Jun
01

Book Review: When The Game Is On The Line

I first became familiar with the name Rick Horrow when Brian Finkel (a good friend from the University of Florida and Creative Director at Horrow Sports Ventures) sent me an email in 2009 regarding a new show on Versus titled, The $ports Take.  It sounded like a great show, but one that I would never end up watching, as DirecTV was in the middle of a dispute with Versus at the time, and scrapped the cable network from its offering.  Roughly a year later, Finkel told me about a new show in the West Palm Beach television market (38th largest market in the United States) that was to be run by Horrow Sports Ventures, with Rick Horrow as host and two panelists per week.  Upon invitation, I agreed to serve as a panelist alongside former Pro Bowl runningback Keith Byars on the new show titled, Beyond the Game.

From the moment I stepped foot on the set at the CBS 12 studios in West Palm Beach, Rick Horrow has been nothing less than kind, courteous, and sometimes humorous (I’ll save his jokes for the set).  I knew that Horrow was a “mover” in the world of sports, but until I read his book, When the Game is on the Line, I really had no clue just how influential he has been in the shaping of today’s professional sports landscape.  His résumé will not change my responses on Beyond the Game, but it does give me a much greater appreciation for having the opportunity to wake up at 8 a.m. on Saturdays to join Horrow to discuss the business of sports.

Horrow gave me a copy of When the Game is on the Line at the conclusion of one of our Saturday morning sessions at CBS.  The book is an updated release of a book with the same title and much of the same content, written by Horrow in 2003.  The material is outdated in only a few areas; much of the book’s content is still extremely relevant even though a lot of the pages were untouched since the 2003 release.

Horrow takes the reader from his experience at Harvard Law School, where he was responsible for crafting a Sports Law discipline, to his unhappiness working at a law firm, and then eventually setting off to do what he cared most about – bring professional sports franchises to South Florida.  A lot of the discussion revolves around his battles with owners and politicians, but he also provides the tools that he used to gather support amongst his supporters and rivals.  Sometimes he failed, but he also won a lot.  Horrow was largely responsible for the creation of the Miami Arena and the formation of the Miami Heat, along with many other stadiums, arenas, and other publicly financed projects around the United States.  His stories throughout the book are rich in detail.  Even though I grew up and currently live in South Florida, I think Horrow’s stories of working with politicians in Oklahoma City were the most interesting parts of the book.  Reading it during the Oklahoma City Thunder’s run in the 2011 Playoffs added to my interest while turning the pages.

There is even some talk about sports agency, which Horrow states he never wanted to get involved in.  However, how was he going to say no to Jack Nicklaus, who wanted to build out his own agency and put Horrow in charge?  It did not end up working out for Nicklaus or Horrow, but it is rather fun to read about the escapades as an outsider.

The most important thing that I took away from When the Game is on the Line is that anything is possible with proper planning, determination, and a hatred (not fear) of failure.  This is a great read for anyone interested in the business of sports, but is also for people who want to find out a little bit about the behind-the-scenes work of politicians.  Whether you are in favor of the new wave of stadiums and arenas built through a partnership of public and private funds or you cannot stand the idea, When the Game is on the Line is a book to pick up so that you can learn more about the person largely behind the movement and acquire knowledge about how such deals are structured and approved.  And at a minimum, it proves that you do not have to use your law degree to actually practice law.