SBRNet Newsletter

In Memory of My Father, Dick Lipsey


A bookshelf is a great window into the soul. When my dad passed away at 89 years-old in May, I found a wildly eclectic mix of authors on his townhouse floor (his bookshelves were still in the box, waiting for me to install them). Luminaries like Milton Berle, Albert Camus, Elmore Leonard, Edgar Allan Poe, Edith Wharton and, of course, the great sports-marketing college textbook author Richard (Dick) Lipsey.

No doubt, my dad was a thinker a tinkerer, a writer, a creator, an Iowan, a relentless worker, a high-tech guru, a sports junkie, a Democrat and a visionary. Some things he was not: a cook, a house cleaner and very tolerant of Republicans. Until the end, my Dad, sometimes grudgingly, maintained his lifelong best-friend relationship with his younger brother, Chuck, despite Chuck's Trump-supporting right-wing sentiments.

Above all, my dad was a friend who made people smile. When he'd visit my New York City apartment, my dad would always end up on the floor with his four grandchildren, playing, laughing and rolling around so exuberantly that I'd often have to act like my mom, a.k.a. “The enforcer, and tell my dad to calm down or I'd kick him out of the house; which by the way, my mom did to me many times.

I didn't know the cherubic, sweet side of my dad for my first 20 years. My mom and dad divorced pretty much while leaving the hospital after I was born, and I barely saw my dad during my childhood. This is interesting, because most people assume (incorrectly) that I became a decent golfer because of my father, who was captain of the University of Pennsylvania golf team and once finished ahead of Jack Fleck at an Iowa Open golf event. Actually, I didn't learn anything about golf from my dad, except that it's possible to make 50-foot putts with a rusty Bullseye Putter.

It was my dad who jumpstarted our relationship when I was a student at Cornell. Quickly, we began talking and didn’t stop till he passed away. I was inspired by his relentless zeal for everything, including raspberries, classical music, world history and, especially, his business. When publishing his iconic sports industry directory, Sports Marketplace, my dad loved telling me how he'd often do the computer work overnight (hint: to save money) on Princeton University mainframes while sitting next to John Nash, the Noble Prize winning mathematician and subject of the book and movie, A Beautiful Mind.

My dad also had a beautiful mind. A mind that spawned Sports Market Analytics, Consumer Brand Analytics and later rolled it all under SBRnet. These were the business ideas that came to fruition, there were many other ideas that never made it past the planning stage. No matter, it was all of those ideas, all of that thinking – and a bit of being a work-a-holic that led to the mind-jarring collection of data that universities and executives around the world now consider something they cannot function without.

Nobody succeeds in life or business without learning lessons and listening. My dad was no exception. One of his favorite activities, right up there with watching Masterpiece Theater and New York Philharmonic concerts, was meeting with librarians and academics. It was this love of the librarians, professors, teachers that drove him. He truly enjoyed their friendships and comradery and he always said that the librarians were unrivaled sources of ideas. My dad would not think twice about going 50 miles out of his way to visit one of the SBRnet subscribers to develop and expand his relationship.

But perhaps the best lesson my dad learned was something that we all needed to learn and practice: to live the “Golden Rule.” He always treated others as he wanted to be treated. As I've said, my dad's early forays into marriage (two divorces) and parenting didn't go so well. But he learned and grew from his mistakes. Since my dad's passing, I've heard from so many people – realtors, storage facility managers, accountants, librarians – not only about how brilliant my dad was but how much they regarded him personally and the data service that he created, nurtured and loved. But more important and above all else, it was how good they felt for having a relationship with my dad. After all, isn’t that the true measure of a person’s life?

I agree. It took work, but after a rough start my father got it right. He became my Dad.

-Rick Lipsey, 53, lives in New York City with his wife and four children. For 20 years, he was a staff golf writer at Sports Illustrated, and before that he was captain of the Cornell golf team.

Posted: 10/14/2020 4:00:24 PM

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