Mike Levine: CAA Head of Sports, Investor/Advisor, PLL
Whether you're a banker real estate agent NFL quarterback an MBA player or a sales executive. And and I think that I have been someone who has always just tried to learn from the people I'm working with or working for. It's obvious at this person's incredibly thoughtful, and helping provice share that Mike Levin, the greater sports ecosystem as vino is an investor and advisor to the premier lacrosse league. And I was okay to sit down with him for about an hour of his time to share his story hours. We discuss his rapid rise early in his career, the hard knocks and lessons. He calls them failures that were seminal to professional growth. And now he's now lead CAA into the stratosphere best in class and sports particularly salient to the peel investment is how describes quote players having become more empowered through digital and social, and quote, and why that helps a smaller sport like lacrosse compete with the mainstays of football basketball and baseball suited up as a show that explores the psychology playbook of tools and strategies of the most influential people in sports, entrepeneurship and entertainment vino crosses all three industries. Enjoy my conversation with our L investor advisor and a mentor. Or to both Mike and myself. Mike Levin, great to be back in your office minutes. It's actually my favorite office in New York City. Really? Yeah. It's unbelievable. I love that. That makes me very happy. Yeah. And we're both sports people. So I love all the decor as well. And what you feel at the highest level in sports in sports marketing, sports, business, you all stand for that here at CA. And so, you know, the story behind why share in office. So, you know, I share an office with one of my best friends are global head of sales, Paul Danforth. He was the first hire that me and how he made back in twelve years ago and. We started. And there were no two offices that were anywhere near each other. And we couldn't be separated that we're supposed to be going through this together. We were in this surrogate stepchild, New York office for Hollywood talent agency. And so we cleared out a storeroom and the two of us. We told the office manager to see we could just put two desks and two phones in this storeroom, and we did it and we loved it. It was it was no carpeting, and it was an open ceiling. So it echoed, and it was impractical. But we just fed off of each other from the very beginning. And then about a year or two later in our old office building we opened a floor for CA sports as we had sort of gained some traction, and they laid out the floor plan and the two of us were next to one another, and I just told our COO this looks great. Can we just eliminate not put up that wall right there between mine in Paul's office, and our COO who's a great guys a sixty five. Five year old sage who I still look to these these days as the grownup. He's are you sure you want to do this like there's no to agency that voluntarily share an office. And I was like, no, you know, we've been doing it and Paulin I make each other laugh, and we courage each other. And it just it saves us time because we're of one brain and he listened to my calls. I listened to his when I'm down. He picks me up. He's always up. So I don't ever have to pick him up. But it it was something that we did. And it became a really important sort of place for our sales organization, our guys and women to come in and rally. So when we built this office. There was no doubt that we were going to set up this sort of lounge atmosphere seats if you notice for about nine or ten and we could probably fit fourteen or fifteen in air comfortably which we do. And we celebrate our wins because in sales wins come much less frequently than losses. So you've got to enjoy the winds and fight through the losses and pick each other up at such a great origin story that you've now been able to maintain all the way through the top. And there are a couple of things that jump out at me one is that the rest of the sports agency world was saying no way can see a which is traditional entertainment talent, representation business get into sports, and you led that charge with Paul. So there's the style of continuing that growth in maintaining close, and then your background rooted in sports, and how was a non traditional ask. And leadership was like, oh, we're putting two executives in the same room every executives used to having their own big office, and that autonomy, and my guess is you thrive off of teamwork. Yeah. You know, it's there's two points. There of what you said one is that what the attitude we've taken with this company from the very beginning. In in sports, is that it's very much a team sport atmosphere. We've had incredible athletes who are single sport. All Americans and it just hasn't worked as well. We had a wrestler here was an exceptional collegiate athlete national champ and a great worker, really good brain. And he thrived on his own, but he didn't fit long-term here. And we have found that team sport. Athletes are perfect for us. We are. We are an organization that likes to over award the assist and really sort of revels and cherishes. Wins that come outside of your box outside of your day job. So so, yeah, this is a team sports environment. I think one of the things that strikes me as I listened to your perspective on this office is that I give a lot of credit. They had had incredible success for thirty two or thirty three years before they entered sports, and they did it one very specific way. In hollywood. The Hollywood talent agency. It's it's commod ary in collaboration and information sharing. But there were so many techniques that were very Hollywood's stayed and they didn't necessarily apply to sports in sports. We started from the very beginning wanting the most junior assistance to participate as if they were fulltime agents and executives and that inclusiveness has continued for the last twelve years. And that's part of the reason that Paul and I feel like sharing office works and having an open glass. Wall works is that the door's always open. We're here for everyone to see come on in join us. Let's do this together. We're going to suffer through losses. We're going to enjoy the winds together. I love that over ward the assist I'm under scoring that will build a quote card and push that out everywhere we're gonna we're gonna take that Madre, especially especially with PO L. I think that that's amazing. And so I'll jump in quickly premier lacrosse league. Because you have been an incredible advisor and investor, and and you mention the fabric of CA is team sports. What crosses and we've always felt back to your plane days and mine currently and your team's representation of rob. And Jack Kelly who are two of the best players in the world. And in the offices is that they're so much upside here, we just launched this week. You've been in the foxhole with us for over a year. You're in my first touch point was March twenty seventeen around this podcast. Yes. I remember the Email. It came from me home. I god. I can't. God, I can't believe this. I couldn't believe that Mike Levin. The industry knows as being no response inside of five minutes is actually one quick comment. Always make to Mike who's far better over Email than I is. It's it's amazing the world's best CEO's and business leaders. And would certainly put you in that category. How responsive they are even to just general inquiries. And it's something that I've shared with you before. But we'll continue to do. So through our relationship. It was really meaningful to me. And appreciate appreciate you saying. So it's it's not something that I feel like I deserve a Pat on the back four it's sort of like having good manners. Please. Thank you. It's the way things are supposed to be done. I think as a salesman my entire career. And the the way I still think of myself as a salesman. I send so many lines out there. Whether it's a phone call, whether it's a meeting request, whether it's an Email for so many years twenty five years, I've been doing this, and I've been ignored so many thousands of times that I find myself worried about a salesman's jinx that if for some reason, I ag- nor request and or blow off a phone call or an Email or text that the sales gods like the Gulf God's will come back and haunt me. So I I just got in the habit at a very young age of responding. Even if it's a no knows the second best answer that I can get as a salesman and quick knows better than a slow on off the list and go to the next one. So for me, I knew of you from afar and as an observer of sports marketing, and obviously as a fan of lacrosse, I was I was always taken by. You're sort of rebellious approach to your own brand. And and I really had admired what you did. And I knew you're an octagon client, frankly. And I was impressed that you reaching out to me being part of a competitive agency. So I was intrigued, and I was eager to engage with you. And frankly, I'm so glad I did you become a fast friend of mine, and you know, someone who's just really thankful that you reached out. I wanna get back to the peel and sort of why involved enthusiastic and passionate about it. I've been investing in venture early stage businesses since I was twenty two years old, a friend of mine from Cornell started an internet company and nine thousand ninety four and I was struck by you know, his passion and his drive and his focus. It was an internet advertising agency. Essentially, it was it was a gaming company that became an internet advertising company ended up going public is twenty four seven medians. Great guy. Great success. And I realized early on for me who's not someone who pours through balance sheets, and and who understands financial models as well as someone who might be a trained and be a or an analyst. I'm a jockey better. Always was when I used to go to Saratoga as a kid. I didn't know enough about breeding horses. Yes, I used to bet on the jockey. And I think in in venture and private equity investing betting on jockey has served me really, well, especially when it's a company that can be driven by will the will of a founder, the integrity, the honesty and the work ethic in the hunger of of an investor of founder as an investor to me is really five or six of the top ten factors. I think about so when I met you and Mike I heard your story. And all the work that you had done by the time. You had come to see me. I was I was in hook line and sinker from the very beginning. And I think it's important that the audience knows that over the course of the twenty four twenty five years prior. I had probably been through one or two conversations or pitches per year about how lacrosse was going to be changed. And how professional lacrosse was finally here. And I was. You know, someone who wanted it to be true. And I I really did. But I really felt like in the last ten years as I've watched the business of that professional cross was broken. The fact that the two pro leagues overlapped and schedule and that players had to choose between the indoor and outdoor game was silly. The fact that I had lived in the tri-state area for all these years have three kids who love lacrosse and hadn't travelled out to Long Island go to a lizard game. Shame on me. But the fact that a matter was it wasn't working, and my son who's eleven who, you know. Obviously idolizes you guys in a way that he should you know, can't watch those games the way he wants to this summer was like a treat to be able to watch the world games. Even though they were on a crazy time, you can still DVR them and for him to be able to see you, rob. All the best players Schreiber all these guys play on a regular basis over the course of a two or three week period was a treat. So for me the plan, and I had talked to how my partner and David O'Connor, doc, who's also an advisor of the P L L who played lacrosse at Dartmouth in the early eighties. The the move was let's let's try and buy out the MLS in the NFL. Let's tear it all down. And let's build up a new new league and get it. Right. And I came into the meeting you Mike thinking that that was the only way this could work, and I've challenged you with it. And you said we agree. We thought about that. We've worked on that we spent months and months trying to figure out if we can make that happen. And maybe you could but we think our plan exceleron to eighteen to twenty four to thirty six months and saves one hundred to one hundred and fifty million dollars in the process. So let's try it. Yeah. I would say that first of all really appreciate the compliment. And I know Mike shares the same feeling as I do toward you, and how strategic you've been your vision and your strategy, and we talk about entrepreneurs, and you've been a part of startups and each Sea World in such vision and strategy are so important issue is so important. There are an I feel similar to you far. Better more qualified folks on my team that can dig into a financial model and understand the ins and outs of the proforma as it evolves. Into our and line of sight on revenue and keeping expenses in line. That's critical to building the right business, and we're stewards of our investors capital. But. Let's not forget, brother. You are you understand business model? You did come back to us for several months. And u k what about this? And that's that's what we get. That's what valuable out of investors in advisor. So I know one of the conversations we've had the past years with love to have you on this podcast, you're incredibly humble, and and you don't do much if at all anything public facing. Yeah. This is my first time. I'm really, I'm a little nervous. It's great to have you on it. And again wanted to flag it for the listeners that vino here is being humble, he's various Stewart around the business and the models that we had in front of them about a year ago into now. And so this week we're sitting here, and we just made our announcements few people in this world, no sports marketing better, and you were part of our strategy and PR comms as you've seen the first three days ago, and we just put Mike and my podcasts out yesterday. This will come out in a few days to what were your impressions and real I'm so happy with some feedback to you. And I have been working on this with Mike from I don't know about a year. And it's it's so nice to sort of have the world know what we've all been doing for the past year. You guys have worked so hard and made so many important steps in milestones getting to yester- Monday. So. So I would say first off it was so fun watching the Bloomberg TV spy, Mike did a great job. He was nervous. What he looked relaxed? TV hearing him talk about it on the podcast impressed me. Because I thought he was pretty cool as a cucumber on air. I thought you guys did great. I think that I would go back a step, and and say to you that I was never worried about the PR on this project when we met the first time, what struck me was the combination between you and Mike Mike was this really thoughtful analytical, you know, CEO type who really knew the model inside out. And I knew your passion, I knew your understanding of current media outlets. And I felt like you were the perfect person to be the flagwaver for this brand for this new league. You were this was a league about players players. First digital. I that's the way you live your life. Your player the best and your digital I in your brand. So honestly, I was never concerned about the PR. I felt like this league was starting off on the I t with Dana white like, you know, zealot advocate with you as one of the founders, and that really was going to be important when the world heard about this story. And I thought that Monday was a great start. I thought that it rang incredibly credibly I got so much feedback from people who are in my life who nothing about my involvement in the PL. And who were so impressed and so glad and so sort of envious of the fact that I had been working on this with you, and it just energize me to to sort of see how far we had come in the time. We get lost in the weeds. Right. We're we're we're thinking about all the things we haven't yet done and all the things that need to get done as opposed to sort of stepping back and realizing what's been accomplished today. So I thought it was a great start. I think it's it's funny that it's being called the start because this doesn't feel like. But I I'm I'm super jazzed. I've gotten great feedback people around our company people around the business, and I thought that there was really no negatives that came from Monday, we've been sort of dealing with a PR battle with the existing professional leagues. And that's understandable. We're we're sort of trying to build a better mousetrap. And we think that we have a a solve for the fact that it just hasn't worked. So I understand where they're coming from. But we're not looking backwards or looking to the left or right. We're going forwards. That's great. We try to never make decision without first checking our online reviews for feedback. 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The endurance. And it reminded me of this segment that we're in right now is that launches is important. We feel like we did a pretty good job. Let's keep up the endurance now. Because in sports, I think and I've observed over time whether it's new leagues or or even incumbent mass leagues that. It's just it's a marathon. No question. It's not that different than than team sports. I mean, you come out you win the opening faceoff. You score a goal. Great. You feel great. Oh, it'd be prepared. We gotta go, and we have break we scored. But by the way, they're dropping the ball again in a minute. The team go down and score Anya, and you see it in the NBA all the time team comes out. They get a ten fifteen point lead. And you realize when you watch enough NBA games. This game is going to ebb and flow and talk to me when there's two minutes left. Yeah. We have a fifteen point lead. Then then I'll feel good. If not this is gonna this is gonna this is going to be when you think about operating whether it's phone calls that you made when you were a twenty two year old starting in the business to now high level be that you're working on with major sports leagues and stadium rights deals athletes. You're living in in sports. And so there's that shared commonality that you grew up with that you keep now, and you even get to interact with your clients like Aaron Rodgers Dwayne Wade how much do you find yourself pulling from them as best in class? And then pulling from you, and what's those relationships? Like, it's a great question. And the answer is I pull a lot from them. I think that excellence is excellence, whether you're a banker a realist. Agent NFL quarterback an NBA player or a sales executive. And I think that I have been someone who has always just tried to learn from the people I'm working with or working for whether those were buyers early in my career who sort of took the time to try and explain to me, why my pitch made no sense. And why there's a reason for them to buy whatever I was selling. But but those explanations helped me it helped me figure out how I wanted to position the nest the next set of pitches, and I think that the relationships that I've been lucky enough to have with let's call them elite athletic superstars and icons is is something that I benefit from every day. I think that the commonality is that they worked so hard that I heard this. When we were talking on your about your podcast with with coast pets Ramallah, and he was talking about the Alabama crimson tide and the New England Patriots and their consistency. And the fact that you know game day is what everyone's looking at. But it's really just the part that everyone else gets to see the winds come on the preparation. The winds come in the off season, the winds come in in sort of those daily grinding practices. And I think that when you're close to elite athletes and you're living with them on a year round basis. You understand it's about nutrition it's about, you know, maintenance of their physical toll that they go through and and that the game is really just a manifestation of all that hard work. And I think sales is that different. Are you paying attention to what's happening in the marketplace? Are you watching who's doing deals in other places? Are you are you seeing which of your? Competitors is is winning. And then figuring out what's making them win. So that you can emulate what they're doing. It's all very parallel. And it's all very natural to me. I think that because I was a history major in college, and I didn't go to business school, which is something I've always sort of lamented in thought hard about and sort of worried about missing I've really felt like I needed to learn as I went, and I've been doing that since I was twenty one years old. Yeah, you have to. So I had a buyer who wants he was a mid western guy who I did a lot of deals with any bought me this book, the art of the art of the deal by Chester. And remember he wrote on the inside of it vino. This is my investment in you, work, hard and things are going to happen. And I remember he he said to me like, yeah, I went to community college. I got a mass. But I got a master's of. Disasters from the school hard knocks. And I love that. I love that. I I don't know that I could qualify for the masters of disaster hard knocks. But I definitely have an MBA on the fly. I have not an which one of the reasons that I enjoy being exposed to friends of mine who have gone to business school colleagues here our business school graduates and then being on campus the times I've been able to do that. Yeah. So work ethic, and consistency. You keep coming back to the the art of just doing and whether that was failed sales calls or pitchers a lot of conversation about losses that were having and knowing you that that you see and you position yourself as that the fastest way to improve is off of that from the mechanism of learning and being responsive when you were in at Cornell as an undergrad you were selling programs at football games, and you took an internship at CBS and your first job. He didn't. A desk or or chair in sports. I got the underside of the chair. It was it was two desks in the office, and it share, but nothing stopped you from doing no way. I mean, honestly. I definitely was raised in a home with two parents that emphasized hard work. You know, my parents came from very humble beginnings. I was raised in a very, comfortable middle-class environment. But the fact that my dad's slept on the bench in the kitchen of his one bedroom apartment in Brooklyn, which he shared with his parents his sister and his grandparents with one bathroom one bedroom. You know, never was lost on me. And so whether that was homework assignments as an elementary school kid or shooting free throws in the backyard because you know, I wasn't good enough to not take advantage of the free throws. My dad echoes in my head today. You gotta make the free one son. They don't cost anything you're not. You're not scoring enough. You're not you're not a good enough shooter to not make the free throws when you get the privilege to have a free one. And I think that that's true in work. I think that you got gotta really. Coach Moran used to say. You know, cheat yourself your teammates don't cut corners. And I think that's true in work. I think that sales is a really unusual part of the business world where the amount of work, you do and how hard you try is directly proportionate with the results, you're going to get and it's one of the reasons that I always loved it. And it's one of the reasons I tell young people that if they have they think they have what it takes to sell that they should do it because over the course of their careers thirty forty fifty years there's gonna be a downturn in the economy, and if you can generate revenue, and you can drive sales. You'll always have a job. And that's really powerful thing. I didn't realize that when I was twenty one years old sort of fell into sales and thank God. Coach moran. Forced the freshman on the lacrosse team to sell programs at the football games did it because he didn't want us in the football. Tailgates? Yeah. He wanted to keep us out of the parking lot and raise money for the program. So okay, we might bellyache too have to be put in our lacrosse jerseys to walk up and down the stands during the football games. But I figured we were getting seventeen cents commission on every dollar program that we sold and for me, I was out there as well sell as many of them as I can. So so I am braced it, and I would go home with pride with, you know, thirty forty dollars in my pocket after the after the end of game. And that was great I had some money for the week and the following year. When one of the seniors who ran the program and manage the freshman offered me the job, Pat Lahey defense. American defensive out of Michigan. He offered me the job to work with him to run the freshman program. I was thrilled. We got forty dollars guaranteed, and then we got a one cent override on all this program sold. So that was great. I was making like seventy five eighty dollars. Yes. Better comp structure that. Yeah. And then the two of us were selling the gate the programs ourselves at the basketball and hockey games mazer in the winter. Yeah. I like that go out and do we talk about that to our athletes even at PEO, and that's going to be one of our mantras is the fastest way. To learn is to take action and take massive action. And then with new media technology, you get instantaneous feedback when you were first selling a lot of it was picking up the phone and writing letters when you look at your industry and your company sit on top of the industry now, it's one of the most highly sought after occupancies, especially for young talent trying to get into sports when you're looking at young talent walking in the door applying for position. Fans and some cases get through to focus interview with you. What are some attributes that jump out at you? Or you like I got a higher that our got a higher that guy. Yeah. I I am it gets back to the sort of philosophy have with regard to the investing. I am a gut person, and I feed off of other people's energy. And I feel like that's the first and foremost most important thing in an interview if someone approaches a sit down with me, and they they Zude confidence and and yet humility at the same time. I don't know if that's that's makes sense. But it's it's an interest confidence and a an appropriate level of humility. I like people who are clearly hungry and have worked hard for things when I look at someone's resume. I think about the way they approached whatever role they had before. They were here. I want to hear them talk about their prior experience. And I want them to light up when they tell a story about what they've done because what they've done matters to them. And I wanna know that the next thing they do which if it's going to come work here will natter to them 'cause that energy in that energize, and that hunger is going to produce results for us. So so to me, that's that's really the general vibe. 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Entrepreneurs of many out there nutrition is key to bodily and mental horsepower. And right now, you can get fifty dollars off your first box of green chef that's fifty dollars off by going to green chef dot US Ford slash Rabl. That's green chef dot US Ford slash Rabl. Enjoy it. How do you personally some in that energy so consistently throughout an entire career? I know a lot of it is eight. But are there any things tactically that you do to get the right mindset, especially when things aren't going? Well, yeah. Now, look, I think that's a great question. And there's no magic formula. I think that looking back over the course of decades of doing this job and selling generally, you have to you have to realize they're going to be tough times. And you just have to keep plowing through them and realize that you may have struck out six ten twelve fifteen times in a row, but the next play the next call the next pitch next meeting, it only takes one. So, you know, I think that again, I think a lot of the things that I picked up as a kid whether it was at home from my folks or whether it was playing. Coaches still ring in my head do the work. Go make the call try dig for the loose ball, whatever you can do their days when you're just not playing. Well, are there times you think because of your relationship with Paul and how close you all were that those failed calls us failed meetings gave you that communicative outlet. And that's often missing if someone's internalizing everything or seclude themselves. I think it's so hard to sell and if you're selling by yourself, it's even harder. At least when you're at least when you lose if you're with teammates, you're with friends with colleagues, you can pick each other up, and if one of us have a rough day or a rough week or a rough month the other teammate will hopefully pick you up and motivate you he's getting back at it. He's out there making a call. Let me make this call. Let me see if I can feed off of his energy me and Paul feel so lucky to have been able to share this office for the last twelve years. Hours and how how is my partner in LA? We talk about it all the time of the fact that over the course of a given year each of us has rough weeks or months, whether it's it's work related or just biorhythms or things that are happening in other parts of our lives. The other one can't afford to be struggling when one of us is dark the other one asks to try the other one up and it happens we find each other. I can hear incense and see in Howie when he's struggling with something. And and he he tries to late me from it. So it doesn't infect me. And it's really powerful to have teammates like, Paul and Howie who understand the fact that it can't always be perfect that this is hard, and you need to need to sort of pick each other up when when times are tough. So I think that gets back to why like sharing an office is that if if I'm having a tough day, I look over there. I see his red face smile. That me it's harder for me to feel terrible one of the things that I loved talking with Jay Williams about with his analogy or what his experience I should say with Shane Batty, and how shame Batty was always so vocal. And the trick behind Shane's of Ocala was that he knew that even when he was playing poorly if he could encourage a teammate, it's a two way benefit. So the teammate gets a bump from Shane's encouragement and Shane gets a bump from the teammates. And that's the way. He's shame baddie as the kind of player that always tried to be. He was obviously an exceptional player and had incredible college and professional career, and I've I've gotten to know him a little bit over the years, but I just love his work ethic. I love the fact that he wasn't one of the best shooters in the country. But yet he was one of the best players in the country because he worked hard, and he made made himself a really impactful. NBA teammate by doing that. So I think it just gets back to him in Taliban that that you know, it applies in athletics, and it applies at work you can really over achieve if you're willing to work hard. And I always felt like I needed to over achieve by working, hard athletically. Because I was I didn't feel like I was good enough to just sort of go half ass and be good enough. And I think basketball and lacrosse very similar in that regard. Because there is a an output that comes from over exertion of energy, even if you can't throw and catch and shoot as skillfully as the best player between the restraining lines ground balls or a function of how hard you go much you want it. And that's what I talked to my son about and the kids that I coached. Now, look they're gonna be teams that we're going to match up with their better than us. Doesn't mean we're going to lose. They may be lazy. Let's out work them lets out hustle. And let's out teamwork them and it works to mazing speaking of basketball. And then you grew up playing baseball as well on the cross you played in college at a very high level. But we were talking earlier that. You still feel a level of fortune for away stumbling into lacrosse, and there was a moment in high school where you were going to stop playing less being named the team's captain. So you fall through. So what is it about lacrosse? And what was that moment for you where kind of the switch flipped on? And so I grew up in Westchester county in north Tarrytown New York, and I was fortunate enough to play lacrosse in middle school went to the hackley school till eighth grade and was was playing middle school across which was something that was pretty rare in the mid eighties, and I moved to Chappaqua when I was in eighth grade, and I left tackle and went to public school, and I had planned on becoming a baseball player my whole life. You know, you asked me what I want to be. When I grow up, I want it to be this shortstop or the center fielder for the Yankees. So the Yankees that was all I dreamed about pro exactly. And and so I was playing little league baseball while I was. Playing lacrosse, and then I got to this new public high school, and I love the guys and I love the environment. And all of the guys that I loved I played basketball in the winter, and they were all going out for lacrosse team. And none of them had played middle school across. So I came in with an advantage. And I figured wow. This is great. I could be with these guys that I love, and I can show them how to play and I was I was pretty good. So I played, but I still planned on becoming a baseball player maybe tenth or eleventh grade, I would start playing baseball. But the guys that I loved were playing lacrosse, and I had a lot of fun playing lacrosse at ahead some success. But by the time, I was a senior I applied early decision to Cornell. I was fortunate enough to get in. I was really focused on basketball had a really great time playing basketball, the senior and had hoped that I would be able to try and walk on the Cornell basketball team since I had gotten in in November or December. And when the. Cross season came around. We had our fourth coach for four years. He was a terrific guiding built tribe. Oh, who didn't know anything about the cross admittedly had never played or watched a lacrosse game. But he was just being replaced replacing the guy who just walked out. We were ill-equipped the team had never had a winning season. And I think if my friend Tyler willing, and I and Josh Amherst hadn't been the captains we would have probably just packed it in and enjoyed the second semester. The spring of our our senior years, but our folks were were in our ears. We were we were captains we weren't quitting. We don't quit. So we played and we ended up being fourteen and three and we won the league. And I had some great success. And it was really it was exciting in fun. And and frankly coach Moran called me at the end of the season. And he said he said, hey, kid, you know, congratulations on a great season. Once you come up to cross office when? Get up here. And now, a friend of mine had been sort of how to it is very we. We have a guy who's unbelievable talent who's already coming to Cornell. It was very funny in the winter after I had applied. I called the lacrosse office. I had been all league player as junior high school. And I said, hey, you know, my friend one of my teammates who wasn't quite as good as me was being recruited a little bit not like heavy recruit. But he was working with them and talking to the coach and coach Keith right in back became a very close friend of mine answered the call, and he said, well, son, we know your area real well, and no one from your area's going to help our team. So I said, okay, I'm up the phone, and that was the end of it. But was was able to sort of have this great senior season. And then coach calls me after the season's over, and I literally got the phone call. And I said so is this one of the assistant coaches who am I speaking with? He's like no this head coach Richard appear kid. We wanna wanna have you so Ritchie's become? A very close friend and obviously legend of our game. I can't imagine what my life would be like had. I not continued playing lacrosse because even though we didn't win any championships at Cornell. When I was there the guys that were my teammates in those four years are still friends, and frankly, I've made so many important friendships and relationships that have shaped me, and who I am. And obviously your college years or so important in forming you as a person, and you know, the work that I did for four years five hours a day almost every day. I think really helped me learn how to be an executive because I went after social life pretty hard when I was in college, and I enjoyed myself, but I had always balance practice the next day or workouts or six AM conditioning. And I think that. Sort of structure and time management challenge. And balance is something that you know, really carries through with me today. And I think when I think about interviewing young people always partially in favor of someone who committed themselves to being a collegiate athlete, I think it's great training for being an executive because you're stressed and challenged in ways that other students aren't and I think that that is something that carries over really well into the workforce. Yeah. You know, what we often find out from our guests is that there's the shared work ethic. Humility there's vision and strategy. But when I get a chance to ask about a recruiting story. It's phenomenal. How everyone's is unique. And in a world today where parents and a lot of them are listening to this podcast and kids out there who wanna play college lacrosse, they want the blueprints. And there is none. No would make that. Like, hey, you need to be this good by the time, you're in sixth grades, you get to this high school by the time, you're in by the time, you're in ninth grade, you're getting recruiting letters and so on and like, that's certainly a path that maybe the top folks in some areas can share, but there's also top folks in all sports that are more like you. And I that I'm a believer. As a lot of my clients are that playing a multitude of sports is the best thing a young athlete can do. I talk. To parents about it all the time. I know that this era is is all about specialization. And I think it's great that people sort of focus on what they're doing. But I do believe it shouldn't come at the expense of other sports. Most of these kids are not gonna play at the collegiate level never mind professionals. So they should enjoy themselves and they should play a lot of different sports 'cause flag football fun. Baseball's fun basketball's fun golf and tennis are fun. And so is lacrosse, but for me. You know, I was always playing whatever sport was that season is whether a soccer, football or basketball or baseball or in. I went to summer camp. I went to summer camp until I was a junior in college to my friends from summer camp are still my best friends. And and frankly, everyone was always telling me, oh, you gotta play Empire State games. You gotta go to the top two. Oh five camp. Well, I can't do that. I'd love to be on the Empire State team play lacrosse, but I gotta go away to the index to to be in in camp with my friends and. That it was just as important to making me a successful athlete as specialization would have been. Yeah. I'll add around playing multi- multiple sports is that you also whether parents in the players or the athletes. No this right now, they're developing more motor skills because different sports put you athletically in different positions and teach you different movement patterns. And then if you are one of the very few that move on to play college, sports or professional sports. I've always said I've been lucky because my dad encourage my brother, and I gave us opportunity through wrec sports to play different ones. You can call on those athletic skill sets and those motor skills learned over time. And then add that to the sport that you're now specialising absolately, right different sports challenge. A same athlete in different ways. Baseball was always my first love and yet. You don't run that much in baseball. You know? Yeah. You have to run the basis. And maybe running to go, you know, make a play in the outfield, but you know, soccer challenged me to have, you know, cardio fitness than I would've never had had. I not played soccer. Let me ask you a question about this. Because this is fascinating. I just gave a speech to Johns Hopkins athletic department, and the undergrads there and the who's wonderful. She had asked me to talk about following your passion. And I challenged that. And I've pulled it primarily from mentors in the business fear that whether it'd been Steve Jobs talking to the graduate school of business or Scott Galloway here in New York, where they actually challenged the notion of following your I love or your passion and say finding what you're really good at is more important and expound upon that level of talent until you become great at it. Then you then that becomes your passion. So baseball, you said was your first love. And now the cross has become that because. Just better at it and made those connections. Do you feel the same way about career order percent thought you were going to go there on career? You know, honestly, there was no sports industry in nineteen Ninety-three a tiny little cottage industry. And I you know, I had my senior quote, my yearbook was was from Peter Pan. I'll never grow up never grow up on me. And yeah, I mean, it's still holds true. Frankly, I think I made a good choice in nineteen eighty nine. But you know, I was at Cornell where there were a lot of really focused students and a lot of focus students who were focused on their careers, and I wasn't. I was painting houses with my friends at home trying to make a few bucks a wanted to go to summer camp. It'd be a counselor and have fun up in the mountains and water ski what great personal skills. You were building. Oh my God. It was the best. I wish I could still do it to this day using your hands and people. Oh my God. I haven't painted a house in a while. But I I would I would still feel like I knew what I was doing. If I was up on a twenty five foot ladder. Can I used to love the winter months because we could shovel driveways for twenty bucks? Shovel driveways a pain indoor indoor houses a great. That's a that's a treat. There's no there's no sun. There's no rain. Anyway, you know, when it came to getting a job, I had no direction. I did not want to be someone who had to fake it. I didn't know a bond from a stock. I didn't have a passion. For Wall Street. I probably would have just gone to Wall Street to law school, my dad, and my uncle had because I was I was pretty decent as a reader and writer, but I sat with the president of CBS sports who I got to know between my junior and senior year him Neal pilson who's remained a friend of mine all this time. And he said, so what are you going to do after college? And I said I figured I'd apply to law school. And he's like why? I want to do that. He's like what do you want to be? When you grow up, and I said, well, I I'd like to have job like you. You're a lawyer. He says, yeah. But I'm a lawyer. But if I had to do it again, it would never go to law school. I got lawyers who worked for me, and they do business affairs integrate profession, it's an admirable life. But you certainly don't need to be a lawyer to do my job. He said only go to law school. If you're sure you wanna be a lawyer. So I went back to school that year after working at CBS sports. And actually that was a Eureka moment for me getting a job between my junior and senior year at CBS sports was very fortunate. I friend of mine skew wrote for the Cornell daily sun who had been high school with in college with he grabbed an application that was at the Cornell daily sun and said, you know, you should apply for this job. It was an internship at CBS sports, and it required an essay in transcript and a resume. None of which I had ever had an. Recommendation, but I hustled it together. And I sent it in cold and thought, you know, what if I had to get a job, this wouldn't be bad. And I got interview, thankfully, and the woman in HR said to me, what do you know about CBS sports? And I said, well, I don't know I I'm a giants fan. And I watched CBS they have the giant Gabes on channel two here in New York in the games are on channel four and John Madden. And Pat Summerall do the games and the TV just looks a little sharper on channel two. It's a little bright when I watched jet games and NBC is really sort of different in that way. Then CBS and she looked over to table at me. And she's like that's as good an answer as I can get from a twenty year old kid as there is. And I thought to myself all my God. This is my calling this is a career where I can just be honest and be myself and not have to pretend an interview this is the job. This is the career. That I want and honestly, it has not changed for me since then I really feel lucky to be able to be in an industry that accepts me for my shortcomings in my warts. I did not know what a balance sheet was. I didn't have had experienced learning about a PL. I picked it all up along the way. And I was always very candid about what I didn't know and knowing what I didn't know helped. But to me this the best thing about the sports industry is that I can be myself, and and that level of of sort of comfort has enabled me to get to build real relationships. And connect with buyers and colleagues and clients in ways that I think is really helped me as you have now built this career and from a work ethic standpoint working with a number of agencies figuring out that path we had mentioned earlier in the podcasts. How you founded and help continue to really build a sports on the original team. Now, you all think about sports differently. So it's not just talent representation. It's not just an endorsements. It's the stadium rights deals. It's major media rights deals. So what is the what's the vision? And what gets you so excited about sports as it has changed so much over time and really tying back into PL. Why the opportunity is now versus ten years ago or two years ago or two years from now is the convergence of new tech in media. Yeah. I look I think that your hundred percent, right. And and looking back at ninety three when this was a tiny little cottage industry. We have been very I have been very fortunate to have had I twenty five years of my career being incredible market for the sports industry. It's a it's an incredible bull market because of the changes and the volition of mass media. Television is at the heart of what makes sports visible, the DVR has sort of enabled people to view other sources of content at different times and in different ways absorbed, their content as they choose sports is still the last bastion of must see reality programming. That's best watched live and that is driven the ecosystem. It's made distributors wanna spend the money that they've spent two program live sports, and that has sort of trickled down across the entire industry. So there's an audience their audiences are fragmented now with all the different media outlets, and that brings advertiser interest to try and attract the mass audience and spend money on that. And it's it's something that is really fortunate. And I think that while fragmentation has continued to erode sort of some traditional out. Outlets on linear television, the advent and the influx of new distributors Facebook, the FANG companies, and and others that will emerge over the course of time has sort of prompt new energy and air into the ecosystem of sports, and it's made the old line players and establishment have to spend more, and it's an ongoing cycle that I believe the P L L is in the middle of. There has never been a time when people can consume the best lacrosse in the world. Throughout the course of the year you had to basically catch a college game or catch the tournament for a few weekends. And that was it. And I I think that now the exciting thing for us on the P L L is that this is going to tour around fourteen cities to start with and you're going to be able to go see it live once or twice a year. If you decide you want to, but you can stream it on NBC gold pass, you can watch it on ABC or NBC sports network. And it's there for you. And now all of a sudden the generation of kids are going to grow up imitating these players and watching them when a week to week basis, and that's gonna hopefully feed even more excitement and interest in the sport. Knows aptitude is so great. It's no wonder why been able to close on so many of those deals if you enjoyed my conversation as always please be sure to let us know, and you can do. So by either shooting me or the peel note over Twitter, I'm at Paul rebel. And the premier lacrosse league is now at premier lacrosse, you can be the first in next week's episodes wells catch on previous episodes, including my one on one conversation with co founder and CEO my older, brother. Mike record our latest episode. The night of the pillows launch his many more available in apple podcast, Google play. Tune in Spotify Stitcher wherever you listen to your pods. Also when you find us, please hit subscribe and give us a rating and review those go along way. Check out this episode show notes on podcast dot com. And thank you to today's show sponsors green chef ZipRecruiter podium until next time. The next episode of creating the PL two more. Citing.