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ESPN skipper is a Jets fan

ESPN president John Skipper.

ESPN president John Skipper. Credit: AP, 2010

Over the decades, men who grew up in the New York area have dominated the upper ranks of network sports executives, much to the annoyance of the rest of the nation.

Enter John Skipper, the president of ESPN and thus one of the handful of most powerful people in the sports business. He grew up in Lexington, N.C., attended college in Chapel Hill and still has the accent to prove it.

So, sir, what is your favorite football team?

"We didn't really have any natural pro loyalties when I was growing up," he said Saturday during a break in the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference in Boston. "We didn't have the Panthers. We were primarily college basketball-centric.

"I moved to New York in 1978 [for graduate school at Columbia] and in those days the Jets still played at Shea Stadium. I had buddies who still had season tickets, so I went to the Jets games in '78, '79, '80, '81 and became a fan. I adopted the team. The Giants were harder to get [tickets for] because of their popularity.

"I came to New York, I liked the sport and wanted to adopt a team and the Jets were easier to get to."

Further prodding revealed Skipper is a fan of the Knicks in basketball, the Rangers in hockey and the Yankees in baseball. He said his Knicks fandom began in the late '70s, too, when he could purchase student tickets in the blue seats for $3.

Is it OK for the president of ESPN to be a fan of any team, other than his alma mater?

"Actually you have to be a little careful," he said. "You generally have to figure out when it's appropriate to wear it and when it's not."

One "not" example would be when attending a game with NBA owners who do not own the Knicks.

"Do I wear it on my sleeve while I'm talking to them that I'm a Knicks fan? No," he said. "But when I go to Madison Square Garden I stand up and cheer for the Knicks."


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