Champion Moments: Speeches from honorees
Four members of our Champions Class of 2017 came together April 19 at the CAA World Congress of Sports in Dana Point, Calif., to accept their awards, and two others offered comments on video. Here are excerpts from their remarks.
(Via recorded video)
First, thank you for inducting me into the Champions program. I’m honored. Thank you to SportsBusiness Journal for all the services you’ve provided us in athletics over the years. It’s been tremendous. And last, this is an honor for me because I’ve got so many friends that have already been inducted, so this is very special. Thanks very much.
Janet Marie Smith
There are so many people involved, and I really am touched, but I enjoy paying tribute to the collaborative nature of our work, and to the heroes in government and politics, finance, legal fields, as well as the much more visible club executives, the architects, the contractors and the suppliers that cut the ribbons on these projects.
In my unique corner of the world, I’m proud and excited to be the voice for the building, the voice for the cityscape, the voice for the team history, the voice for the trees and the plazas and the signs, even the team artifacts. Whether it’s corrugated metal or brick, whether it’s steel trusses or inverted precast, thousand-foot-long warehouses or the landscaped hills of Chavez Ravine, the 100-year-old Boston elms or the palm trees known as the Three Sisters, I’ve found love in these ballparks, and I really treasure the chance to unite sports and the civic realm. …
The Angelos family and their transformation of Sarasota’s Ed Smith Stadium, and the Dodgers’ renovation of Campo Las Palmas in the Dominican Republic gave me a chance to work on these more intimate sports facilities, and I found I loved that scale, too.
What’s amazing is to win this award for probably the least amount of innovation of anybody here, which is serving great restaurant-quality food to people who don’t expect it to be good, and with Chicago hospitality. Chicago people are the nicest people in the world. …
The restaurant business in sports is very different from the restaurant business on the street. It’s the same skill set for the quality of the food. I couldn’t think of a sports term to analogize it, because it’s more like a military campaign. So to have games going on last night in baseball, basketball and hockey, no one person can do the job. So it really is like having phenomenal generals, phenomenal leaders [and] phenomenal culture, and I will say that Levy Restaurants still has the best culture in the industry. …
It’s been a privilege to get to know the other people. If it wasn’t for Janet Marie Smith and the start of all the new stadiums and arenas, I don’t think we would have had as much territory to cover. Ed has made sports so popular that people want to come and see it in person, and George and I share an amazing passion for basketball, which is my sport.
(Son Joe’s introduction)
My father’s mother passed away when he was 7 years old, so he was basically raised by my grandfather, Warren Giles, who was GM of the Reds at the time. So a lot of their time was spent at Crosley Field. I think he got a job in his teens with the Reds doing odds and ends, and for the next 65 years he worked in just about every department there was in baseball. It’s the only life he’s ever known, and he’s loved going to work every day. …
(Bill, via recorded video) I had established myself as a marketing and promotions specialist with the Houston Astros, and was very excited about the challenge of trying to fill the new Veterans Stadium. Now I always believed that the opening day of a baseball season was special, almost a national holiday. When I first arrived in Philadelphia, I didn’t sense the same feeling from the locals. My mission was to change all that. How? By staging a series of wild and wacky promotions designed to remind the fans they were here to have fun
Iwish I could say it was about me, but I, at 79 years old, have learned that it’s never about you, it’s always about them. And so, I can promise you one thing: That whatever amount of years I have left to live on earth, I’ll always try to be a sterling role model for all the values that this award establishes. So thank you very much, I deeply appreciate it.
I also want to say one thing: I would like to single out Villanova and Nike. They were both transformational elements in my life. Without Villanova and without Nike, I have no idea what I would have been doing today. To me, working at Nike has been like going to Harvard graduate school. I’ve learned so much about life, so much about myself, and so much about people.
And so I just feel I’m probably the most fortunate person in the world to have lived the life that I’ve lived. I’ve lived a dream, and sometimes I ask myself, “God, why do you bestow all these graces upon me?” I can’t figure out how it’s happened, but I’m happy as hell that it has.
Iwould not be here today if it wasn’t for a very talented, wonderful group of producers, directors [and] announcers at Fox Sports, and of course my running mate David Hill. …
In 1994, David’s wife was still in London and my wife was still in Connecticut. Literally, we spent 18 hours a day putting Fox Sports together. We’d start early in the morning, bringing in wine-stained cocktail napkins from the last bar we closed down the night before with all sorts of brilliant ideas. Some of them actually worked.
The idea that nobody at a network had ever done an hour pregame show for the NFL — we decided, yes, we’re going to do that. We’re going to have a Fox Box, that was totally different. We were going to build on our set a demonstration area, a mini-football field to demonstrate various parts of the game. …
The beauty back then was that we didn’t have a research department, we didn’t have consultants. David and I went with our gut, and we were going to push the envelope, there was no question about it.