THE THINGS WE THINK AND DO NOT SAY
Sports Management International began as a small company. I was hired by Jack Scully in 1981, I was fresh out of college, I didn't even watch much sports. But a young man came to me, and his name was Bill Apodaca. He asked me to look at a contract he'd acquired to play football for the Atlanta Falcons. Before long I was overseeing the business of another member of the Falcons, and two baseball players. The nuances and the small miracles of professional sports would soon hook me - there was something simple and perfect about the way a stadium felt. The way you felt when a player you'd helped and represented made his stand in front of 54,000 people. And I remember the conversation Mr. Scully and I had by an elevator, standing next to one of those sand-filled ashtray posts, right before he hired me as one of the first agents in this company. "You and I are blessed, he said, "we do something that we love."
Tonight, I find those words guiding me back to an important place, and an important truth. I care very much about the fact that I have learned to care less. Now our company is one of the top three in this business, and we represent over a thousand athletes. Over sixty agents work at our huge new office, and I still haven't met all of you. The business of sports has never been bigger, or tougher, or more written about. And we are at the forefront. But I wonder tonight, as we leave our 13th annual conference ... we've talked a lot and partied a lot over the last three days, but I dare say that not one of us, our diet Pepsis and sheaf of papers in hand, have said what we really think.
It is beyond the easy arguments waged against sports, and our business on the editorial pages of the New York Times. It is beyond the huge salaries, the endorsements all our clients now want because "I'm a better actor than Michael Jordan." Beyond the globalization and merchandization of the games. It's more subtle than the baseball strike, more about loyalty than the Colts moving to Indiana, the Rams going to St. Louis, or the Cleveland Browns moving to ... someplace. I'm talking about something they don't write about. I'm talking about something we don't talk about.
We are losing our battle with all that is personal and real about our business. Every day I can look at a list of phone calls only partially returned. Driving home, I think of what was not accomplished, instead of what was accomplished. The gnawing feeling continues. That families are sitting waiting for a call from us, waiting to hear the word on a contract, or a General Manager's thoughts on an upcoming season. We are pushing numbers around, doing our best, but is there any real satisfaction in success without pride? Is there any real satisfaction in a success that exists only when we push the messiness of real human contact from our lives and minds? When we learn not to care enough about the very guy we promised the world to, just to get him to sign. Or to let it bother us that a hockey player's son is worried about his dad getting that fifth concussion.