If you are in the sports gambling space and you don’t know the name Tim Murray, you will soon. Murray was recently hired by VSiN to host The Pregame Show, which airs on Saturdays and Sundays from noon to one ET.
“Sunday right before kickoffs, that is when the most action is happening. The boards are going to be changing and the bets are going to be coming in.”
Murray explained that VSiN’s Founder Brian Musberger felt that there was a “void in the market for gambling talk on the weekends, especially before kick-off on Sundays, so that is where VSiN wanted to establish itself. In that space. And, that was their vision for me.”
Murray will also be doing a myriad of other guest spots and appearances for the company. Be “a utility guy” of sorts, as he likes to call it.
The 6’7” Murray might be a terrible free-throw shooter on the basketball court (we will get to that later), but his stints at NBC Sports, WTOP and ESPN 980 (now Team 980), the Navy Football Radio Network, SB Nation Radio (now Sports Map Radio) and Bob & Brian’s morning show on 102.9 The Hog in Milwaukee speaks for itself. While his path wasn’t a linear one, it all came together this fall.
Prior to starting at VSiN though, it wasn’t all roses for Murray. There was even a time not too long ago when Murray asked himself, “am I good enough to make it?”
I caught up with Murray to talk about a slew of topics including his journey, the gambling space, hurdles he faced and advice to people trying to break into the industry.
VC: Where did your passion for sports and doing media work come from?
TM: It started with Notre Dame and I loved them because my dad went there. I also grew up playing sports. And, like a lot of kids, I watched reruns of Sportscenter every morning and said, hey I want to do that.
So when it came to picking a college, I wanted to play basketball but I also wanted to go to a school that had a communications program, so that narrowed my list pretty quickly. I landed at a school in Pennsylvania called Muhlenberg and it was great for me. Besides playing basketball, I got to call football games, write columns, and host radio shows.
What’s funny is that during my first internship with an NBC affiliate, they let all the interns do one mock sportscast and I hated it. But after doing a few more shows, I was like ‘ok maybe I do want to do more on-air stuff.’ But, that is how I got rolling.
VC: How did you get into the gambling space?
TM: It actually started with a good friend of mine, Kevin Sheehan, who is a big sports gambler. I’m a huge basketball fan and we would talk about the lines as I was always fascinated by them. Kevin and I would talk about his philosophy. He does a bit on his show called the “smell test”, which is kind of sniffing out the lines that don’t make a ton of sense. I thought that was really unique and then I started getting into it, talking about it and incorporated it.
So fast forward to things when I was in a little bit of a rough patch in 2018 and I was working on the news desk at NBC Sports Washington. Just a part-time gig, but I was trying to get into the gambling space at that time. Ironically enough, I had done some part-time work for NBC Sports Radio so I’d gotten to know their PD and Jack Silver. They knew who I was because I went to the Olympics with Westwood One in 2018 and then I did a couple other things for them like the Tour Championship in St Louis and the PGA Championship.
So they were looking around to see who they could pair with Michael Jenkins to do this 4-hour gambling endeavor called The Daily Line, and they came up to me to ask what my comfort level was on gambling. I’m like I gamble on the NFL and college football, so they were like let’s give you a shot.
I tried out, we did like four or five segments and the next morning it was on! It was kind of happenstance that I got into the sports gambling space, and I’ll be honest man, I mean you know that this industry is so volatile and I’ve been laid off five times. Sucks, but you know with the sports gambling boom here, I felt really fortunate just to get that opportunity with The Daily Line.
It’s also been phenomenal how many people in the gambling world are so welcoming. You know all these sportsbook directors Dave Sharapan, Alan Berg, etc. They’re so willing to come on and to talk about things and I was just trying to be a sponge as much as possible.
VC: Let’s talk about some of those hard times. I know you had mentioned you even doubted yourself at times and went through some rough patches. Talk to me about that.
TM: Like I said, I’ve been laid off five times. The industry is tough. There were dark times where I thought about quitting. I didn’t get a full-time job in this industry until I was twenty-five and I graduated college at 21. I was piecing a lot of things together and doing a lot of networking but it was still hard.
One time that really resonates for me is Inauguration day in 2017. I’ll backup a little bit, but ESPN 980 decided to expand their lineup and that was a huge thing for me. I went from being just the morning anchor and a weekend guy to now hosting everyday 7 to 10 pm Eastern and being the afternoon drive anchor. It was a big opportunity for me and everything was going great and then Inauguration day came. I walk outside of the studio and I see my program director and that he says ‘hey can I talk to you for a second?’ I walked into his office and I saw that the CFO was there and immediately it’s over. I got let go.
I’m thinking it just didn’t make sense. I’m one of the lowest paid full-time employees and did so many things for them. And, they were my hometown station. On top of that, my wife was pregnant so you know that hit me hard. That was the day before my wife and I were going on vacation and at that point I was sitting there thinking all right, I don’t have much employment.
Fortunately for me, there was one piece that really kept me going and that made me feel like I needed to keep trying. It was the fact that Westwood One believed in me. Anyone who’s been in radio knows Westwood One is kind of the pinnacle when it comes to play-by-play. But, the fact that Westwood One thought highly of me and asked me to go to PyeongChang and be on their Olympic broadcast team, that was honestly the one thing in the back of my mind saying ‘okay I’m good enough to keep going.’ You know if that had not happened honestly I don’t even know if I’d be here today.
VC: What is your advice to anyone trying to break into the gambling industry?
TM: Be a sponge. If you are interested, just suck it all up. Listen to people you like and follow people on Twitter.
Getting into sports gambling talk is the same as getting into sports radio. Find people you like and listen. Before I got to know Doug Kezirian, I used to listen to his podcast to pick up on some of the terminology. I’m like ‘okay, what does that mean?’ So I’d look it up.
So many people in this industry are willing to talk to you about it because a lot of people behind the counter like the Sportsbook directors from John Murray, Dave Sharapan, Alan Berg, etc., recognize it’s good for business. This isn’t really an exclusive fraternity, I think it’s a very inclusive group. They want people to become part of it and they want you to really believe in it. Learn and be willing to ask questions.
This is a space that is going to continue to grow, so if you are coming out of college, embrace it. If you can just learn some lines, understand the gambling terminology and you can comfortably have a conversation about gambling, that is just going to be that much more beneficial and make you that much more intriguing of a candidate because of where the sports gambling landscape is going.
VC: How do you deal with internet trolls?
TM: It’s all about how you deal with it. I do see a lot of people who never get any picks wrong though (said with a big smirk on his face). You have to own things. When you are wrong, embrace it. There are going to be trolls no matter what you do in life. You have to have thick skin. As long as they are not talking about my family it’s all good.
I’m also very self-deprecating. If you look at my Twitter profile, there’s a joke about the fact that I am the worst free throw shooter in Muhlenberg school history, which is true, you can look it up. I went 8 for 31.
So, I don’t take it too seriously. I didn’t come into this as a know it all. I’m not a handicapper. I’m a sports host that likes to gamble. I’m going to get picks wrong. I don’t sell picks. If you want to go opposite of every pick, go for it.
I also put my money where my mouth is. I never tell people how much to bet on a game because it’s nobody’s business. Whether it’s five, ten or five thousand dollars, good for you. Whatever you feel comfortable with you know. But, I bet on those games.
Yes, trolls suck but there are worse things in the world, so I brush it off.
Media Noise – Episode 44
This week’s episode is all about the NFL. Demetri explains why the league embracing kids is long overdue, Andy Masur stops by to breakdown the first Manningcast, and Ryan Maguire explains why some sports radio stations are missing a golden opportunity to shine on Sundays.
Interviews Thrive On Podcasts In A Way They Can’t On Radio
“Opportunities that a podcast creates open doors to audio that is simply superior to live radio.”
Live radio vs. podcasts seems to be a heavyweight fight that isn’t ending anytime soon. Podcasts are growing so much that companies that do radio are also now offering podcasts. This column is hardly about that fight.
Instead, this is about how a podcast interview is a better way to get the best out of the guest than anything live on a radio station. This is not about downloads or clicks or sponsors. Solely about the content that is being produced.
A podcast makes the guest more comfortable and is more intimate than a live radio show. Especially in sports.
Since 2015, I have hosted and produced 656 podcasts (yes it was fun to count them) and hosted many radio shows. My current shows are called Sports with Friends, Hall of Justice, and Techstream. That last one I host with tech expert Shelly Palmer.
On radio, there is a myriad of things the host has to do besides focus on the guest.
First, there are the IDs. Program directors have always told me ID the guest every chance I get. “We are talking with Eli Manning on WFAN,” is heard 7 times during an eight-minute segment.
On a podcast, the name of the guest is on the player or app that is playing the podcast. “Episode 1. Eli Manning, New York Giants” scrolls across smartphones, car radios, or other devices constantly. Never interrupt the guest with an ID.
Then, there’s the fact that it is recorded and not live. I have a standard preamble that I say to any guest before any record light turns on.
“I will push,” I explain. “I will see where the conversation takes us, but I do tend to push. However, I’m on your side. This isn’t some expose’. If something comes up that you don’t like your answer, tell me. I’ll take it out. If there’s something that I say that is bad or wrong, tell me, I’ll take it out. This is a conversation, not an interview.”
In 656 podcasts, only one player, Bryce Harper (then of the Washington Nationals) asked me to take something out of a podcast.
We were doing Episode 54 of Sports with Friends when the subject of Dusty Baker came up. He had just been hired to manage the Nationals. I mentioned in passing that Dusty had given the eulogy at my best friend Darryl Hamilton’s funeral.
Bryce was so intrigued that he recalled the comments I had made and asked if we could pause. We then spoke for a good 10 minutes about the kind of person Dusty was. Why Darryl held him in such regard. It was a really inciteful chat. Never was on the podcast.
Still, guests do relax when told that the editing option exists. They let their guard down. The host of a podcast can ask deeper questions.
“Who was the first person you called when you found out you were traded?”
“Have you seen a life for you after football?”
“How much do you hate a certain player?”
All questions, that if asked live, could seriously backfire. So not only does the guest have a guard up, but the interviewer also has to play it relatively safe, when they are not IDing the guest for the umpteenth time.
Time constraints also don’t exist in a podcast where they are beholden on live radio. The guest is just about to tell you they did cocaine during the World Series, and you are up against the clock.
I have hosted shows over the years where the guest was phenomenal, but I screwed up the PPM clock. That was the takeaway. The clock is important on a live medium that needs to get that quarter-hour.
I try to keep my podcasts short. You wouldn’t see it from looking at the lengths of my episodes. Still, I feel that if someone wants to talk and dive into a topic and it goes a little long, I will never cut the guy off.
Ken Griffey Jr. spoke for 45 minutes with a cigar and his feet up on the phone by his pool. He was telling jokes and stories. I wouldn’t have stopped that if a train was coming. When I hosted Mariner content at KJR in Seattle, our interviews usually last 5 minutes.
Jon Morosi broke down the future of clubhouse access and how he traveled during Covid. Then he told an amazing story of his wife working in the medical field and how that impacted all of his family. Shannon Drayer of 710 KIRO got so in-depth in her arduous journey from being a coffee barista to the Mariners on-field reporter. It was split into two episodes.
Former porn star Lisa Ann talked about her decision to quit the business. Even Jason Barrett himself was Episode 173 of Sports with Friends.
(When in the past has Jason Barrett been in the same paragraph as a porn star? Note to Demetri: please leave it in.)
The radio industry is seen to be cutting costs wherever it can. Mid-market stations are not doing night shows anymore, instead offering nationally syndicated programming.
Weekends are another avenue that perplexes me. Talent that is not deemed good enough to be on during the week is often given weekend shifts. Also, some Monday-Friday hosts add a weekend shift to their duties. Here’s a theory: play podcasts. Format them to hit your PPM time marks.
They don’t have to be my podcasts, but in the crowded podcast space, surely there are sports talk podcasts that are intimate, deep, and fun. Since we live in a data-driven age, let’s see how a radio station fares playing high-quality podcasts or portions of them, vs. weekend hosts.
Program directors often worry about the outdated nature of a podcast. That sells the podcaster short. As someone who has been in the podcast space since 2003, I know how to make them timeless, and companies make shows often enough, that rarely would they be outdated.
Quality shines through the speakers. The spoken-word audio format is continually evolving. Opportunities that a podcast creates open doors to audio that is simply superior to live radio.
The podcast industry is continually evolving. Radio needs to evolve as well. Then, it can be a fair fight.
National Voices Can Work For Local Clients
“Distance, like absence, can make the heart grow fonder.”
Selling personalities is one of the hottest trends in media today. Sure, most of the buzz is around social media influencers, but radio has long had a relationship with its audience based on personal connections between host and listener. And nobody has a better relationship with their audience than a sports radio host.
I am sure you are leveraging your local hosts by now. Live spots, testimonials, remotes, and promotions are all great tricks of the trade, as well as sponsored social media posts. But does your station carry syndicated shows? I am sure you do either from 7 pm-12 am Monday-Friday or on weekends.
In 2018, The Ticket in Boise, Idaho brought CBS Sports Radio host Damon Amendolara and his co-host, Shaun Morash, to town for a Boise State football game. Damon had just switched to mornings from evenings, and his show aired in Boise from 4 am-8 am Monday – Friday. His ratings were decent, but nothing that stood out considering the daypart. It was thought to be risky to sell him into sandwich shops, pizza places, appearances at local legend hangouts, and so forth.
Boise State head football coach and QB Bryan Harsin and Brett Rypien did a live shot on the show from the on-campus bookstore. At dark thirty. It all worked. DA and Morash were hits! Everywhere they went, lines and crowds awaited them and they hit spots in a two-county area. The few days of appearances worked so well that DA is back in Boise three years later, this time for a week. Now, DA is doing his show from resort hotels 2.5 hours away, taking riverboat adventure fishing trips in Hell’s Canyon, craft beer tours for his sidekick Andrew Bogusch and hosting college football viewing parties at brewpubs. Every station that carries syndicated shows probably has a DA success story waiting to happen.
Start by listening to the shows, know the benchmarks and quirks of the national personalities or call the affiliate rep and ask. Does the talent discuss their love of beer, BBQ, pizza, whatever? If they do, then go ahead and sell them to a local client. The national talent can do the spot and endorse your client. If it’s a product, send one to them. Figure out how to get them a pizza. If it’s a service, do a zoom call with the client and let them start a relationship. Include some social media elements with video. The video can be used in social media and can sit on the client’s website. Yours too!
If you want to bring the talent to town, do it for a big game, local event, or 4th of July parade, and the sponsors will follow. Run a promo during the talent’s daypart asking local sponsors to text in to reserve their promotional spot. Have the talent cut liners asking the same thing. Take the NFL Sunday morning host and sell a promo to a sports bar where the host zooms in to a table or room full of listeners, and they watch a portion of a game together. Or sell the same idea to a national chain and do an on-air contest for a listener to have a home watch party with the zoomed-in host complete with food and beverages from your sponsors sent to both locations. How about sending your #1 BBQ joint that handles mail orders and sends some food for the talent? They can videotape themselves reheating the BBQ and make some great Facebook and Instagram videos.
Distance, like absence, can make the heart grow fonder. Try selling a nationally syndicated host inside your market. I promise you’ll like it.