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Volume 21 No. 34
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On a night of honors, uniting theme emerges

On a night celebrating excellence and lifetime achievement, leaders in sports business used their moment in the spotlight at the fifth annual Sports Business Awards not just to soak in their honors, but to push their industry and peers to be more active and aggressive in using sports as a platform to change society for the better.

It was a theme laid out by Lifetime Achievement Award winner Paul Tagliabue: Sports is about more than entertainment and commerce, he said. It’s about accepting a responsibility to use influence to try to improve the world.

An ambitious goal, to be sure, but Tagliabue’s call clearly resonated with the audience, and Fox Sports’ Group Chairman David Hill carried that theme when he accepted his second trophy of the night in front of an event-record crowd of 800 people. In repeatedly praising Tagliabue for his achievements, Hill said that he and his peers have to keep more in mind than just who won, who lost and who made the most exciting highlight reel in sports.

“The finest athletes and the finest sports are the finest attributes of life,” he said. “And I believe it is our duty as broadcasters to focus on that, and not the negative. And if we do that … the world would be a better place.”

Click here for photos of award winners

That message of responsibility was laid out by Tagliabue midway through the event, which was held at the Marriott Marquis at Times Square and revealed the winners among 77 nominees in 15 categories (see list).

2012 winners

Sports Executive
Roger Goodell, National Football League

Athletic Director
Mark Hollis, Michigan State University

Sports Team
Boston Bruins

Sports League
Major League Baseball

Sports Sponsor

Sports Event
2012 Humana Challenge

Sports Facility
Amway Center

Sports Media
Fox Sports

Sports Television
Fox Sports

Digital Sports Media
ESPN Digital Media

Sports Technology

Talent Representation and Management
Wasserman Media Group

Property Consulting, Sales and Client Services

Corporate Consulting, Marketing and
Client Services

The Marketing Arm

Sports Event and Experiential Marketing
Major League Baseball/Fan Cave

Lifetime Achievement
Paul Tagliabue

“From simple roots in the early 20th century, our sports have now become multifaceted, hybrid and very complex,” Tagliabue said. “Now sport has become entertainment and television and Internet product. It has become for millions an all-consuming preoccupation … a mix of fantasy, advertising, marketing, licensing, commerce and big business. It’s become celebrity, increasingly with doses of politics and off-field controversy and sometimes hype.

“We can’t allow entertainment, commercial or celebrity interests to overrun sport at all levels. Believe me, I’m not against commerce. And I’m not against celebrity. But we can’t let it overrun everything at every level.”

Leaders in sports have to keep a sharp focus on instilling good values at every level, Tagliabue said, and he went so far as to specifically press for more benefits for intercollegiate athletes, though not necessarily in the form of the payments or stipends that are being considered by college leaders.

“If collegiate athletes deserve additional financial benefits beyond current scholarships, and schools can afford it, why not reward the athletes with multiyear education trust funds for the completion of academic degrees, not with signing bonuses and salaries?” he said. “In a nation where lack of education will consign millions of young people to menial jobs or no jobs, why should we reinforce the illusion that education doesn’t matter because you can always get paid — starting in college — for playing football or basketball?”

PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem accepted the award for Sports Event of the Year for the 2012 Humana Challenge and reiterated that sports can, and should, be a force for good. Finchem noted the unique partnership between the PGA Tour, Humana Corp. and the Clinton Foundation for the event and said that the tournament was about “the idea that we could use the platform to raise awareness for a special concern in this country … and to look at the whole subject of wellness and health.”

The tournament was part of the beginning of a 10-year commitment to finding solutions for obesity and diabetes among young people, as well as for inactivity and increasing health problems among older people, Finchem said.

“We are losing an entire generation,” he declared. “We have to turn it around. Sports has to do its part.”

Near the end of the evening, Hill summed up the sentiments by saying, “If we look at the essence of what sport is … the world would be a better place.

“And wouldn’t that be a wonderful thing for us all to focus on: doing well by doing good.”