My wife and I were laying in bed on Wednesday night.
“This is going to sound weird, but I have something I think I need to do for work,” I said. “I think I need to start betting on sports.”
My wife doesn’t care about sports. Her dad was a Kansas basketball fan in the sense that he was happy when someone told him they won. Before we started living together, I think it would be a safe bet that no TV in her home had ever been on an ESPN network. There has never been a time in her life where she was interested in what happened in a game unless one of our kids was on the field or court.
Her answer shocked me and also confirmed my suspicion.
“I get it. It’s everywhere now.”
That is how omnipresent gambling has become. It is perhaps the single most influential industry on our own. You don’t have to be a sports media professional to understand what sportsbooks have done for networks and stations across the country. Just sit down and watch a game or listen to any show. You will lose count of the number of free play and bonus offers thrown at you. I’ve called it a “money cannon” in the past.
I live in North Carolina. Mobile betting isn’t legal here yet, so I opened an account at Bovada. I did a little math, made an agreement with my wife about how much I could lose, and then got started.
I am doing this to better understand the information that gamblers prioritize and the way they consume a game. Would I like to win? Sure, but that isn’t really the point. I’m only betting on college football, the sport I follow the closest, and while I did pick a few games that felt close to sure things, I also thought it was important to live on the edge a bit and make picks in some games that could go either way.
I bet numbers. I bet money lines. I bet props. I even put together a couple parlays. There are so many things that you learn best by doing. Betting on sports is certainly one of them, and there are so many ways to do it!
So how did I do? Well…
|$20.00||UConn vs Vandy (51)||O/U||-105||Loss|
|$25.00||Non-offensive TD (Miss/Bama)||Prop||+150||Loss|
|$10.00||Wake vs Louisville (63)||O/U||-110||Loss|
|$20.00||Fresno St vs Hawaii (over 64)/UCF -16 vs Navy/Charlotte +10 vs Illinois/Michigan over Wisconsin||Parlay||+1258||Loss|
|$20.00||Aub vs LSU FG/Fresno St -10.5/UL Lafayette -12||Parlay||+902||Loss|
Seven bets made. Seven bets lost.
Of course I would have preferred to have won even one of them, but winning wasn’t really the point. Besides, this is a world of learning from past mistakes. On top of that, I have a spectacular story!
Here are a few things I learned in my week of sports betting.
- STATS OVER STORYLINES – This is my single least favorite thing that happened during the week. Betting turned games from entertainment into investments. So I found myself seeking out my favorite writers less and VSiN considerably more. I think VSiN does a great job. It just isn’t usually my thing.
- IT IS THE BEST WAY TO TALK ABOUT A MEANINGLESS GAME – I put $20 on Arkansas State to beat Georgia Southern. I love college football, but that is not a game that was even on my radar for the weekend until I was presented with information about Georgia Southern’s ineptitude on offense and the fact that they fired their coach midweek.
- TWITTER IS A NECESSITY – Audience interaction is always a good thing. Add money to the equation and I was locked into what some of the writers and hosts I had followed through the week were saying on Saturday, becuase I wanted to know what information I needed to either turn my luck around or convince me to stay away from a game I was intrigued by before it was too late.
My buddy Arky Shea writes for Outkick Bets. He was my shepherd through this world. One of the things he told me when I explained what I was doing and why was that gambling makes you a more engaged fan. The information you seek is different than the guy that is a die hard fan of a particular team or sport. If you know what you are doing, you should already know the things that are going to impress that guy.
While I understand Arky’s point, I am not sure that is entirely true. You certainly are devoting more time to parsing through the numbers when you are trying to figure out how to spread your money around, but in just a few days of this, I found myself looking at players and coaches less as people and more as trendlines. Gambling makes you do more homework. It doesn’t necessarily mean you understand the sport any better.
Arky did open my eyes to something though. As gambling becomes more popular, it gives those of us that talk about sports for a living a chance to reframe our content a little bit. I still think it is a bad idea for a host to ever assume listeners know everything that he/she does, but there is plenty of evidence that most of our listeners don’t need to constantly be walked through the basics. If you’re doing a show in Nashville, you don’t constantly have to say “Titans running back Derrick Henry.” There’s a huge chunk of the people listening that not only know who he is, they are counting on him to be able to go out next weekend.
The last thing that became crystal clear in my first week of gambling is addiction seems pretty easy. I absolutely had those “one more bet to break even!” thoughts. I never gave in, but, man, was it tempting!
The people and the companies taking the bets are the ones with the responsibility to recognize and discourage problem gamblers. That is why I wrote last week that the FanDuel/Craig Carton deal is a positive thing. For media professionals, it is important to understand that, like any hobby, the majority of your listeners probably won’t try it, but there is a group that is really into it and wants as much information on it as you can give them. It is up to programmers and EPs to help hosts find that balance.
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.