While it is Mark Eaton's job to guard against opponents' scoring, it's Dennis Haslam's job to guard the Utah Jazz from legal liability.
Jazz attorney Haslam says he "protects the team against risk" in arenas inside and outside the Salt Palace.Defining a growing area of complex law, Haslam said it is "the practice of regular business law with a little bit of glitter."
Those moments of glitter include seeing his son's face when he is handed Karl Malone's autograph. And sharing the exhilaration on days such as Christmas 1988 when Jazz fans battled a snow blizzard to cheer their team on to victory over the L.A. Lakers.
A devoted fan, Haslam said, "I love feeling the electricity at the games. It's thrilling to be part of it all. I believe the Jazz add significantly to the quality of life in Utah."
The job's perks are these moments. But, no, he doesn't receive free season tickets.
The nuts and bolts of sports law are the same as in most private law practices. Knowledge of real estate law, for instance, is critical to negotiations for a new arena. Haslam must also have a command of evidence, contracts and civil procedure in advising management on business transactions.
When the Jazz decided to promote the team through television bingo last year, Haslam was responsible for devising a game that would not smack of illegal gambling.
To avoid potential problems, Haslam researched the law and visited with the attorney general offices in all the states that would receive the broadcast - Montana, Idaho, Nevada, Colorado and Arizona.
"Basic guidelines have been followed. No money is at risk, so it is a legal promotion,"' he said.
Haslam does not negotiate the player's contracts. But the players are an integral part of the business. "Players become important issues in figuring risks."
As their attorney, he considers the players' safety - and the safety of their fans.
For instance, five years ago the Jazz found a novel way to celebrate the first time they had made it to the playoffs - a fireworks display in the center of the Salt Palace arena. However, following the colorful bursts of gunpowder, the arena filled with smoke, delaying the game nearly a half hour.
"As a fan, I loved it. But as an attorney, I had a lot of concerns. What if someone had been hurt. Weighing the risks of hurting a spectator, I advised them against doing it again."
When the Utah Dairy Association sponsored a competition between local celebrities milking cows as half-time entertainment, Haslam was calculating the risks.
"What if one of the cows had bolted into the crowd?"
"My job is to be a worrier - to protect the legal and financial well-being of the Jazz. If there's a risk, then I advise management and they make the decision."