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Thoughts on Steinbrenner's passing trickling in from NFL

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By Eric Edholm

The death of Yankees owner George Steinbrenner has caught the attention of the sports world, not just that of baseball.

Steinbrenner is one of sports' seminal owners, a figure much larger than almost any franchise owner in the past 50 years, and his management style has had an effect on the way major sports franchises have run their businesses in this expanding global sports marketplace.

That most certainly includes the NFL.

When Steinbrenner first made his mark with the Yankees, in the early 1970s, baseball was king and professional football was a distant second. The NFL was in its relative infancy, at least how we know it today, having just merged with the AFL and taking a shape somewhat similar to how it is today.

There was no free agency in football. Primetime games were new and novel. The Super Bowl was only a sliver of the spectacle it is today.

Steinbrenner broke ground as baseball took the lead on free agency, paying princely sums for players and managers, and raising the collective bar for the sport's other franchises. Though his tempestuous style and larger-than-life personality often clashed with many in baseball, he became an institution and helped build the Yankees into a worldwide empire.

Football people, especially higher-ups, might privately tell you that they are jealous of what Steinbrenner built with the Yankees. While the NFL has grown immensely in the past three decades, including the value of individual franchises, several owners would love to have what Steinbrenner had, including the team's YES Network, the crown jewel of team-run TV networks.

A few NFL owners, including the Giants' duo, took time to pass on their memories of Steinbrenner this morning.

“The passing of George Steinbrenner leaves a significant void in the fabric of the sports world and New York City," Giants president John Mara said. "The thoughts and prayers of our organization are with the Steinbrenner and Yankees families. George’s energy and his commitment and devotion to the Yankees were unmatched, and he was as generous and charitable a person as has ever been in sports. His was a unique, special and unforgettable presence.”

“George Steinbrenner was a dynamic personality in sports and in business," Giants chairman Steve Tisch said. "He was the ultimate competitor in both worlds. All of us in the business of sports want to win; that is the objective. George personified that ambition. He and his good works will be missed dearly. George and my father had a special relationship; they were both good businessmen, and George loved the Yankees and my father loved the Giants.”

The Glazer family, the principal owners of the Buccaneers, released a statement on his death as well:

"The sports world and Tampa community have lost a legend and a friend. George was one of the most consequential and colorful executives in sports history. He helped restore his proud franchise to its unique place in sports and society. However, his greatest contributions weren't those that graced the sports page. He was a caring, gentle giant in our community. George will be sorely missed."

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, perhaps as close in size a figure as Steinbrenner was 20 years ago (without the hard edge), had this to say: "First and foremost this man was a winner. From a person with my perspective, he was an inspiration in the area of doing everything possible — within the rules — to win.
 
"George redefined professional sports ownership with his vision, his ability to build a champion and a passionate approach that lifted the visibility and popularity of his franchise and his sport. From an interest level, baseball was always better when the profile and the performance of the New York Yankees was at a high level, and George always made sure that was the case.
 
"I admired his willingness to promote and support all sports at all levels. I appreciated his understanding of the invaluable asset of involving his family in the management of the Yankees. I took pride in calling him a friend, an advisor, an inspiration and later, a business partner.
 
"We have lost a true leader in sports — someone who not only saw the big picture but helped create the scene on the canvas."

The Vikings released this statement: "The Minnesota Vikings ownership and organization wish to extend their condolences to the George Steinbrenner family and the New York Yankees on Mr. Steinbrenner’s passing earlier today. As an instrumental figure in Major League Baseball and all of professional sports, Mr. Steinbrenner helped the Yankees develop an uncompromising style in their quest for championships. Under Steinbrenner’s stewardship, Major League Baseball experienced significant growth while the Yankees became a recognizable sports icon throughout the world — the standard for both competitiveness and excellence. Most importantly, Mr. Steinbrenner’s commitment to charitable giving, amateur sports and the United States Olympic Committee became staples of his consistent community outreach. The Vikings thoughts and prayers are with Mr. Steinbrenner’s family and friends."

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