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Volume 21 No. 1
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Dramatis Personae

“I don’t know about everyone else, but I came here to watch Dale race. If he’s not racing anymore, I’m not watching anymore.”

NASCAR FAN LARRYSSA MERCER, on attending the Brickyard 400 in July
solely to watch Dale Earnhardt Jr. race one last time


Photo by: GETTY IMAGES
DALE EARNHARDT JR. 

The checkered flag came down on Earnhardt’s 19-year run as a NASCAR Monster Energy Series driver with the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway last month. His career was marked by the death of his father in 2001 at the Daytona 500, family dysfunction that led to his departure from Dale Earnhardt Inc., a series of crew chief changes, and health concerns as a result of concussions. Voted NASCAR’s most popular driver for 15 years in a row, Earnhardt now moves to the broadcast booth as a race analyst for NBC.


Photo by: GETTY IMAGES
BILL FOLEY 

The Vegas Golden Knights owner oversaw a successful debut for his NHL team, connecting with a community reeling from a mass shooting just nine days before the team’s regular-season home opener. Behind the slogan Vegas Strong, Foley’s Knights honored victims and first-responders in a pregame ceremony, then delivered a resounding win to start the season. As of Dec. 11, the Golden Knights were in second place in the Pacific Division with 39 points.


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LAURENE POWELL JOBS 

The billionaire entrepreneur, philanthropist and president of the Emerson Collective bought a 20 percent stake in Monumental Sports & Entertainment, giving her the second-largest share of the company, behind Chairman and CEO Ted Leonsis. Powell Jobs, widow of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, also holds a 4 percent stake in Disney and bought a majority interest in The Atlantic magazine this past summer. If Leonsis were to retire, Powell Jobs has the resources to assume his shares.


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BOB BOWMAN 

Bowman will depart MLB on Dec. 31 after a dynamic 17-year run that fundamentally changed how sports fans consume digital content and transformed baseball into a restless innovator. Among his parting moves was a second deal with The Walt Disney Co. worth $1.58 billion for majority control of BAMTech, enriching MLB team owners and further paving the way for a forthcoming ESPN-branded over-the-top network. Where the 62-year-old Bowman goes next will be one of the most-watched industry stories entering 2018.


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JEMELE HILL 

The “SportsCenter” co-host was a lightning rod for criticism of liberal bias aimed at ESPN this year. She was suspended in October for suggesting on Twitter that fans boycott Cowboys sponsors after Jerry Jones stated that players on his team would be benched for “disrespecting the flag.” In September, she came under fire from the White House and elsewhere after tweeting that President Donald Trump was a white supremacist. ESPN issued a new social media policy following that controversy and others.


Photo by: AP IMAGS
TONY ROMO

CBS Sports Chairman Sean McManus took a risk when he hired Romo to be his top NFL game analyst. Midway through his first game of the season, it was obvious that McManus’ gamble would pay off. Romo brings an infectious excitement to his games. He is able to use everyday language to convey his deep knowledge of the game. And he’s proved to be prescient at predicting what will happen before the ball is even snapped.


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DEREK JETER 

Jeter, backed by an investor group led by Bruce Sherman, prevailed in the bid to buy the Miami Marlins and became the club’s chief executive. But the transition from beloved Hall of Fame-bound shortstop to front office executive has been a bumpy ride so far as Jeter has cut costs and parted ways with star players Giancarlo Stanton and Dee Gordon, as well as several popular advisers and scouts.


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TILMAN FERTITTA 

The new owner of the Houston Rockets vowed to build a winner and “do whatever it takes to win.” After spending $2.2 billion for the NBA team, Fertitta met with NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman for preliminary talks to bring an NHL team to town. Fertitta’s esports franchise, Clutch Gaming, also won a coveted spot in Riot Games’ North American League of Legends Championship Series.


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CHASE CAREY / SEAN BRATCHES 

Carey took over as CEO at Formula One shortly after Liberty Media completed its takeover in early January. One of his first moves in beefing up F1 from an organizational standpoint was to hire Bratches as managing director of commercial operations. Together, they hired CAA Sports to serve as F1’s global sales agency, aiming to increase the number of official corporate partners, and moved the racing circuit’s media rights from NBC to ESPN.


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J.J. WATT 

When Hurricane Harvey devastated Houston and the Texas Gulf Coast in late August, Watt organized an online fundraising push with a goal of $200,000 to help with relief efforts. Nearly three weeks later, more than $37 million had been raised. Even though the Houston Texans defensive end was sidelined by injury early in the season, 2017 could go down as one of Watt’s most impactful years.