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Volume 20 No. 42
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Champions, and lessons to glean from Hollywood

We’re pleased to unveil our third class of The Champions: Pioneers and Innovators in Sports Business (see story). It’s a diverse group and I love their willingness to take chances and risks. Their stories should be a fantastic read when we publish them in late March and honor them at the World Congress of Sports in California. Selecting this group of Hall of Famers gets more and more difficult, as we limit the class to six each year despite being presented with many worthy names. But we thank everyone for their suggestions and for supporting their mentors, colleagues and friends. If you have someone in mind who should be considered for next year’s class, please let us know.

HOLIDAY TALK: One thing struck me over holiday dinners, cocktails and conversations. Yes, sports has had its fair share of ugly, sordid and even tragic personnel stories this year. But I was surprised, despite the news out of Penn State and Syracuse, how many times people mentioned the “good guys” in sports that seem to be making a difference. In the NFL, all I heard was about the respect and admiration friends and family had for the Three Kings — Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady. All at the top of their game, honed by hard work and combining excellence with humility. Sure, you can take or leave some of what they do, but the league is fortunate to have leaders like these. In the NBA, talk centered on the Knicks’ Amar’e Stoudemire, who treated hundreds of Madison Square Garden employees who were working on Christmas to breakfast, and who continues to impress with his generosity and grace, and the 76ers’ Lou Williams, whose story of treating a would-be robber to McDonald’s brought a sense of holiday cheer.

HOLLYWOOD'S CHALLENGE: One metric I like to keep an eye on is Hollywood’s box office performance. Many of you saw that this year ticket sales for films in North America were down about $500 million from last year, despite higher ticket prices. Overall ticket revenue still is a chunky $10.1 billion, but that is down about 4.5 percent from last year. Attendance at films was down more than 5 percent this year, on the heels of being down 6 percent in 2010. One of the main reasons cited for the drop continues to be the economy and especially its impact on teens and young adults in going to the movies. So many other elements entertain them these days that the idea of blowing nearly $10 on a film doesn’t work.

That reminded me of the conversation I had recently with film executive Neal Edelstein, who was the creative force behind such successful films as “Mulholland Drive” and “The Ring.” When talking about green-lighting new projects, he said Hollywood was now OK’ing films largely based on if they would draw today’s youth. Hollywood is going through a crisis in being relevant to this generation, and they are focused on appealing to this age group. I think Hollywood just needs to make better films! The takeaway for all of us in the sports and entertainment business is simple. Of course the world of sports needs to continue to be relevant to today’s youth. It mostly is. But to me, the trip to the theater is similar to the sports venue — all about the product and the experience. When those begin to suck, you have no one but yourself to blame for a drop in your business.

By the way, I have yet to see a few late releases (and I missed “Warrior” and “Margin Call,”) but my top five so far of 2011: “Martha Marcy May Marlene,” “Win Win,” “Ides of March,” “Crazy, Stupid, Love,” and for providing the best laughs of the year, “Bridesmaids.”

Abraham D. Madkour can be reached at