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Volume 21 No. 26
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Peering into 2018: Gifts that will improve lives, livelihoods

While I usually write a book column every December, I decided this year to do something a little different. After all, this space is about things happening in the world of sports and sports business that have an impact. So, for the sports world: The holidays and 2018 would be better served with these gifts …

The gift of understanding Part 1: A moment of crystal clarity for Roger Goodell and the NFL owners to help them realize that a partnership with the players (like the NBA) can be better for business and public perception and support, and perhaps ratings.

The gift of numerology: Speaking of ratings, how about a ratings system that accurately conveys true sports media consumption by aggregating all sources — not just television viewership. By mobile viewing, social consumption and whatever might be next.

The gift of resolution: For Colin Kaepernick, a session on Jon Gruden’s QB Camp to determine whether or not he can play QB in the NFL, as I’m sure that is the question everyone wants an answer to.

The gift of charity: A percentage of the entire attorney fees paid by Ezekiel Elliott, the Dallas Cowboys/Jerry Jones and the NFL to benefit domestic abuse victims. After all, something positive should come from this situation.

The gift of reciprocity: For all of the great karma created by the efforts of J.J. Watt in Houston — and the positive example he set for all athletes — to come back to him in the form of healing and regaining his form in 2018 and for more athletes to begin re-investing in the communities where they live and work.

The gift of empathy: For all of us to spend a day working with Special Olympians so we can see what a world without racial, economic, political, religious, age or gender bias looks like and to learn how to truly root for each other — even if the person we are rooting for is a competitor.

The gift of realization: Expanding the NCAA football playoff to six teams — five conference champions and a wild card with the two best records seeded one and two and each receiving a first-round bye (if the powers that be want to take this to eight teams that would be fine with me).

The gift of common sense: Paychecks for student athletes. We screwed up the amateur system so long ago it shouldn’t even be in the discussion. The system currently in place did not conceive of student athletes becoming athlete students nor did it envision the amount of money that would be generated by these athlete students. Let’s compensate these young men and women fairly.

The gift of fiscal responsibility: Multicity and multinational hosting of the Olympics, World Cup and any other global competitions that might come into being. Wrecking the economies of host nations and encouraging them to build facilities whose usefulness ends after the event is ludicrous and it’s hurting people. Spread out the economic cost, risk and benefit by encouraging countries or cities that might have some of the facilities but not all of the facilities needed to host the competition.

End Thursday Night NFL football to save wear and tear and prevent player injuries. If the NBA can change its schedule to prevent back-to-back games for the same reason, surely the NFL can learn from that lesson and change its schedule as well. Last time I looked there were plenty of sport-related viewership opportunities on Thursday nights.

Photo illustration by COREY M. EDWARDS

The gift of understanding Part 2: For esports teams and organizations — the ability to explain to investors/networks and other interested parties, in the words of the late Howard Cosell, who “never played the game,” conveying what you are about, who you are and what the opportunities are.

The gift of reading: Every student aspiring to work in the sports world and every aspiring or current executive should read these five books: “Veeck as in Wreck,” “Good to Great,” “Positioning,” “All Marketers Tell Stories,” and “The Attention Merchants.”

The gift of inevitability: For cable companies and satellite providers to come to grips with the fact that the current fee structures and bundling for consumers is not working and streaming and other forms of consumption will continue to grow at a rapid rate. Don’t become the next Blockbuster or Borders. Figure out how to stay in business and grow the business through customization.

The gift of realism: For all aspiring student athletes to accept that their respective futures probably do not involve playing in a professional league and to capitalize on the education that is being provided for them now — before it is too late.

The gift of appreciation: For all of us involved in working in the business of sport to appreciate how much fun and excitement we are able to have in our work life even though that work life might be 60 hours per week or more.

The gift of a wake-up call or a mulligan: For LaVar Ball, who could launch a successful shoe business that can change lives and encourage minority entrepreneurship and support for those businesses — if he would re-price his shoes and possibly use the Tom’s model and donate a pair of shoes for every pair purchased. I know, but I had to try.

And this one is outside of the sports world but it affects each of us and more importantly affects the future of our country. The gift of change: Let’s commit to:

■ Appreciating and respecting each other despite our differences.

■ Compensating first responders in a way that shows our respect for what they do to keep us safe.

■ Investing in education and paying teachers accordingly. Our most precious resource is our children and we are not investing in their educations because we tolerate poor schools and not attracting the top talent to become teachers because they can’t afford the lifestyle.

■ Not only giving gifts to friends and families during the holiday season but helping those less fortunate in a meaningful way.

Happy Holidays and let’s hope my crystal ball functions properly.

Bill Sutton ( is the founding director of the sport and entertainment business management MBA at the University of South Florida and principal of Bill Sutton & Associates. Follow him on Twitter @Sutton_ImpactU.