People used to call The Sporting News “The Bible” for sports. While that moniker doesn’t really stick to that publication any more, a new compilation may just be that. Released this week, The Sport Business Handbook: Insights from 100+ Leaders Who Shaped 50 Years of the Industry will bring both fans and industry veterans inside the minds of everyone from Coach K to Gary Bettman, Cal Ripken to Ann Meyers Drysdale, Tom Ricketts to Ted Leonsis and much more.
It is best practices, great stories and lots of learning that includes an extra Fifty amazing moments in sports business.
How did it come together and what’s to learn? We asked Executive Editor Rick Horrow for some answers.
SMR: What is the impetus for the book now?
RH: Roughly defined, the heyday for the global sports industry as a thriving sector has been the last 50 years, ushered in by Curt Flood setting the stage for free agents in 1969, then followed by U.S.-China “ping pong diplomacy,” Title IX, the Air Jordan brand, ESPN, Tiger Woods, the U.S. national women’s soccer team, esports, gambling, dozens of multi million dollar public-private partnership stadium deals, and many, many other milestones. This 50 year mark seemed as good a time as any to gather many of the industry’s most influential voices.
SMR: Who is the audience you think this helps the most?
RH: The Sport Business Handbook is a terrific guide for men and women early on in their sports business careers, whether they’re just finishing up school and seeking an entry level ticket sales job, handling the responsibility of their first big team event or tournament, or helping to build the brand of a young athlete that’s around their own age. That said, industry veterans and avid sports fans should also enjoy hearing from these disparate sports influencers.
SMR: Is there one theme amongst all these luminaries that seems to be pretty universal?
RH: Establishing strong leadership skills early on and navigating the speed of industry change seems to be top of mind for many.
SMR: Also in looking at the book, what’s the most surprising theme that keeps getting repeated?
RH: Hands down it has to be the emotional component of sports — never, ever forgetting that fan bases have a deep-seated, and often generational, connection to their sports heroes that someone buying a television set or insurance or hiring a lawyer doesn’t have. These are industry leaders who run billion dollar companies and command budgets in the millions and work forces in the thousands. Yet the fan experience, win or lose, is the true bottom line.
RH: Curt Flood would be astonished at the level of power held by individual athletes in today’s sports marketplace, in the front office and on social media and beyond. Even five years ago athletes didn’t wield the power they do today, from collegiate athletes to the pros and veterans. This power has affected decisions made at every level of the industry.
SMR: How hard was it to collect the stories?
RH: Not hard at all — these men and women are born storytellers, and they are used to being called upon to share their wisdom. They are also detail oriented and accountable — you give them an assignment and they run with it. The hard part was knowing where to stop. We could have included dozens and dozens of like contributors without getting redundant. On the plus side, that bodes well for future editions!
SMR: Are there a few people who have passed on you wish you had in the book?
RH: Certainly — who wouldn’t want to collaborate with a George Halas or George Steinbrenner or Gene Upshaw or Arthur Ashe or Kay Yow? However, the torch bearers for these remarkable voices are strong, so I’d like to think their spirit is alive and well in these pages. (In Kay Yow’s case, it literally is, thanks to the contribution of her equally remarkable sister Debbie.)
SMR: Five years from now when the next edition comes out, what do you think will have been changed or added? Will you have advice from say, Ninja?
RH: Again, the role of young athletes as the true industry drivers is only strengthening, so absolutely we will see more Ninjas as influencers within the coming years. But there wouldn’t be a Ninja without a Michael Jordan and Shaun White coming before him. And we’ll definitely see more women shaping our industry at all levels, and across more time zones. So don’t be surprised if The Sport Business Handbook Volume II has a lot more women in its table of contents than men.