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Tim Murray’s Path Wasn’t Linear But It’s Coming Together

“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.”

Vik Chokshi

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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.

BSM Writers

Being Wrong On-Air Isn’t A Bad Thing

…if you feel yourself getting uncomfortable over the fact that you were wrong, stop to realize that’s your pride talking. Your ego. And if people call you out for being wrong, it’s actually a good sign.

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WRONG BAD

In the press conference after the Warriors won their fourth NBA title in eight years, Steph Curry referenced a very specific gesture from a very specific episode of Get Up that aired in August 2021.

“Clearly remember some experts and talking heads putting up the big zero,” Curry said, then holding up a hollowed fist to one eye, looking through it as if it were a telescope.

“How many championships we would have going forward because of everything we went through.”

Yep, Kendrick Perkins and Domonique Foxworth each predicted the Warriors wouldn’t win a single title over the course of the four-year extension Curry had just signed. The Warriors won the NBA title and guess what? Curry gets to gloat.

The funny part to me was the people who felt Perkins or Foxworth should be mad or embarrassed. Why? Because they were wrong?

That’s part of the game. If you’re a host or analyst who is never wrong in a prediction, it’s more likely that you’re excruciatingly boring than exceedingly smart. Being wrong is not necessarily fun, but it’s not a bad thing in this business.

You shouldn’t try to be wrong, but you shouldn’t be afraid of it, either. And if you are wrong, own it. Hold your L as I’ve heard the kids say. Don’t try to minimize it or explain it or try to point out how many other people are wrong, too. Do what Kendrick Perkins did on Get Up the day after the Warriors won the title.

“When they go on to win it, guess what?” He said, sitting next to Mike Greenberg. “You have to eat that.”

Do not do what Perkins did later that morning on First Take.

Perkins: “I come on here and it’s cool, right? Y’all can pull up Perk receipts and things to that nature. And then you give other people a pass like J-Will.”

Jason Williams: “I don’t get passes on this show.”

Perkins: “You had to, you had a receipt, too, because me and you both picked the Memphis Grizzlies to beat the Golden State Warriors, but I’m OK with that. I’m OK with that. Go ahead Stephen A. I know you’re about to have fun and do your thing. Go ahead.”

Stephen A. Smith: “First of all, I’m going to get serious for a second with the both of you, especially you, Perk, and I want to tell you something right now. Let me throw myself on Front Street, we can sit up there and make fun of me. You know how many damn Finals predictions I got wrong? I don’t give a damn. I mean, I got a whole bunch of them wrong. Ain’t no reason to come on the air and defend yourself. Perk, listen man. You were wrong. And we making fun, and Steph Curry making fun of you. You laugh at that my brother. He got you today. That’s all. He got you today.”

It’s absolutely great advice, and if you feel yourself getting uncomfortable over the fact that you were wrong, stop to realize that’s your pride talking. Your ego. And if people call you out for being wrong, it’s actually a good sign. It means they’re not just listening, but holding on to what you say. You matter. Don’t ruin that by getting defensive and testy.

WORTH EVERY PENNY

I did a double-take when I saw Chris Russo’s list of the greatest QB-TE combinations ever on Wednesday and this was before I ever got to Tom Brady-to-Rob Gronkowski listed at No. 5. It was actually No. 4 that stopped me cold: Starr-Kramer.

My first thought: Jerry Kramer didn’t play tight end.

My second thought: I must be unaware of this really good tight end from the Lombardi-era Packers.

After further review, I don’t think that’s necessarily true, either. Ron Kramer did play for the Lombardi-era Packers, and he was a good player. He caught 14 scoring passes in a three-year stretch where he really mattered, but he failed to catch a single touchdown pass in six of the 10 NFL seasons he played. He was named first-team All-Pro once and finished his career with 229 receptions.

Now this is not the only reason that this is an absolutely terrible list. It is the most egregious, however. Bart Starr and Kramer are not among the 25 top QB-TE combinations in NFL history let alone the top five. And if you’re to believe Russo’s list, eighty percent of the top tandems played in the NFL in the 30-year window from 1958 to 1987 with only one tandem from the past 30 years meriting inclusion when this is the era in which tight end production has steadily climbed.

Then I found out that Russo is making $10,000 per appearance on “First Take.”

My first thought: You don’t have to pay that much to get a 60-something white guy to grossly exaggerate how great stuff used to be.

My second thought: That might be the best $10,000 ESPN has ever spent.

Once a week, Russo comes on and draws a reaction out of a younger demographic by playing a good-natured version of Dana Carvey’s Grumpy Old Man. Russo groans to JJ Redick about the lack of fundamental basketball skills in today’s game or he proclaims the majesty of a tight end-quarterback pairing that was among the top five in its decade, but doesn’t sniff the top five of all-time.

And guess what? It works. Redick rolls his eyes, asks Russo which game he’s watching, and on Wednesday he got me to spend a good 25 minutes looking up statistics for some Packers tight end I’d never heard of. Not satisfied with that, I then moved on to determine Russo’s biggest omission from the list, which I’ve concluded is Philip Rivers and Antonio Gates, who connected for 89 touchdowns over 15 seasons, which is only 73 more touchdowns than Kramer scored in his career. John Elway and Shannon Sharpe should be on there, too.

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BSM Writers

Money Isn’t The Key Reason Why Sellers Sell Sports Radio

I started selling sports radio because I enjoyed working with clients who loved sports, our station, and wanted to reach fans with our commercials and promotions.

Jeff Caves

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Radio Sales

A radio salesperson’s value being purely tied to money is overrated to me. Our managers all believe that our main motivation for selling radio is to make more money. They see no problem in asking us to sell more in various ways because it increases our paycheck. We are offered more money to sell digital, NTR, to sell another station in the cluster, weekend remotes, new direct business, or via the phone in 8 hours. 

But is that why you sell sports radio?

In 2022, the Top 10 highest paying sales jobs are all in technology. Not a media company among them. You could argue that if it were all about making money, we should quit and work in tech. Famous bank robber Willie Sutton was asked why he robbed twenty banks over twenty years. He reportedly said,” that’s where the money is”. Sutton is the classic example of a person who wanted what money could provide and was willing to do whatever it took to get it, BUT he also admitted he liked robbing banks and felt alive. So, Sutton didn’t do it just for the money.

A salesperson’s relationship with money and prestige is also at the center of the play Death of a Salesman. Willy Loman is an aging and failing salesman who decides he is worth more dead than alive and kills himself in an auto accident giving his family the death benefit from his life insurance policy. Loman wasn’t working for the money. He wanted the prestige of what money could buy for himself and his family. 

Recently, I met a woman who spent twelve years selling radio from 1999-2011. I asked her why she left her senior sales job. She said she didn’t like the changes in the industry. Consolidation was at its peak, and most salespeople were asked to do more with less help. She described her radio sales job as one with “golden handcuffs”. The station paid her too much money to quit even though she hated the job. She finally quit. The job wasn’t worth the money to her.

I started selling sports radio because I enjoyed working with clients who loved sports, our station, and wanted to reach fans with our commercials and promotions. I never wanted to sell anything else and specifically enjoyed selling programming centered around reaching fans of Boise State University football. That’s it. Very similar to what Mark Glynn and his KJR staff experience when selling Kraken hockey and Huskies football.  

I never thought selling sports radio was the best way to make money. I just enjoyed the way I could make money. I focused on the process and what I enjoyed about the position—the freedom to come and go and set my schedule for the most part. I concentrated on annual contracts and clients who wanted to run radio commercials over the air to get more traffic and build their brand.

Most of my clients were local direct and listened to the station. Some other sales initiatives had steep learning curves, were one-day events or contracted out shaky support staff. In other words, the money didn’t motivate me enough. How I spent my time was more important. 

So, if you are in management, maybe consider why your sales staff is working at the station. Because to me, they’d be robbing banks if it were all about making lots of money.  

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BSM Writers

Media Noise: BSM Podcast Network Round Table

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Demetri Ravanos welcomes the two newest members of the BSM Podcast Network to the show. Brady Farkas and Stephen Strom join for a roundtable discussion that includes the new media, Sage Steele and Roger Goodell telling Congress that Dave Portnoy isn’t banned from NFL events.

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