February 20, 2007 12:56 PM
I just got fired by NBA Commissioner David Stern. Don’t work for him, so I suppose it’s not as bad as it sounds. …
But, in the process I gained insight into what has made David Stern one of the great success stories of our era—a highly developed sense of humor—and the intelligence to know how and when to use it.
That takes me back to the art of the deal. One element I have yet to spend time focusing on involves the ever-present intangibles in the room. And, the appropriate use of humor tops that list.
But, before we get there, I should explain how I got fired. …
I am in Las Vegas attending the NBA All-Star weekend—and thanks to the good graces of the Deputy Commissioner (a law school buddy of mine), I participated in a panel discussing sports and gambling—a particular intersection at which our company and the World Poker Tour franchise happen to reside.
Like many industries, the sports world has been impacted by the exciting, but disruptive force of the internet—in this case, online gaming/sports betting. My take was (and is) that the genie is already out of the bottle. Sports leagues that fail to recognize that and do not move into the space where it is sanctioned and legal do so at their own peril. This does not include the U.S. market (where the Justice Department has declared it illegal), but all sports franchises are beginning to realize that Thomas Friedman’s notice that the internet has flattened the world applies to them as well.
It’s like the board game, RISK. You want to get North America. It’s a great base. But, if you lose the rest of the world, you will lose the whole game. And, the next five to ten years are critical to determine who will prevail in the culture sharing wars that determine future global sports appetites.
But, that’s not why I got fired. …
In our discussion about the rules and regulations in the U.S. market, I committed what formal logicians would call the fallacy of equivocation. I mentioned that the new Unlawful Online Gaming Enforcement Act paved the way for intrastate regulation of online gaming. Which it does—for everything except sports betting outside three states (including Nevada). A follow-up question from the audience clarified that my comment was restricted to online casino games and poker.
And, for that I was fired. …in line at the buffet. And, it was done with such heart and good natured ribbing—that I am still laughing. But, the subtlety was not lost on me. Sir, Mr. Commissioner Stern was, in the way that only great mentors can, letting me know that, indeed, I should have been careful to make the distinction.
He let me know that I would not be allowed to be on any more panels today (though I was not scheduled to be on any more – and the last one was about to begin) . . .
So, for those of you who felt indignant that one might be fired for such a minor cause, fret not. At least the punishment fit the crime.
And, later (today or tomorrow), I will spend some time delving into the intangibles (like the magnetic personality and sense of humor of Commissioner David Stern), that make people want to work with you—and help drive a your business and every deal from stem to stern.