Whether you are a gambler or just a fan of the industry, you should be familiar with the name Mitch Moss. Moss, along with Paul Howard, hosts Follow the Money, a three-hour show featuring informative and entertaining sports talk, actionable betting information and humorously legendary stories.
True story, but I first came across their show a couple of years ago after I purchased my new car. The vehicle came with a subscription to SiriusXM. I immediately became addicted to VSiN and religiously listened to, you guessed it, Follow the Money.
Moss’ journey into sports media goes all the way back to his Junior year of high school when he was trying to figure out what he wanted to do as a career. At his school’s career day, he discovered the broadcasting school Madison Media Institute in Madison, Wisconsin. That is when a light bulb went off for Moss, who used to do play-by-play on his own while watching sports on mute.
“I said to myself, I can actually come to your school, you can teach me broadcasting and I can turn into a play-by-play guy? I was like ‘absolutely, sign me up for that!’”
His love for Las Vegas and gambling came a little later, when Moss took a trip to the city when he was 21. Like many others who visit Sin City, he fell in love instantly.
“After that trip, I loved Las Vegas so much that I said to myself, ‘even if I can’t find a job in radio, I’m going to do something else here.’ I don’t know, like being a blackjack dealer or a mixologist. Whatever it takes’”.
Luckily, or unluckily, depending on how you see it, Moss never had to go that route. Instead, he was able to do what he always dreamed of in high school, sports radio. And, after spending thirteen of fifteen years of his career working for the Lotus Broadcasting radio stations in Las Vegas, Moss made the move to join Brent Musberger’s VSiN.
I spoke with Moss about his journey, the future of VSiN and his foresight to get into the gambling space long before many others.
How did you get into the gambling space in the media?
Many things transpired, but it was me being in Las Vegas that kicked it off. So, I had a Sunday morning pregame show starting in 2003. I’m talking to oddsmakers before a game kicks-off while the numbers are moving and I’m thinking to myself “This is so great. I love this.”
Then my Sunday morning show shifted to the WestGate. That show is still there now, but other people do it. But, that is where I got to know guys like Jay Kornegay and the Jimmy Vaccaro’s of the world. Just awesome dudes who had been doing this for a while. Then it just started rolling from there. I loved covering gambling and then I got to know the guys out here in Vegas and the industry better, which did it for me.
How did you eventually get to VSiN?
I have many people to thank. Guys like Jimmy Vacarro, Matt Youmans, Vinny Magliulo. Those three went to bat for me and kept telling VSiN that if they were going to be a full-time network with sports radio and eventually television content, then you need these guys. They kept going to the well and to bat for me and my co-host Pauly Howard. I also had talks with Brian Musberger before VSiN even started. He had listened and liked my Sunday morning show I used to do at the WestGate, so he knew about us. So when the time came, it all worked out. We did weekends at first, and then within a month they asked us to do this full-time at the network and offered us a time slot. Of course we took it, it was too good to pass up.
Tell me your thoughts on the future of VSiN.
I told the guys back then, this is before we were even hired, but I think the ceiling for VSiN is that it could be like ESPN. When you go back to the early 80s for ESPN and they were having the America’s Cup on, yacht racing and boxing, but now we know what ESPN eventually turned into.
I have the same feeling for VSiN because I know that the gambling content is going to be there and the industry is completely exploding. More people gamble on sports than they play the stock market. It’s inevitable and we are starting to slowly see it now.
You and Pauly have terrific chemistry on the show. How did that come about?
Paully and I worked at the same radio station in Las Vegas going all the way back to like 2001…I became the program director and when it happened I needed more help. So we decided to merge our shows together. We morphed Pauly’s show which he had with another host, into mine and then we did a three-man show. So we did that for a long, long time. In April of 2010 or 2011, we have the third highest ratings in the country.
It’s funny because we’re similar. Same age, same part of the country, same likes, same interests, so that chemistry has always been there since Day 1. It’s one of our strengths for sure.
You had the foresight to get into gambling before a lot of people, talk to me about that in a little bit more detail.
I loved it and had a feeling for it. I will tell you a funny story. If you go back six, seven years, I would have lost my life savings if I could have made a bet on the NFL ever having a franchise in Las Vegas. I’m not even joking. We covered 10 or 11 Super Bowls in a row and they hated the city. My friend John Hanson, who had his own show at the time, had the microphone one time to ask Paul Tagliabue a question about turning down Las Vegas dollars for Super Bowl ads and he compared it to prohibition. It was one of the weirdest answers and never made any sense to me ever. I remember when the host on NFL Network refused to say the city’s name and would just say that city in the desert instead and Goodell would laugh about it.
Another great story is about the Vegas mayor at the time. I was doing my pregame show at the WestGate and Mayor Goodman was on the air talking about parlay tickets.
But, living out here is so different, it is like the norm here. I was lucky, I guess, because in my 20s I lived in a spot that was within a hundred yards of the Palms. So I would walk there 5 or 6 days a week. I would just go out the side gate, walk to the Palms and would take me two minutes and I’m right there into the Sportsbook. And, the weather out here is so great.
Lake Green Valley Ranch is a casino where their big club at the time was called Whiskey Sky, I believe. They were known for 20 foot mattresses outside by the pools and it would be 75 degrees in January and we would make some bets and we would go sit on these mattresses and watch games. I’d be like oh my God, this is life! How is the whole city not out here right now?
It is so perfect and then just being here and living here and seeing it day to day. The more people that you talk to, the more bookmakers and bettors that you talk to, you can see the industry was ready to explode. But it became a part of my routine, like I brush my teeth in the morning and I look at the lines as well. So it was just a combination of me being in Vegas and believing that things were going to get bigger in the future.
What would you do if you were out of this gambling space one day?
Pauly and I joke about that, ‘like what other skills do we have’? I’ve been doing it since I was 19 years old. I know nothing else. Before I thought I’d go back to sports talk radio, but I don’t think I could do it anymore. I love covering gambling and love betting on sports, but I can’t stand hot takes and what the industry has become. I don’t have to say names, but some of the stuff we saw last week regarding Dak Prescott, I don’t want to be a part of that, where you have to be opinionated and get people mad and make them take sides. 50% of the audience is going to love you and the other 50% is going to hate you. So I don’t want to be a part of the hot take community in sports media.
If that ever happens to me, say me and VSiN we go our separate ways after four years for whatever reason, and I had to go back to hot take sports radio. I don’t think I could do it. I don’t enjoy it, it’s not fun to me. The idea of going back to school to learn a new skill is tough. My wife did that actually, she now has two degrees now and she’s amazing. Maybe I’d revisit that whole mixology thing we talked about earlier. Hopefully it never gets there.
COVID-19 affected everyone and everything including sports. How did it affect you from a work standpoint?
After March Madness was cancelled, in April it was obviously very gloom and doom. I’m not joking, we’d spend 90 minutes, if not more, talking about NFL draft props and betting on the NFL draft for 3 weeks leading into the draft. I mean it was to the point like what can you possibly say anymore? Then we did some futures talk. We really didn’t know what was going to happen.
Once we got UFC and Golf back, things got better. I think it was around May 9th with the UFC event coming back then Golf. Then that was enough at that time where we could just do UFC and talk about that 3 days a week, no problem. What else was anyone going to watch or bet on? Then European soccer eventually came back and we have Nigel Seely, who is an incredible soccer guest, so he helped by coming on for us. But, before that, it was the Russian table tennis. I tried to get involved, and I know Doug Kizierian was involved with that and I know others who stayed up to watch that and wouldn’t sleep. They actually changed their lifestyle to watch and bet that. That and the KBO. But, I couldn’t fake it. I couldn’t get involved in the KBO.
I will say though that golf has become one of my favorite sports to bet on. That’s one thing I’m going to take away from this. I always liked betting on golf, but now more so than ever, I like betting golf now almost as much as anything. I would say I like betting golf way more than baseball. But, yes, it was lean there for a long time. We did the best we could.
How do you put together your personal gambling card and picks for the show?
I mean there is a lot of good stuff that good people I trust put out there. I hope I don’t forget anyone, but VSiN does a great job. Their Point Spread Weekly is great as are their betting guides. There are a couple of good golf guys that I’ve been turned on to by Jeff Sherman. You have Joe Osborne from Oddsshark and sites like Kenpom for college basketball, teamrankings.com and FanGraphs for baseball. For football, one of our guests we have on every Friday is Adam Chernoff. He has a slack channel and I love reading his write ups and listening to his podcast.
Drew Dinsick does a podcast with Andy Molitor, and they are very good. Drew’s been coming on the show as a guest for a while now. There are so many good people out there and once you start to get to know them, it helps. Paul Stone is great. If I ever have a question with anything about college football, I’ll send him a text and he’ll get back to me. NBA.com has great data, you have to navigate it for a while, but still, and cleaningtheglass.com for the NBA as well. The information out there is endless, so you have to just vet it out.
Has the amount you bet per wager changed now that you’re in the industry?
That’s a great question. It’s remained the same for the most part. But, I will vary my bets, though. For example, I like betting futures bets and in-play a lot. The pregame stuff can be so tricky and so can betting baseball. I do vary my bets depending on how much I like something and what the number might be, but overall, throughout the years and even with me being in the industry, it has remained pretty much the same.
Looking back on your journey, is there a moment that helped you get to where you are today?
My buddy and I won the Last Man Standing Football contest in 2006. I’m going to wear that title for the rest of my life and I am going to bring it up until I’m 120 years old. At the time we split $17,000, people will say peanuts, but today that is worth around $85-100k … That helped me with my confidence moving forward.
Before we head out, what is one piece of advice you’d give to anyone trying to make it in the broadcast or gambling media industry?
Have fun with it for sure and the key is, get to know as many people as you possibly can. It might take some time, but I’ve been here since 2001 and now I know bettors, oddsmakers, etc. I think there’s a huge space for this in the media world.
Instead of saying ‘I want to be a talk show host’ or ‘I want to do play-by-play’, be more open. My whole dream was do play-by-play, but I would say absolutely concentrate on doing gambling right out of the gates. Read books about it, listen to radio shows, talk to people about gambling, listen to Follow the Money once in a while or listen to other podcasts out there. You are going to learn a lot.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Media Noise: BSM Podcast Network Round Table
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.