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Volume 21 No. 2
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What I Like: Jon Litner, YES Network


What I like …


An insight: I have been blessed to have had strong mentors throughout my career. For example, David Westin taught me how to listen; Dennis Swanson taught me how to lead; Ken Schanzer taught me how to artfully negotiate; Steve Bornstein taught me how to push beyond my limits; Gary Bettman taught me how to prepare; and Jeff Shell taught me how to manage.

An influential person in my career: Bart Giamatti, former MLB Commissioner, who was the president of Yale while I was playing football and baseball there as an

Jon Litner
YES Network

undergraduate. I treasure my inspiring conversations with him.

An out-of-the-box idea: Uber, which not only provides convenience, but also helps curtail drunk driving.

Bart Giamatti

A timeless idea: Happiness is not real unless shared. In my case, it’s sharing the journey with my wife, Polly, and our three children.

A business deal: Our groundbreaking college football BCS deal at ABC Sports, which ultimately led to the current national college football playoff format.

A sports facility: Howard J. Lamade Stadium in South Williamsport, Pa.

A strategy: Have the courage to do the right thing, not the easy thing.

A hire: John J. (“Flip”) Filippelli’s hiring in 2001 as president of production and programming at YES.

A brand: The New York Yankees

… and Porsche.

An innovation: TSA check-ins at airports — a game changer.

A pro league or team business initiative: Teams supporting and investing in young entrepreneurs through business development incubator programs.

A story that bears watching: Industry consolidation among and between distribution and content companies and the evolving regulatory environment, and how each will impact the pace of technological change and consumer demand for programming ubiquity, portability and control.

An idea or invention I wish I had thought of: Wheels on luggage.

A fantasy job: Formula One driver at the Monaco Grand Prix.

What I like about …

Monaco Grand Prix

My job: I get to be a fan again.

Sports: It brings communities together in a divisive world. When your team wins, everyone feels like a winner. And, in times of trouble like 9/11 or the Patriots’ Day marathon attack, fans turn to the logo for comfort, as that is where a community’s soul resides.

Sports business: Every day you have a scorecard — wins, losses, ratings, unique visitors, etc. It’s fluid and dynamic. You are held to account every day, but are given the chance to build upon or reset with the next game or event.

Sports media: We’re so uniquely privileged in that we create generational memories through our storytelling, capture compelling moments through our pictures, and immerse the audience in the full range of human emotions as players and teams experience the triumphs and defeats on the court or field of play.

Sports technology: It’s meaningful only when it’s immersive and enhances the fan or viewer experience in a natural, non-disruptive way.

The future of sports business: There are no fixed or finite boundaries; sports competition categories are constantly expanding or being created: i.e., esports, MMA, “Dancing With the Stars,” “Ninja Warrior,” and, some might say, “The Bachelor.” Who knows, there could be a professional Quidditch league in a few years.

Sports fans: They are not held to convention; escapism rules. They are adult men and women painting their faces in team colors or getting tattoos of their favorite teams to affirm their identity or allegiance; they are children encouraged or permitted to be truant when there’s a championship parade. Generations of families bleed their favorite team’s colors, and prenuptial conversion ceremonies occur not over religion but over team allegiances; they care; they are motivated; they are loyal.

What I would like to …

Change in what I do: Celebrate the victories more, and dwell on the losses less.

See more of in sports: Sports should be seen less by parents as a pathway to glory and profit, and more as a playground for children to have fun, to socialize with others of unequal ability, and to learn the value of competition.

See more of in sports business: Diversity.

See less of in sports: When progress is paralyzed by tradition, the game suffers. You can respect the past while also embracing change.

Eliminate: Illegible autographs resulting from poor penmanship at best, a lack of pride at worst, from athletes who scribble their names in an indifferent manner for young fans who are anything but indifferent. Please take a lesson from the great Arnold Palmer.


What I Like …

That would surprise those who know me: I won the Massachusetts State Punt, Pass & Kick competition as an 11-year-old.

Sir Nicholas Winton

Heroes: Sir Nicholas Winton defines the meaning of a real hero.

Players: Sandy Koufax, Ted Williams and, of course, Tom Brady.

Teams: Obviously the teams on YES, along with Yale football and baseball, and the University of Wisconsin intramural volleyball team captained by my daughter Jenna.

Possession: My late father’s pocket watch.

Memento: Autographed baseball from Mickey Mantle (which is legible, by the way) from the 1994 MLB All-Star Game, the year before he died.

Time of year: February — pitchers and catchers!

Books: “Into the Silence,” “East West Street,” “The Kindly Ones,” “The Mantle of Command.”

Authors: William Manchester, David McCullough, Peter Matthiessen.

Gadgets: Amazon Echo, Jabra wireless earbuds, Kardia.

Hobbies: Paddle boarding, reading, golf, cycling, skiing.

Trips: Cycling trips through England, France, Denmark and Sweden; St. Petersburg, Russia; Amalfi Coast; 40 out of our 50 states.

Movies: “Good Will Hunting.”

TV: Besides anything involving a ball and/or a stick: “Ray Donovan,” “Billions.”

Concerts: The Rolling Stones, Bruce Springsteen, Eric Clapton, The Who.

Artist: Alexander Calder.

Drink: La Fin du Monde.

Scent: Salt air.

Vacation spots: Anywhere in the Caribbean.

Cars: Porsche Boxster Spyder.

Quote: “Don’t let your schooling get in the way of your education,” Mark Twain.