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Sports Helped Biden, But Covid Reckoning Awaits

Unlike Trump, the President-elect vows to attack the coronavirus with a national mask order, which could jeopardize reckless leagues in 2021 until — or, if — a promising vaccine is ready.

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We interrupt the celebrations inside the sports world — activism over Trumpism — for an urgent message from the President-elect. He vows to impose a nationwide “mandate’’ attacking COVID-19, which continues to ransack America but is viewed as just another nagging injury by pro and college football while being pooh-poohed, rather stunningly, by a baseball boss who didn’t punish Justin Turner as a potential superspreader.     

Pfizer says it has developed a promising COVID vaccine. The President-elect is hopeful, as we all are. He also is cautious, as we all should be.     

“Masks matter,’’ said Joe Biden, who wears one and wants everyone else to do the same. “It saves lives. It prevents the spread of the disease. All of the tough guys say: `I’m not wearing a mask. I’m not afraid.’ Well, be afraid for your husband, your wife, your son, your daughter, your neighbor or your co-worker. That’s who you’re protecting having this mask on. And it should be viewed as a patriotic duty to protect those around you. Anybody who contracts the virus by saying masks don’t matter, or social distancing doesn’t matter, I think is responsible for what happens to them.’’

Biden reiterates call for nationwide mask mandates at second event with  Harris

Meaning, nothing has changed. “Americans will have to rely on masking, distancing, contact tracing, hand washing and other measures to keep themselves safe into the next year,’’ Biden said Monday.

Got it, sports?

Probably not.

It was President Trump, remember, who encouraged and enabled the resumption of sports this year. He did so while mocking and dismissing the coronavirus, allowing leagues and conferences to take life-and-death risks in bulldozing and landmine-jumping through seasons. Schedules played inside Bubbles worked; schedules played outside Bubbles haven’t worked. The primary reason for the failures and outbreaks: Athletes and coaches haven’t obeyed protocols such as, oh, wearing masks. And if positive tests wreaked havoc, as they have in football, c’est la vie — even if means COVID chaos and major fines for NFL teams and scheduling chaos in the college game, such as the infection that sidelined the presumptive No. 1 draft pick, Trevor Lawrence, for the season’s best collision to date.

Without Lawrence, Clemson lost to Notre Dame in double-overtime, a thriller that shook the echoes hours after Biden and Kamala Harris spoke to the nation, this as people rejoiced on city streets coast to coast. America felt alive … until thousands of students and players’ family members — yes, thousands — rushed the field in South Bend, all packed together, some wearing masks and some not. How could this happen? I forgot. The Rev. John I. Jenkins, Notre Dame’s president, is a Trump supporter who tested positive at a Trump event and evidently doesn’t care much about a campus outbreak. Even when the public-address announcer repeatedly asked the throng to leave, everyone remained long enough … for a spread. Coach Brian Kelly, whose program has been rocked by the virus, had warned his players, “When we win this thing, the fans are going to storm the field. With COVID being as it is, we’ve got to get off the field and to the tunnel.”

Hypocritical Tweets Surface About Notre Dame's Field Storm

The players were slow to get through the green mob anyway. “I beat `em all to the tunnel,” Kelly said, “so that didn’t go over so good.”

Not that the players cared. “That was a cool experience for me, everybody rushing down,” said the star running back, Kyren Williams.

Oh, but there’s more irresponsible COVID news from the weekend. Only hours after MLB pardoned Turner for his self-indulging escape from COVID isolation following Game 6 — so he could celebrate a World Series title with teammates — nine members of the Dodgers organization have subsequently tested positive. If we can believe the Dodgers, five weren’t part of the MLB Bubble in Texas. The other four? The team and league haven’t commented, which smacks of a cover-up attempt.

The flouting, the recklessness, the megalomaniacal delusion that sports is bigger than the virus and can plow through it to recoup TV billions — this madness likely won’t be happening when Biden takes over as the 46th U.S. President. That assumes it isn’t an empty promise, which wouldn’t be a good way to start, and that he won’t back down to those who say a mask “mandate” isn’t legal. Biden already has formed a 12-person coronavirus task force, saying during his Saturday night speech, “We cannot repair the economy, restore our vitality or relish life’s most previous moments … until we get it under control. That plan will be built on bedrock science and constructed out of compassion and concern. I will spare no effort — none — or any commitment to turn around this pandemic.”

If he’s this determined, tell me: How will sports carry on in 2021, when leagues are hellbent to play outside protective lockdowns that allowed the NBA, NHL, WNBA and, eventually, MLB to survive in 2020? How will Biden win this war when too many human beings associated with sports aren’t responsible enough to wear facial coverings and maintain distancing? And when joyful Democrats, honking car horns and waving index fingers, weren’t wearing masks themselves?

In a pro-mask, no-vaccine, cases-surging, bleak-winter reality, sports could be reduced to intermittence or completely shut down. Did the anti-Trumpers in the industry ponder that when lobbying hard for Biden? Unlike Trump, who wanted games as weekend entertainment while doing favors for his owner pals, Biden will be judged early on how his virus directives impact states and municipalities. If he’s strict about banning fans from ballparks, there won’t be an MLB season. If he doesn’t want games played outside Bubbles in local arenas, there probably won’t be NBA and NHL seasons. If he objects to the rampant infections ravaging the NFL and college landscapes, how will football proceed? Trump cared about the multi-billion-dollar sports machine and its impact on the economy.

Biden prioritizes health over wealth, as he should.

Certainly, in retrospect, sports played a role in this transfer of power. If the vigorous efforts of LeBron James, Colin Kaepernick and their partners in activism didn’t exactly lead to a repudiation of Trumpism — see the President’s 71 million votes and absence of a Democratic “blue wave” — their tireless campaign against Trump did achieve a purpose.

They helped run him out of office.

Without them, he might be headed to a second term.

It didn’t take long for James to toast his second historic victory in four weeks. In a social media blitz, he retweeted a GIF of Trump’s “You’re Fired!” catchphrase and posted a photo of his famous 2016 Finals block with superimposed images: Biden’s face onto his, Trump’s face onto Andre Iguodala’s. When James and fellow NBA players agreed to complete the season in isolation, they demanded the league raise voting awareness and open up arenas as election sites — including State Farm Arena in Atlanta, where 40,000 cast ballots in a key swing state for Biden. Truly, no one can say sports activism efforts weren’t influential.

“More Than A Vote!” James kept imploring on social media, on t-shirts and inside the Bubble. As 2020 morphed into an extraordinary year, he targeted an unprecedented double whammy: Win an NBA title and take down Trump in one swoop. To do so, he emphasized the lost concept of getting out and voting, particularly in inner cities, recruiting athletes to promote the cause. James grew weak at one point, almost quitting on the league and the Lakers in the restrictive environment of Florida before the intervention of a Biden guy — you’ve heard of Barack Obama — persuaded him to stick around. He realized the larger mission required his presence. On Election Eve, knowing Hillary Clinton lost in 2016 because she lacked urban support in major cities, James messaged his 74 million followers to vote for Biden, writing, “One more day. Please!! We need EVERYTHING to change and it all starts tomorrow.”

As Biden finally pulled away, in a race somehow more mind-numbing and bananas than the last one, James was responding with clapping emojis to a tweet detailing Biden’s success with Black voters in cities within decisive battleground states: Detroit, Atlanta, Philadelphia and Milwaukee. Was the increased turnout and the more monumental development — the highest voter rate for a U.S. presidential election since 1900 — all about the urgings of sports figures? No. But they certainly impacted the stir. People noticed when athletes and coaches embraced “Black Lives Matter” as a historic power mission after the police-brutality death of George Floyd … when NBA teams boycotted games after the police shooting of Jacob Blake … when Patrick Mahomes and other Black NFL stars taped a video that prompted a philosophical 180 from commissioner Roger Goodell, who admitted the league was wrong to ignore longstanding racial injustice concerns.

In an election that needed a bump to make a difference, sports may have been the impetus to dethrone Trump, if not white supremacy, which is still alive and not well. Just as Rome wasn’t built in a day, America must re-start somewhere, even with a new president who might let the economy slip into chaos and, at 78, can’t get the names of his grandchildren straight. If Biden doesn’t finish his term, Harris will. She is a woman of color who lives in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Brentwood, where James owns two homes. Connect the dots.

Generally, I don’t endorse sports figures as political hell-raisers. The Kaepernick kneeling campaign was proud and powerful, but his supporters conveniently ignored that his once-estimable quarterbacking skills had waned — and the protests began to drag. There were times during the Trump presidency when relentless, top-this activism interfered with the fun and escapism of the games, such as when the esteemed NBA coach, Gregg Popovich, endlessly unloaded on Trump as a “soulless coward” and “a pathological liar in the White House, unfit intellectually, emotionally and psychologically to hold this office, and the whole world knows it.” His disciple, Steve Kerr, would chime in, and the messages grew stale and orchestrated. Another title team rejects the White House invitation? Yawn. But as America moved toward Election Day, the Kaepernick influence took effect. It was difficult to ignore what Trump had said in 2017 as NFL players continued to kneel: “Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, `Get that son of a (expletive) off the field right now. Out. He’s fired!’ “

He also engaged in a needless Twitter rift with U.S. soccer star Megan Rapinoe, who said she wouldn’t visit the White House if her team won the World Cup. Trump should have wished her luck. Instead, he wrote, “WIN first before she TALKS!” She won, and Trump was a perceptive loser again. This came after Trump, with more dumb timing, mocked James’ intelligence after he opened his “I Promise” school, which came after James refused to stay with his team at the Trump SoHo in New York. But unlike other loose cannons, James went months without another firebomb. He waited to pick his spots … and the summer and fall of 2020 were his windows, especially amid Trump’s limp response to COVID-19.

A change in the White House, of course, doesn’t mean the end of Trump. His supporters will grow even louder, and their influence continues to be an ominous enemy for a sports world damaged by his lax approach to COVID. Significantly fewer people are watching events this year. If the pandemic is the big reason, a recent MKTG-SRI survey showed 33 percent are tuning out because “sports have become too political.” The NBA ratings collapse can be attributed, in part, to predominant “BLACK LIVES MATTER” messages on the Disney World courts. And it’s telling that commissioner Adam Silver is finished with the signage, telling ESPN, “(T)hose messages will largely be left to be delivered off the floor. And I understand those people who are saying `I’m on your side, but I want to watch a basketball game.’ “

The athletes, emboldened by their Trump purge, will want their voices to be louder in the future. But the future of sports is too uncertain, with COVID blazing uncontrollably, to let activism carry the same weight. The entire industry, athletes included, should focus on helping Biden confront the virus and lifting sports from its current niche space. Just because there’s a new president doesn’t mean people will flock back to sports, with 20 million Americans still unemployed as a nation pivots. Responsible as Silver and other commissioners have been in handling the virus, Goodell and MLB’s Rob Manfred continue to be negligent. It’s appalling how Manfred, after initially condemning Turner, flipped when no one was watching him and issued no penalty.

“In retrospect,” Manfred said in a statement, “a security person should have been assigned to monitor Mr. Turner when he was asked to isolate, and Mr. Turner should have been transported from the stadium to the hotel more promptly.”

Why did MLB suddenly take the p.r. hit, allowing Turner to conveniently apologize in the same statement? Because Manfred and the owners, who’ve pocketed $1 billion for getting through October, don’t really care anymore what happened that night. Never mind that the L.A. County Department of Public Health said nine people associated with the Dodgers — and at least one family member — had tested positive. Never mind that the Dodgers, thrilled to finally have won the big trophy, have vanished.

Such is the sham of sports and the coronavirus. “You know,” Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said of Lawrence, “if he was going back to his desk job, he’d be right back to work on Thursday.” Remind Dabo that Trump lost.

LeBron and the rabble-rousers refused to shut up and dribble. They won the biggest championship of their lives, in fact. “There are so many bigger things and so many greater things that’s going on,” James said. “If you can make an impact, if you can make a change, if you can have a vision, it just helps out so much, not only in the community but all over the world. Where do we go from here? We don’t stop, obviously.”

How LeBron James Evolved Into a Social Activist and Became Donald Trump's  Most Influential Adversary | Complex

Next, the activists must help sports confront the virus. If they can sway a presidential election, they surely can support Biden by making sure their brethren in all leagues are masking up and growing up.

If not, they might not have jobs themselves in 2021.

BSM Writers

Kevin Burkhardt Is Broadcasting’s Most Unlikely Success Story

“To go from a car lot to the main NFL on FOX booth in less than 20 years is about as likely as one quarterback leading his team to seven Super Bowl wins.”

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There is always something appealing about the 50-75% off rack in a clothing store. It is the hope against hope I can find a shirt in my size that doesn’t look like a 1980’s Bill Cosby sweater and a velour tracksuit had a baby. That is not where FOX went shopping for Tom Brady.

Nope, FOX paid top dollar for their newest NFL analyst. Though the actual number first reported by Andrew Marchand of the New York Post (ten years, $375 million) hasn’t been confirmed by FOX, it is safe to say Brady will be the highest paid sports analyst in television history. “Will be” because he has that pesky little roadblock of finishing the greatest NFL career we’ve ever seen first.

I’m glad Brady could finally catch a break, looks like things are turning around for the poor guy.

The reason Brady is even being hired is that FOX is in the relatively unique position of having an entire booth opening for their top NFL game telecast with the departure of Joe Buck and Troy Aikman to ABC/ESPN. The closest thing we’ve seen to this situation was the 2006 move from ABC to NBC of Al Michaels and John Madden. Of course, ABC was moving Monday Night Football to ESPN at that time and the break felt a little more natural.

As another side note, that was the Al Michaels/Oswald the Lucky Rabbit trade. Yes, one of the greatest play-by-play voices in television history was traded from ABC to NBC for some Ryder Cup rights, an Olympic highlights agreement and the rights to a cartoon rabbit. Oswald, of course, was the forerunner to Mickey Mouse. That must be the cartoon equivalent of what it was like being the opener for The Rolling Stones. The house lights are up, the single guys are hitting on the single ladies and everyone is coming back from the concession stands ready for Oswald to shut up so Mickey can take the stage.

What this has created for FOX is the search for the play-by-play partner for Brady, the role 46-year-old Kevin Burkhardt has earned. You’ll notice I said “earned” instead of “was given”. No, Burkhardt has absolutely worked his way to the top of the FOX ladder, starting by covering local high school football in New Jersey. In fact, my favorite part of this story is Burkhardt, not Brady. 

Burkhardt is as good an example of perseverance paying off as you will find in sports broadcasting. As Richard Deitsch once profiled for Sports Illustrated, just 15 years ago, seemingly having given up on hitting it big, Burkhardt was selling cars for Pine Belt Chevrolet in New Jersey. His silky smooth voice has been one of the reasons Burkhardt has climbed the FOX ladder but can you imagine him describing what is under the hood of a 2005 Chevy Suburban? Or him saying, “We have cars for every price range starting as low as $10,000. From ten to 15 to 20, 25, 30, 35, 40, 45, 50…”

To go from a car lot to the main NFL on FOX booth in less than 20 years is about as likely as one quarterback leading his team to seven Super Bowl wins. Maybe that is why this pair will work. Brady, himself, was fairly close to using that business degree from Michigan. If not for a fortuitous draft pick and a Drew Bledsoe injury, the car salesman-sixth round pick broadcast team may have never happened.

Burkhardt’s climb is a lesson for young people looking to break into the sports broadcasting field. I’d be writing this from my summer home in Santorini, Greece if I had a dollar for every time someone asked me how to get on the air in sports radio or TV. My answer is the same every time: go to your local radio or TV station that carries high school sports and tell them you’ll volunteer to be part of the production. Trust me on this, local stations make good revenue on high school sports and are looking to produce it as cheaply as possible.

I did that when I was in college at Jacksonville State University and worked my first football season, 14 weeks, for a free game of bowling and a free meal for two at a local bar-b-que joint. I can’t calculate now how much that bowling and bar-b-que has been worth to me since. I was able to get on the air, learn the craft and make all my early mistakes in a very forgiving environment.

The local high school broadcast teaches you how to adapt to unforeseen circumstances. You will, at some point, call a game from a booth shared with a member of the home team’s quarterback club, a man who lives for the free pizza and cookies in the Friday night press box. He’s certain the game officials are either blind or on the opposing team’s payroll and doesn’t care if your crowd mic hears him yelling it.

That’s if you are fortunate enough to have a spot in the actual press box. When I was in college, doing high school play-by-play on WHMA-FM in Anniston, Alabama, we once were told there was no room in the home team’s press box for a state playoffs semifinal game. We convinced the station’s sales team to go to the local equipment rental store and negotiate for us to use a scissor lift at the stadium. They delivered it for us and it became our perilous mobile broadcast booth for one Friday night. 

The lessons learned in those years shaped my career. Those same types of lessons were also the building blocks for the man who is now slated to call the biggest games on FOX, including the Super Bowl, for the foreseeable future.

It is crazy to think a man drafted 199th is now paired in one of the biggest jobs in sports TV with a man who once tried to convince people to add on things like the Platinum Level Pine Belt Chevy Service Agreement. Those are the stories we love in sports. Now, those two will tell us those types of stories for years to come.

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BSM Writers

Patrick Beverley Announced Himself As the Next Sports Broadcasting Star

ESPN shouldn’t have let Beverley leave its studios without signing him to a contract that put him in an analyst role as soon as his playing career is over.

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@ESPN on Twitter

Last week, Fox Sports announced the signing of what the network hopes is the next sports broadcasting star in Tom Brady. More dazzling headlines came from Brady’s mega-deal with Fox, though the network disputes the 10-year, $375 million figure reported by the New York Post‘s Andrew Marchand.

This week, however, viewers may have seen the emergence of another future sports broadcasting star. And unlike Fox, ESPN didn’t tell us NBA player Patrick Beverley would be an impactful commentator based on name recognition and contract size. The network showed us Beverley’s talents and capabilities with sharp, biting opinions on its Monday daytime studio shows.

Beverley, who played this season for the Minnesota Timberwolves, has long been known as one of the NBA’s most provocative and irritating defenders. Coaches regularly task him with checking the opposing team’s best player.

He obstructs opponents physically with quick footwork and hands that result in steals, blocks, and rebounds of missed shots. But he also throws players off their game verbally and mentally, getting in their heads and forcing them to think about matters other than the game at hand.

That talent for highlighting weaknesses and insecurities in opponents serves him well as an analyst, which Beverley demonstrated by skewering Phoenix Suns guard Chris Paul during appearances on Get Up and First Take. On the Monday morning after the Suns’ shocking 123-90 Game 7 loss to the Dallas Mavericks in the NBA Playoffs, the NBA guard went beyond stating that Paul had played badly.

Appearing with JJ Redick, Beverley could’ve said something obvious and safe like the Suns needed their leader to score more than 10 points with their season on the line. Paul needed to elevate the rest of the team and make them better. But given a national platform, Beverley pushed harder than that.

“They benched the wrong person,” Beverley said, referring to center Deandre Ayton playing only 17 minutes (and less than four minutes during the second half) in what Suns coach Monty Williams called an “internal” matter.

“They should’ve benched Chris… Once you see they started attacking Chris early and that might become a problem later on, you need to see how my team works without Chris in the game.”

On First Take, Beverley continued his criticism of Paul, especially his defense.

“There ain’t nobody worried about Chris Paul when you play the Phoenix Suns, nobody in the NBA,” Beverley said to Stephen A. Smith. “He’s finessed the game to a point where he gets all the petty calls, all the swipe-throughs at the end.

“We wanna be really honest? He should’ve fouled out. The last game, too. You see the replay against [Jalen] Brunson, hit him on the shoulder, hit him on the mouth, ref don’t call anything. If that’s me, ‘Oh, review it! Flagrant 1!’ If that’s him, they don’t call it.”

Beverley went on to say Paul can’t guard anyone and called him “a cone” that stays still while opponents run around him. That is scathing commentary coming from a current NBA player, criticism not typically heard on a studio show.

Yet if Beverley sounded bitter and resentful toward Paul, it’s because he is. The 10-year veteran holds an intense grudge against the Suns guard going back to when they faced each other in high school and college, which he explained to Redick earlier this year on his podcast, Old Man and the Three (via Awful Announcing).

“Chris, he does slick s**t,” Beverley told Redick. “People don’t know, that’s a little dirty motherf***er, man. Chris know that too, man. I know you don’t want to say it, but I’ll say it for you, though. I know he was your teammate.”

Paul wasn’t the only Suns player targeted by the guest analyst, however. Besides saying the entire Phoenix team was “scared,” especially of Mavericks star guard Luka Dončić, Beverley had plenty of criticism for Ayton, saying he was “OK” after Redick called him “fantastic” on First Take.

“I’m all about greatness,” Beverley said (via the Arizona Republic‘s Duane Rankin). “What would Wilt Chamberlain do? What would Shaquille O’Neal do? Get it off the rim. Y’all don’t have him in the pick-and-roll, I’m going to get it off the rim. I’m going to go get it. I’m going to go get it.”

Ayton only scored five points in Phoenix’s Game 7 loss. By “get it off the rim,” Beverley meant that there were plenty of opportunities for offensive rebounds and putbacks with all of the shots that Paul and Devin Booker missed. (The two shot a combined 7-for-22.)

ESPN shouldn’t have let Beverley leave its South Street Seaport studios in New York City without signing him to a contract that put him in an analyst role as soon as his playing career is over, as Fox did with Tom Brady. Actually, the network should make sure Beverley appears across its daytime schedule while he’s still an active player, as Turner Sports does with Draymond Green. And why not on NBA Countdown as well?

Fox drew the headlines last week for signing Tom Brady to its top NFL broadcast team without having any idea if he will be good at calling football games. He received a reportedly massive contract to prevent him from going anywhere else after he retires, and Fox is banking that casual fans will tune in out of familiarity and curiosity.

Patrick Beverley doesn’t have that kind of mainstream recognition. The NBA isn’t as nationally popular as the NFL. And studio analysts aren’t typically as well-known as game commentators. But maybe that’s more true of football. Who is the most famous basketball analyst? It’s Charles Barkley, by far.

Barkley is known for his candor and pointed opinions, which stand out in a studio setting far more than they would during a game broadcast as the action keeps moving. His jokes and jabs can be easily captured in video clips that play well on social media and have a shelf life on YouTube. ESPN has never had that kind of personality for its NBA coverage. No matter how hard it’s tried, the network has never produced anything close to Turner’s Inside the NBA.

But ESPN, whether realizing it or not, may have found its guy in Beverley. Put him on NBA Countdown and it instantly becomes a better program. Let PatBev argue with Stephen A., as he did on Monday’s First Take, and the pregame show is something that generates buzz and conversation.

Maybe Beverley, Redick, and Stephen A. would make for a good post-game show, something ESPN has never done while Inside the NBA shines in breaking down what just happened. Yes, there’s SportsCenter and Beverley could appear with Scott Van Pelt afterward. But a strong NBA postgame show could become a key part of the overall package. What if SVP played moderator as Ernie Johnson does with Barkley, Kenny Smith, and Shaquille O’Neal?

Doesn’t that already sound better than what ESPN is doing now? Don’t let PatBev get away! He could be the network’s next big, must-watch star. Especially if he has grudges against more NBA players besides Chris Paul.

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BSM Writers

Mike Raffensperger Examines The Business of Sports Betting

“McAfee asked some outstanding questions, as he often does, while Raffensperger pulled back the curtain on a lot of things listeners and customers of the book were wanting to know.”

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Pat McAfee has built quite a following since the end of his playing days. Last December, the former Indianapolis Colts punter signed a four-year, $120 million deal with FanDuel to make it the exclusive sportsbook of The Pat McAfee Show, where he seamlessly blends gambling talk with football talk every weekday. 

Last Thursday, McAfee welcomed Mike Raffensperger to the show for a very insightful and informative segment. The Chief Marketing Officer for FanDuel touched on numerous topics during the interview, ranging from how likely it is that each state will eventually have online gambling, to which show member was having the worst gambling run per their account history.

While some questioned the decision to give McAfee such a high amount of money in the deal, it appears to have paid off handsomely for FanDuel. In a report put out last week by their parent company, Flutter Entertainment, the book signed up 1.3 million active new customers in the first quarter of 2022. In addition, their 1.5 million active customers on Super Bowl Sunday was the highest single-day total ever, and the 19 million bets they processed during the NCAA Tournament signaled the most popular betting period in the book’s history. 

Raffensperger discussed some of the challenges that have been overcome with getting the FanDuel online service up and running in states as they slowly begin to legalize it. He stated that 15 states currently offer online services, but that getting all 50 will never happen.

He cited Utah as an example, as their state constitution clearly outlaws gambling, but stated that many states have legalized it because it is “pretty common sense legalization.” He does believe we will see many more states, including California, legalize sports wagering in the coming years, however. “You will see a continued, steady pace for the next few years, and then you will get close to a critical mass, but you will never get to 50.” 

McAfee asked how much of a role COVID-19 played in the legalization of sports gambling, and Raffensperger said many states were forced to explore new ways to recoup tax revenues lost during shutdowns. “From a state, municipal budgets, they needed tax revenue,” he said, while also discussing how it went from being something done in the shadows to commonplace. “It is taking a black market that is unregulated and unsafe, into a safe and regulated environment, and creates tax revenue for the state. It’s very common sense.”

One of the more informative discussions came when McAfee asked what Raffensperger would say to listeners that complained they were unable to take advantage of odds boosts or promos that FanDuel offered through his show, yet were not available to listeners in every state. This is a common issue for radio stations throughout the country that have gambling ads in multi-state markets.

“It tends to be a little more restrictive,” Raffensperger said regarding how states tend to regulate what can be offered in the months following legalization. “Then over time, as states get comfortable, we build a good relationship with our regulating partners.” He added, “it does tend to open up a bit more over time” as they build that rapport within a state, but fully understands the frustration for customers and listeners. “At the end of the day, we gotta own what the customer experience is, and it’s FanDuel’s job to work through those regulatory challenges to make it as easy on customers as possible.”

When McAfee asked him about whether more brick-and-mortar book sites might be coming in the future at professional stadiums, Raffensperger was quick to point out it was also impacted by state regulations. Stating that 90% of all their bets were made online, he also questioned to what end a physical site would be a prudent investment.

“Beyond a physical teller and placing a bet, what is a super premium or luxury experience that would make being at a sportsbook different than what you have in your mind of a Vegas sportsbook,” he asked theoretically, “but being at a retail stadium?”

He also said that physical sites, like online apps, are tied to regulation on a state-by-state basis. “You’re either allowed to take a physical bet in a sports facility or not. Most of the time, and in most of the laws, you have to have already been a gambling establishment, either a race track or a casino, to have a physical book.” 

They also touched on the McAfee same game parlay for Super Bowl LVI, which Raffensperger confirmed was tailed by more than 200,000 of his listeners. Paying out nearly eight-to-one, the wager was for Cooper Kupp to score a touchdown and to have more than 60 yards receiving, in addition to Odell Beckham Jr scoring a touchdown, and Joe Burrow rushing for 12 or more yards. Raffensperger said the parlay, which needed just nine rushing yards from Burrow to hit, may have been “the biggest parlay liability in the history of gambling,” and would have cost the book nearly $50 million had it come through. 

One final interesting fact was the rise of women in the sports gambling space. A report over the weekend from Global Wireless Solutions stated that the growth rate of women signing up with sportsbooks is 63% higher than the rate of men during the same time frame. They also reported that in 2021 FanDuel added almost 1.7 million new female customers, with DraftKings adding close to 900,000 in the same span. As sportsbooks look to bring in higher market share and look to find new ways to advertise their services, women are likely the next major demographic the books fight over. 

All in all, it was a terrific interview from all sides. Entertaining and enlightening, McAfee asked some outstanding questions, as he often does, while Raffensperger pulled back the curtain on a lot of things listeners and customers of the book were wanting to know. The partnership appears to be greatly beneficial for all parties involved, and hopefully the positive reception to the McAfee interview will lead to more transparency and open dialogue from sports book executives to their consumers.

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