-themed novel. But there's also a lot of interest in possibly doing a sports-themed novel, and that's where I have probably much more cache having been in the industry for the last 35 years. I think if I made it even more of a sports book than what this one is it could have a lot of appeal.

In our continuing series, SportsBusiness Daily/SportsBusiness Journal asks top sports personalities for their thoughts, ideas, aspirations and likes. Today, PBR CEO JIM HAWORTH.

What I like in an insight: Always look for light in the darkness. Also, be aware of the darkness in the light.

An influential person in my career: My grandfather who owned and ran the largest appliance dealership in central Missouri until he was 92.

An out-of-the-box idea: Cut most meetings short and make a decision.

A timeless idea: Listen to the customers which, in our case, would be the fans.

A business deal: I worked with a consortium of banks in Thailand to help bring foreign currency into China.

A sports facility: Cowboys Stadium (What a TV set!).

A sports event: Professional Bull Riders' "Last Cowboy Standing" in 2010. 48,000 fans were in attendance.

A strategy: Hire people who are passionate about their jobs.

A hire: People with charisma, but it's important to make sure they know how to listen, too.

A brand: The iconic image of the cowboy has withstood the test of time. It's an iconography that represents integrity and toughness.

A trend: People want to be inspired.

An innovation: iPad, iTunes.

A pro league or team business initiative: You need to maintain the competition, but it's also important to understand that it's about entertainment.

A story that bears watching: The growth of the Chinese economy.

An idea or invention I wish I had thought of: The iPad.

A fantasy job: CEO of the PBR.

What I like about my job: I've loved the western lifestyle since I was a boy.

Sports: Seeing an athlete accomplish great things in the face of adversity.

Sports business: Passionate fans.

Sports media and technology: It has truly become a global environment, where we have access to any story that interests us from anywhere in the world. For example, one living in China can watch the Premier League being broadcast in the U.K., which is being beamed through a station in South Africa and back to China.

Competing: I like to win!

The future (or direction) of sports business: As technology continues to evolve, sports properties will have the ability to capture more and more of consumers' behaviors, such as purchasing habits, interests, web searches, etc.

Sports fans: The love of the game and wanting their team or athlete to win.

What I would like to change: Have a world without boundaries.

Change in what I do: I am very structured in my thought process and I would like to be more abstract.

See: PBR in every home.

See more of in sports: Sportsmanship.

See more of in sports business: Listening to the fans.

See less of in sports business: You have to make a profit, but keep the greater good of the sport in mind.

Eliminate: Poor sportsmanship.

What I don't like in general: People who say something, but don't mean it.

Pet peeve: Inconsistent speed limits.

In sports: Athletes who don't support one another.

In business: People who are afraid to fail.

What I like in people: Those who are genuine.

That would surprise those who know me: The Wicked Witch from "The Wizard of Oz" scares me.

Above all else: Remember family, friends and faith.

About myself: Ability to stay calm under pressure.

Heroes: My mother, father and grandfather.


Teams: University of Central Missouri Jennies.

City: Shanghai.

Possession: Don't hold things too tight -- they're not that important.

Memento: Family memories of the life we've lived.

Time of year (because): Fall, I love watching the trees and leaves change in the Ozarks.

Music: I like it (all of it).

Books: Self-help books; "The Purpose Driven Life," by RICK WARREN; "King of the Cowboys," by TY MURRAY.


Magazines: Men's Fitness, Robb Report, Cowboys & Indians, Forbes.

Websites:,, Yahoo Finance,, (The Motley Fool).

Gadgets: iPad, RFID, future technology.

Chores: Washing car, grilling, feeding horses.

Hobbies: Hunting, working out, horses and family.

Trips: St. Lucia.

Movies: "The Outlaw Josey Wales."

TV: CNBC, RFD-TV, Versus.

Concerts: A private TOBY KEITH concert with 500 of my closest friends.


Food: Mexican and Sushi.

Dessert: Sweet potato casserole with a scoop of ice cream from Ruth's Chris.

Drink: Diet Pepsi.

Scent: Code Blue.

Vacation spots: My ranch in Oklahoma.

Cars: F-350 Dually.


Quote: SAM WALTON, founder of Wal-Mart and Sam's Club: "We need mavericks to balance out the common point of view. Swim up stream -- challenge the assumption that the usual is the best."

The 49ers have "parted ways" with Exec VP/Football Administration LAL HENEGHAN. During his five seasons with the club, he "oversaw all aspects of the day-to-day football administration, as well as legal affairs" (, 5/11)....The Bills named CHUCK COOK Dir of College Scouting and TOM GIBBONS Dir of Pro Personnel. Cook previously served as a regional scout for the Dolphins, while Gibbons was a scout for the Chargers. Bills Exec VP & GM BUDDY NIX said that the moves "complete any offseason reorganization of the scouting department" (, 5/11)....The Western & Southern Open named Bengals Dir of Corporate Sales & Marketing VINCE CICERO Tournament Dir, replacing BRUCE FLORY, who was "relieved of his duties" by the USTA in January. Cicero will begin his duties May 31 (CINCINNATI ENQUIRER, 5/12).

EXECS: The USGA promoted Deputy Exec Dir MIKE BUTZ to Senior Managing Dir for Open Championships & Association Relations and Communications Managing Dir RAND JERRIS to Senior Managing Dir of Public Services. Senior Dir of Handicapping KEVIN O'CONNOR will be leaving the USGA this month (GOLFWEEK, 5/13 issue)....Oregon State Univ. AD BOB DE CAROLIS has signed a five-year contract extension effective July 1 (OSU)....University of California-Davis AD GREG WARZECKA is retiring effective June 30 after 16 years on the job. Senior Associate AD NONA RICHARDSON has been appointed interim AD (UC Davis)....Loyola Univ.-Chicago named Indiana Univ. Senior Assistant AD PAT KRAFT Senior Associate AD for External Operations (Loyola)....The AHL Worcester Sharks named Analog Group Senior Technical Recruiter PAUL ALTMEYER JR. Dir of Corporate Sales and promoted Inside Sales Rep KRISTYN GALANTE to Account Exec (Worcester Sharks).  

Do you have an executive announcement? If so, please send to

In N.Y., Julie Macur notes PETER VIDMAR lasted in the role of U.S. chef de mission for the '12 London Games "for only eight days" before resigning last Friday, "after several reports revealed that he had supported initiatives against same-sex marriage." 776 Original Marketing CEO and former USOC CEO JIM SCHERR said, "I think there are a number of issues that athletes or people in prominent sports roles just shouldn't take a position on because opinions on those issues are so split down the middle. ... If I were them, I wouldn't touch the same-sex marriage issue. I wouldn't touch abortion." Former U.S. Olympic swimmer DONNA DE VARONA said, "I just think we live in a completely different era right now, and you have to be very careful about what you say if you have hopes of being a figurehead. You can't be naive" (N.Y. TIMES, 5/12).

SUMMER CAMP: Heat G DWYANE WADE will host a fantasy basketball camp August 18-21 at the Fontainebleau Hotel in Miami, "where the hotel's ballroom will be fitted with basketball courts." Wade is "hoping to fill the high-end fantasy camp void now that" Bobcats Owner MICHAEL JORDAN "has temporarily shelved his Michael Jordan Senior Flight School" (, 5/11). The cost of attending the camp is $12,500, which "falls in line with the $15,000 charged" for Jordan's camp. An NBA lockout "could impact some of Wade's plans," as Heat coach ERIK SPOELSTRA and assistant coach DAVID FIZDALE are "listed among guest coaches" (, 5/11).

NEW PROGRAM: The Univ. of Georgia Grady College of Journalism & Mass Communication is establishing a program in sports journalism thanks to a gift from the Atlanta-based John Huland Carmical Foundation. A gift and pledge agreement totaling $1M will fund the creation of a Chair in Sports Journalism & Society. It will be the only sports journalism program of its kind in the Southeast (UGA).

LEGAL BEAT: Former columnist JAY MARIOTTI "has been charged with three felonies -- stalking, domestic violence and assault -- after he confronted his ex-girlfriend the same day a court ordered him to stay away from her." Mariotti yesterday "pleaded not guilty" to those charges. He "was also charged with two misdemeanor counts of disobeying a court order." If convicted, Mariotti "faces up to five years in state prison" (, 5/11)....Former Mets clubhouse manager CHARLIE SAMUELS was arrested yesterday "on charges of stealing $2.3 million worth or Mets memorabilia, embezzling nearly $25,000 in inflated expense reports and failing to report more than $200,000 in income." The Mets fired Samuels in November, and they said that he was fired for "conduct in violation of club policies" (NEWSDAY, 5/12).

NAMES: Talladega Superspeedway and The NASCAR Foundation are partnering to raise funds for storm ravaged areas in the Southeast. Through the NASCAR Unites website, the foundation will raise funds through donations of $5 for NASCAR Unites wristbands and through an auction of a DALE EARNHARDT JR. autographed helmet and exclusive race track experiences (Talladega Superspeedway)....Former CFL Commissioner and Montreal Alouettes President LARRY SMITH "placed third" last week in the voting for the Lac St. Louis electoral district's seat in the Canadian House of Commons. The election marked the "first foray into federal politics" for Smith, a Conservative (Montreal GAZETTE, 5/12)....Directors MICHAEL HAMILTON and COREY OGLIVIE released a trailer for their upcoming documentary “NASH,” chronicling the life of Suns G STEVE NASH (, 5/11)….Singers SEAL and KELLY CLARKSON will sing the national anthem “as a duet” and DAVID FOSTER “will accompany them on a grand piano” during the pre-race ceremonies for the 100th anniversary of the Indianapolis 500 on May 29 (INDIANAPOLIS STAR, 5/12).

IN MEMORY: Former Reds GM BILL BERGESCH has died at the age of 89. Bergesch served as the team’s GM from ’84-87 (AP, 5/11).