“If you can put yourself into the head and the heart of another person, and see the world the way they see it, you can craft win-win scenarios and navigate your way gracefully through life.” This is the “mission statement” of character Jerry Maguire’s real life inspiration, Leigh Steinberg, one of the most successful agents in professional sports.
On November 4, Steinberg spoke with Miami Law students in a “Sports Law” class – sharing this and many other life lessons. “Sports Law” is one of the many popular entertainment and sports law courses offered and it is both open to J.D. students and is a required sports track course in the school’s LL.M. in Entertainment, Arts and Sports Law program.
Harold Flegelman, Mike Kelly and Leigh Steinberg
Steinberg, a graduate of the University of California, Berkeley, has represented over 300 athletes in a variety of professional sports. He has also developed films, websites, video games, and apps relating to sports and athletes, transforming the industry and its standards.
Steinberg has spoken to aspiring agents, lawyers, and representatives – all avid sports fans – about his time in the industry, providing them insight into what he has learned through his personal experiences and how they can be successful in their eventual careers.
In his view, connecting with people is the most important part of working as a sports agent, or in any field. “The chief skill you need to master is listening,” he said. “Having the ability to understand someone’s deepest anxieties and fears, and their greatest hopes and dreams.”
Steinberg described his core values, which include “treasuring relationships,” especially family, and trying “to make an impact on the world in a positive way.” He detailed many of his efforts, which include launching his initiatives and encouraging his clients to embrace their potential for activism.
“Athletes can permeate the perceptual screen that adolescents put up against authority figures,” he said. Steinberg used this idea to his advantage in developing Project HEAR Us, which uses athletes as “purveyors of tolerance” and role models of good behavior.
Steinberg also commented on his vision for the future of the sports industry. He sees the utilization of multiple media outlets as key. He went on to describe his various works to promote the game, which includes Athletes Direct, a website devoted to athletes and their stories, and The Agent, an autobiography.
Having served as the inspiration, and consultant for “Jerry Maguire,” once the highest grossing sports movie of all time, Steinberg reminisced about the process of making the film. This included how he taught Jerry O’Connell, the star quarterback, to throw a spiral, and Steinberg also gave his rendition of “show me the money.”
Regarding the real games being played, he explained that attracting people to “sit for four hours to watch” is becoming increasingly difficult. “How can you make the stadium experience more expansive?” he asked.
Many of his ideas, which include developing monitors on seat backs that would allow fans to access stats, other games, and a messaging feature to “smack talk” with each other inspired the UM students looking to follow in his footsteps.
“I came because I want to be a sports agent,” said Rachel Smith, a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. “The man is a walking legend. He created an empire, which is something that we could all achieve.”
Steinberg gave Rachel and the other students in attendance, very specific advice about how to move forward in their careers. “Figure out what you’re doing in life, not what somebody else thinks is the right thing for you,” he said.
“Take your degree, and see it as a way to express your personality, your goals, and your vision of a larger society.”