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Volume 20 No. 42
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A PG version of the top stories of 2011, so far …

Off to Vermont for a long weekend and to take my two sisters to see Peter Gabriel play at Saratoga. Heading into the halfway mark of the year, here are my top 10 sports business stories of 2011 — set to certain songs from Gabriel’s catalog:

WAITING FOR THE BIG ONE — The NFL Lockout: It’s all anyone has talked about, for good reason. The lockout has paralyzed the NFL marketplace since it was implemented March 12 and it has clearly set the tone of sports business for 2011.

NOT ONE OF US — Comcast Takes Over NBC: The closing of this deal changed the face of sports media with the stroke of a pen. It eventually led to the surprising exit of Dick Ebersol and created an environment where the new leadership committed a record $4.4 billion rights deal with the International Olympic Committee.

BIG TIME — Pac-10’s 12-Year, $3 Billion Deal With ESPN and Fox: The size and scope of this major coup by Commissioner Larry Scott is remarkable, but getting two longtime rivals to work together and box out Comcast is what makes it so important to the industry.

DIGGING IN THE DIRT — Time Warner’s 20-Year Deal With Lakers Worth Nearly $3 Billion: This may turn out to have the biggest influence on the industry. It represented a major move by a new player in the rights market, it put an immense value on local rights (up to $150 million a year) and it caused every team to re-examine its local media deals.

IN YOUR EYES — The Two Sides of the NBA Labor Stalemate: David Stern calls for a significant give-back from players; players call for an overhaul of revenue sharing and note the league’s record revenues.

I HAVE THE TOUCH — AEG Inks Farmers Field: As was written when the agreement was announced in January, it was a masterstroke by AEG to sign Farmers Insurance to a 30-year, $600 million naming-rights deal for a proposed stadium in downtown Los Angeles “that has no architect, no site approvals and no NFL team.” It’s easily the most talked about deal of the year.

FAMILY SNAPSHOT — The Financial Plight of the Mets and Dodgers: These history-rich, major-market franchises offer compelling family subplots. The Dodgers’ problems have been underscored by the McCourt divorce, and Sterling Equities’ relationship with Bernie Madoff is the backdrop for the Mets’. Both situations have been major PR headaches that MLB has been forced to deal with all season.

ON THE AIR — NHL Cashes In on U.S. Media Rights: Gary Bettman brought on John Collins with this deal in mind. The result: NBC and Versus paid up, providing team owners much more than double the previous amount in rights fees.

GAMES WITHOUT FRONTIERS — Under Armour’s and Warrior Sports’ EPL deals: Two big and bold overseas bets, as UA moves forward with its global ambitions by signing Tottenham Hotspur, while New Balance’s Warrior Sports surprises everyone with a $41 million annual kit contract with Liverpool.

THE RHYTHM OF THE HEAT — Miami’s Pop Culture Influence: Despite losing in the Finals, LeBron, D-Wade and Pat Riley drove the NBA’s business metrics to record heights, creating watercooler conversation around a team that people loved or hated.

I will most likely take a Sledgehammer to this list in December. In the meantime, let me know what you think.

Abraham D. Madkour can be reached at