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Volume 21 No. 2
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Champions: Words of wisdom

When Champions speak, people listen.
That was the case again April 3, when the 2013 class of our Champions in Sports Business received their awards at a luncheon during the first day of the IMG World Congress of Sports in Naples, Fla. In accepting the honor, they spoke about commitment, leadership and relationship building, something all six displayed on their way to becoming legends in the industry. Here are excerpts from each of the acceptance speeches.



“The sports world is a small world, and when people get together and when you’re trying to create business or negotiate deals, it’s your people skills that really matter. And I try to tell people two words in this field are so important, and if you can build on them, you’re going to be successful in whatever you do. And those words are ‘relationships’ and ‘trust.’ And if you can build relationships on trust, you will be very successful in whatever you choose to do.’’


“This morning, at about 10 after 7 o’clock, I walked through the airport in Atlanta as I changed planes to get here, and in the distance, somebody said, ‘Coach.’ I turned around and there was a young man, I call him young, probably about 65 years old, who played on a football team for me at East Lansing High School in 1964. That is the essence of sport. Whatever your role is, whatever your company may be, whatever million-dollar contract you may negotiate. Nothing ever replaces the heart of a champion, the commitment to excellence, the dedication to winning, and understanding what it takes to make that happen.”


“The one moment and picture that I have to tell you I would still rather be part of — and I love sports, believe me — is wearing the uniform of the United States of America. When I came back from Vietnam, there were not many people who thanked us for our service. In today’s world, all of you do. And I thank each of you for that because it means so much to every American woman and man fighting person that’s over in other parts of the world defending our freedom.”


“Ordinary people can do extraordinary things. Well, we were a band of ordinary people at ESPN in those early ’80s. Men and women. And we did not leave women on the bench, mostly. We were all pioneers. We were filled with determination, conviction, against tremendous skepticism. We became a Cinderella team. People said, ‘What are they doing here? What is she doing here? Why did they bring her to the big dance?’ Well, this is my ball, my game, my championship season.”


“Great leaders have a heart for people. They care about people. They are interested in other people. They have empathy for people. What I’m really trying to say is, they love people. Eddie Robinson, the classic longtime football coach at Grambling, said, ‘You’ve got to coach every player as if he’s going to marry your daughter.’”


“This honor really represents a current that runs through my dad’s life and a current, I think, that runs through all the honorees we’ve heard up here. We’ve heard the timeless moniker of success in real estate, which is location, location, location. And my father would say relationships, relationships, relationships. His presence, his servant leadership, integrity and empathy, make him the ultimate mentor.”