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For Jenny Taft, It All Comes Back to Relationships

“I always knew my life would revolve around sports in some way because it just brings people together, and what’s better than that?”

Derek Futterman

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Jenny Taft
Courtesy: FOX Sports

As Jenny Taft walked the hallways during her first year at FOX Sports 1, she was stopped by a network executive and asked whether she knew anything about motorcycle racing. Surprised at the question, she was prepared and replied that Ricky Carmichael, an accomplished driver, was the greatest of all time. It was the extent of Taft’s motoracing knowledge, which derived from her brother having a poster of Carmichael when he was younger. Through that precipitous meeting, she was given her first field assignment with the network at a Supercross event – and she needed to prepare quickly.

The assignment ended up going well, with Taft estimating that typical motorcycle racing events could put reporters on the air 20 times per race because of the deluge of action that takes place. It ended up being an ideal pit stop where she refined her craft and developed a strong sense of versatility.

“I became a much better interviewer because there were so many interviews to conduct in a sport that I wasn’t comfortable with,” Taft said. “I’d like to think I earned the respect of the fanbase that, at first, was concerned about someone who did not have a moto background, and I absolutely loved it.”

Taft knew of the stakes associated with this performance and ended up succeeding with flying colors. After all, she had grown up in an athletic family – her mother competed in speed skating and her father captained the 1976 U.S. Olympic hockey team, leading to a six-year National Hockey League career. She understood what it meant to survive competing as an individual and on a team; in fact, Taft was named the top female lacrosse player in Minnesota and lettered in the sport, along with hockey and tennis.

“I was confident because of sports,” Taft said. “I played against boys my whole life – that gave me a lot of confidence – and I hope that [my daughter] sees me working in this capacity and that inspires her one day. I always knew my life would revolve around sports in some way because it just brings people together, and what’s better than that?”

As a student, Taft interned at a variety of media outlets including FOX Sports North, a regional sports network in Minneapolis. She had volunteered with the network while in high school, helping to operate a game at its state fair booth called, “Do you want to be a sportscaster?” Ironically enough, Taft was the person who so fervently wanted to achieve that goal – and she ultimately made it back to the network in college where she shadowed reporter and host Marney Gellner.

During baseball season, Taft was the in-stadium host for the Minnesota Twins and took on a similar role with the Wild. As her profile grew in the area, Taft appeared weekly on KFAN with Paul Allen to discuss local hockey. For Taft, the formative years were all about chances at gaining the necessary repetitions to improve her technique, and broadcasting to a captive audience at a sporting event is practice she recommends to aspiring broadcasters.

Jenny Taft
Courtesy FOX Sports

Eventually, Taft was asked by FOX Sports North to fill in as a sideline reporter with the Minnesota Lynx of the WNBA, and everyone knew she would take full advantage of the opportunity. Simply by being around and recognizing that no broadcast property was too small to pass up, Taft became a dependable personality who exuded enthusiasm and professionalism on a daily basis. Network management began to take notice, leading to her being asked to join FOX Sports 1 upon its launch in August 2013 giving sports updates.

“I believe it’s really about being a good teammate,” Taft said. “I think that just working hard is going to help, and people want to work with good people. Get in the door; do your job; pay your dues and it’ll work out.”

By stepping out of the studio and appearing on broadcasts of motorcycle racing, Taft impressed executives and viewers of the network. Little did she know that it would lead to the assignment of a lifetime, emanating from a meeting with executive producer David Neal regarding the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup in Canada.

“He knew I was an athlete in college, and he was looking for a female to cover the women in 2015,” Taft remembered. “He said, ‘I saw you can tell stories. I liked how you did it, and I want a woman to be with this group,’ so it was pretty wild to think that covering motocross actually gave me so much exposure within the company.”

By the time the tournament came around, Taft was more comfortable with field reporting, especially considering she began reporting on college football in the year prior. In this role, she has ostensible free rein to roam the sidelines, outside of the bench, in order to view the game and gather information. When a player leaves the game with an injury, she can approach the trainer and ask what is going on to then relay it to the viewers. Moreover, she is able to make distinct observations that guide her in interviewing and contributing to the broadcast coverage.

“I always find that the best sideline reports are what’s happening in the moment,” Taft said. “I always want to have the background. I’d say 80% of the research I have or prep for a game is never used, and that’s just how it is. As a sideline reporter, you’re kind of used to that, but you have to be ready for the moment where you might need that information.”

Prior to the 2017 season, Taft was elevated to lead sideline reporter and joined the FOX’s Big Noon Saturday team of Gus Johnson and Joel Klatt. Over their seven years working together at Big Ten, Big 12 and Pac-12 stadiums, they have fostered a familiarity with one another, producer Chuck McDonald and director Rich Dewey. The cohesion and longevity with the group excites Taft for the upcoming season, which includes the start of a new seven-year pact with the Big Ten.

“I’d like to think that our broadcast is very welcoming and we’re all just friends watching a game that we love and cheering on players and coaches,” Taft said. “Gus is having the time of his life and Joel is giving all the knowledge because he is the best of the best in terms of how much he’s taught me over the years. I would like to think that we’re just becoming a group that people want to listen to; that Big Noon is a broadcast that you look forward to watching and listening to no matter who’s playing.”

Being able to report on the Big Ten holds a special meaning for Taft, who grew up attending games at the University of Wisconsin, her parents’ alma mater. Growing up in Minnesota, she was frequently around fans of the Golden Gophers and watched the team play, but Camp Randall Stadium in particular was a special place to her. While she is excited as a fan to see the conference add Oregon, Washington, USC and UCLA, she knows that the implications of these decisions could be felt in the years that ensue.

“I just think about the athletes and I just want to make sure they’re always protected and they’re going to be supported because those changes impact their four years,” Taft said. “When it comes to those conferences – and obviously those decisions are so far above my head – but I’m going to do my best to continue talking about the players and the schools that I love and telling their stories because that’s what this is ultimately all about.”

Leading up to a typical broadcast, Taft coordinates with university officials and team personnel to schedule interviews, preferably in-person, with the players leading up to the broadcast. Unlike the NFL, where players are obliged to speak with members of the media as part of the league’s policies, college football does not guarantee her access to anyone. 

“You do the prep, but then you just have to play and let it play out,” Taft said. “I love that part of the energy of the moment, and those relationships that you’ve built along the way, hopefully they pay off so that you get some good interviews after the game.”

The atmosphere of college football games energizes Taft, but it is something she needs to contend with in order to elicit insightful and derivative answers from her interview subjects. The loud roar of the crowd, euphonious sound of the marching band and palpable buzz reverberating around the prodigious structure is quite the scene-setter. It is up to sideline reporters like Taft to cut through these hallowed overtones so they can do their jobs while recognizing that there are times to simply revel in the moment.

Taft has been involved in FOX Sports’ World Cup coverage from the beginning of its media rights agreement with FIFA in 2015. Over the five tournaments she has covered – three women’s; two men’s – she has traveled to many countries around the world and seen the evolution of superstars. The U.S. Women’s National Team in particular has been the focus of her coverage of late, including during the team’s tournament wins in 2015 and 2019. In 2023 though, the team was eliminated during the group stage after falling short in penalty kicks against Sweden. It was a stunning defeat for the group, marking the end of Megan Rapinoe’s professional career and leading to the resignation of head coach Vlatko Andonovski.

“I just have had such strong relationships and seen the growth and how hard they’ve worked, so I always thought they’d figure it out,” Taft said, “and that’s what made the case all the more devastating and seeing Julie Ertz in tears. Get this: I have never interviewed the U.S. Women’s National Team after a loss until that match.”

Having congenial, yet professional relationships with members of the team can cause some people to question Taft’s objectivity. As a reporter for FOX Sports, she has had priority in terms of asking questions and conducting interviews because the network is the rightsholder for U.S. Soccer. Even so, she makes it a point to ask the most pertinent and relevant questions that will best serve the audience.

“It kind of always comes back to the relationships for me, and that’s where you’ve got to ask the question,” Taft said. “It’s just how you ask it that I am very conscious of.”

Taft, however, was working in a box – literally speaking. On the pitch itself, there was a box designated for Taft, with other reporters lining the section in their own boxes. Per FIFA rules and regulations, reporters are not allowed to leave the box during play, nor can they capture footage during select times.

The limitations render roaming the sidelines impossible, which can make gathering intel and updates especially difficult. Although reporters help each other out, it is ultimately all about having a foundation of connections and experience to help oneself. Moreover, akin to college football, players are not obligated to talk to the news media and address the proceedings.

“The U.S., after they lost, no one needed to stop,” Taft said. “Thankfully they all did, and I’d like to think it helps that we had good relationships going into it, but no one’s requiring them to do any of those interviews.”

Jenny Taft
Courtesy FOX Sports

Most of Taft’s FOX Sports work comes on location, but there was a time when she was regularly in the studio to host the morning debate show, Undisputed. Taft worked alongside Skip Bayless and Shannon Sharpe for four years and anchored the program’s discussions, and is now watching the show change formats and Sharpe move on to competitor First Take from afar. While she enjoyed her time on the show, she loves possessing a front row seat at some of the world’s biggest sporting events and would miss the adrenaline if she were to be confined to the studio.

“I think there’s nothing like it in a lot of ways,” Taft said of field reporting. “I got to see [Lionel] Messi win a World Cup this year, and that’s insane.”

In order to continue being granted chances to report on college football, soccer and a variety of other sports, Taft ensures she continues having a strong belief in herself and maintains an upbeat attitude. Reflecting back on her career, she recognizes how far she has come, but is yearning for more opportunities to showcase her skills across the network’s properties.

“I would love to be staying in college football [and] becoming a reporter in the NFL as well,” Taft said. “If the opportunity presented itself, I think that’d be pretty special. I would love to be considered for more hosting roles. I kind of want to do it all.”

Charissa Thompson is someone Taft looks to for inspiration as her career continues to grow at FOX Sports. Thompson is the host of FOX NFL Kickoff and TNF Tonight, the latter of which airs on Amazon Prime Video leading up to its Thursday Night Football broadcasts. Taft does not limit herself in terms of what her future might hold and ultimately desires to continue becoming the most well-rounded sports media professional as she can.

“She’s so good at being so knowledgeable yet so approachable and makes everyone around her feel great,” Taft said of Thompson. “As a FOX colleague she’s incredible, but also as a friend.”

In hosting Undisputed and reporting at sporting events, Taft knows she is opening herself up to criticism. Over the years, she has learned to silence the critics and trust her inner circle for valuable, genuine feedback based on her on-air performance rather than other factors. She is not oblivious to what is going on in the outside world but has become better at putting her energy into the craft more so than its cavilers.

“You have to have a bit of a tough skin, and I know I’m only as good as my last broadcast,” Taft expressed. “There’s never a moment where you can skimp on the work or the research, and that’s male or female.”

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Missing ‘The Little Things’ Can Make Your Station Look Really Bad

Some folks really need to take a good hard look at their site and ask themselves if it represents what they want their station to be.

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Photo of a sports radio studio

I hate that this is a topic in 2024, but it seems the more I look at different sports stations online, the more I see a problem across the industry. Some stations, or companies as a whole, are not represented well at all online. Whether it be the look or feel of their website, the information available on it, the ease or lack thereof of streaming and podcasting or connecting with the talent. All of these are ‘the little things’ that can go a long way with your audience.

It all starts with your station website. And the fact that I have to take time to write about what a sports radio station should have on its website in 2024 is not good. Some folks really need to take a good hard look at their site and ask themselves if it represents what they want their station to be.

Anyone should be able to log on to a radio station website and immediately be able to get certain information. What shows air on the station, what time and give me some information about and ways to connect with your hosts. I should also be able to easily access the ‘podcast’ or replay of a show and there should be titles and descriptions which give me information so that I can choose what segments or topics I want to listen to.

Putting a so-called podcast up, which is the full three or four hours of a show, and not telling users what is in it they might want to listen to is a huge miss. It shows people in our business do not understand how people consume content these days. They want it quick, they want to be sold on what they will get out of it if they listen. It needs to be, you know, easy.

Kudos to Audacy in this regard. They do the best job of having their stations set up so that a person can truly listen on demand. You can go to any of their stations and pick a show and most of the time you will have information about every segment that has been done. Want to hear what the hosts had to say but don’t care about the guests they have on? Perfect, listen to the segments where the hosts gave strong opinions. Don’t care about football but want all the baseball that you can get? Just choose the baseball segments. It’s how it is supposed to be.

On the flip side you have several stations where you can log on to their website and not find what you are looking for.

Take, for example, today when I wanted to listen to a station’s morning show, but I wasn’t able to listen while it was live. I typed the station name into my Google machine and got the link to their webpage.

There was a drop-down menu and I clicked ‘Podcasts.’ This took me to a page which is dated November 5, 2015.

I looked at the social media channels for the station and I found a Linktree. One of the links to click said ‘Podcast’ and so I clicked that, and it takes me to a page with a completely different URL from the radio station.

I scrolled down and found the show I was looking for and took a deep breath as it loaded as I was glad to have finally figured out how to listen to the show on-demand. Then the page loads and I saw a bunch of episodes to listen to but unfortunately, they were from February.

Not having the podcasts easily accessible, not having them posted by segment, not having host bios and not having links to their social media are unacceptable in 2024. If your goal is to get new listeners to your station, you are making it incredibly difficult for people who might want to know more about your station and talent or who want to listen to your programming.

As for the rest of the content on the website, I am going to save that for another column, but if what you’re showing your audience is aggregated content from a national source with your local tags, that is another completely missed opportunity to connect with your audience.

While I am on the subject of things that are not the main programming, some stations really need to take a listen to their sports updates. From the intros to the music to the voices being used to what they are saying should be examined. I am a huge update fan, mostly because I believe they are great for sales but also because people still want that quick info, so they are more knowledgeable around the water cooler. How did the local teams do yesterday, what is happening today I need to know about, remind me to tune in to something later, hit the sponsor and get back to the hosts. No matter how good X and the internet are, you still can’t get all your local sports news in 60-90 seconds like you can on a sports update.

I hear several stations daily that air updates, but it is clear the station does not value what is being presented or they would find people better prepared to do them. If you cannot afford to have someone who knows what to present and can do it in a manner that is listenable and provides the service to the listeners that it should, figure out some other way to do them. Perhaps one of your hosts needs to do them or work them into the programming of the show. Whatever it is, don’t just let it be a throw-away piece of content.

I jokingly refer to these items as ‘the little things,’ but these are important. Especially your websites and social interaction with your listeners. If we cannot do the very basics of having a website with easy to access live audio, easy to find podcasts and easy to locate information about the hosts and ways to connect with them, what are we doing?

I encourage all managers to take some time, as soon as possible, and go through your station sites. See if these things can be done easily, see if the information is up to date. Look at it from the standpoint of the users or someone new coming to your site.

It’s time to clean up ‘the little things.’ Everyone is busy, but we can’t be too busy when it comes to making stations sound better and making them more user friendly.

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The Best Thing I Heard/Watched Recently

I am locked in on FX’s Clipped: The Scandalous Story of LA’s Other Basketball Team which is being shown on Hulu. The first two episodes came out together and now they are being dropped weekly on Tuesdays. It’s not nearly as good as the Lakers shows, but that is only fitting I suppose.

As I have said before, give me all of these behind-the-scenes shows. I realize you are generally only getting one side of a story and things are changed up for television, but I will watch every one of these kinds of shows they want to make. Sports. Nostalgia. Drama. Inject it into my veins!

You can learn more about the show and see a trailer by clicking here.

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In Case You Missed It

Earlier this week, Peter Schwartz profiled Marc Ryan, who just recently started at 97.1 The Ticket in Detroit. Ryan had been at WYRD in Greenville, South Carolina. What is unique about this story is that as Schartz wrote, “For each of the last 14 years of his career, [Ryan] carried with him a Post-it note as a reminder of where he ultimately wanted to land. On that note were three all-sports radio stations that were his dream situations and those were 97.1 The Ticket in Detroit, WFAN in New York and 670 The Score in Chicago.” 

Congratulations to Marc for making his dream a reality and best of luck in Detroit.

You can read the full feature by clicking here.

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Meet the Bettors: Ben Mintz, Barstool Sports

“The thing I always say about Barstool is take what you do seriously, but don’t take yourself too seriously.”

Demetri Ravanos

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Meet The Bettors - Ben Mintz

One of the toughest things to do when you create gambling content is to get others invested in your wins and losses. If I don’t know you, why would I root for or against you? Somehow though, Ben Mintz has broken through.

He’s one of the many gamblers on the Barstool Sports payroll. Maybe it’s being introduced amidst a losing streak. Maybe it’s his comeback story. I would guess what makes most people take an interest in Mintz’s money is Mintz himself. He’s just genuinely likable and easy to talk to.

Mintz, as he is known to Barstool fans, is the focus of the latest Meet the Bettors column presented by Point to Point Marketing. We talk about that aforementioned losing streak, the past and future of America’s interest in poker, and why the brick-and-mortar sportsbooks will someday be a thing of the past.

Demetri Ravanos: We’re both SEC guys. Probably around the same time too. I graduated from Alabama in 03. Around that time, we all knew people who were finding ways to make bets. They probably thought they had an advantage over the bookmakers because they were in the heart of college action and living and breathing it.          

Do you think those advantages still exist for college sports fans? There are so many games across so many sports. Is there anywhere a dedicated fan has an advantage over the books?

Ben Mintz: Well, I’m not like the biggest college basketball guy, but the early part of college basketball season. It’s especially in the smaller schools. If people really focus on it, I’ve heard that there are big edges. There’s just so much information for the oddsmakers to keep up with from the transfer portal especially. It’s just so hard to handicap that stuff being in season with 300-and-something teams.          

I think there’s a little bit of an edge in the college baseball stuff still, just because they’ve only been doing these lines for a few years. The oddsmakers are still just trying to figure out how to properly handicap it, so I think there’s a little bit of edge there.         

DR: When you were on local sports radio in Louisiana, how much of this were you able to talk about, even if you were just using it as context for how much of a favorite a team might be? 

BM: All the time. I’ve been betting on sports for a long time now. I’m in my 40s, and this was always a big part of my brand, even when it was a little taboo. I was doing line segments, breaking down games, making picks. That was always a big part of what I did.           

I mean, it’s a fascinating part of the industry. And as long as you do it responsibly, I think it just makes everything more interesting.           

I love college baseball stuff and I’ve been firing the NCAA Tournament. I’ve got a big futures bet on NC State at 35/1 right now that I’m loving. I’m going to Omaha. I’m super into it. I always have been and it’s always been a big part of my brand. 

DR: So as a gambler, obviously you always want to win, but when it comes to creating content, especially for a brand like Barstool, is it better if you lose? 

BM: Well, I think the thing with me is, I was a professional poker player from 2006 to 14, and I played a lot of high stakes poker and in some of the biggest tournaments in the US and did really well. I mean, I made a living at poker for eight years. Sports gambling stuff is really fun to me.

I think kind of the biggest thing with that is you’ve got to look yourself in the mirror and say, “am I doing this to make money or am I doing this for entertainment?” And I do it for entertainment, so I’m not like the biggest player. I bet like 50 bucks a unit and I just enjoy it.     

The biggest mistake, and I make this mistake all the time because I’m doing it for entertainment, is you can bet on too many games. If you’re going to do it and you want to do it at the top level, you’re looking at a full college football board on Saturday night, and then you’re betting like 3 to 6 games in the NFL.           

Look at the whole board, but only bet like 2 to 4. It’s all about being selective and then going big on the ones you really like and getting a few on because it’s kind of similar to the casino thing. If you’re betting 20 or 25 games in a day, I don’t care who you are, the juice is gonna catch up to you. The style to win, if you’re really like, “hey, I’m doing this to make money,” it’s about being selective and aggressive. 

DR: Was there ever a change in the way you guys could play with losses?  Did the content you could create around losing picks change when Dave sold to Penn National or change back after he reacquired the company? 

BM: Well, I mean, when I was getting started with Barstool, the first thing that really got me going my first summer was my historic college baseball losing streak. During that time, I went like two-for-eleven in Omaha. I got so cold. There was also an issue in college baseball in its infancy with lines. I didn’t know what I was doing or how to handicap it.           

The biggest mistake I was taking too many favorites. When you look at college baseball’s middle bats being the great equalizer, there’s a ton of underdog value. I think what happens a lot is, Vegas makes the favorites too much of a favorite.  That summer I didn’t know that. My content blew up because I was losing so many bets. As far as the content goes, you know, you’d rather be red hot or ice cold. The worst thing you could be is like 4-5, you know? Nobody cares if you’re in the middle.

The thing I always say about Barstool is take what you do seriously, but don’t take yourself too seriously. I mean, you’re going to get roasted in the public eye. Deal with it. It’s been happening for four years to me.          

What I’ve noticed with the Barstool thing that’s so interesting to me is like, you look at what happens on Twitter or Reddit. You can’t overanalyze that stuff because in real life, I mean, I’ve gone around the whole country now with Barstool. I’ve had like 3 or 4 negative interactions with people in 3 or 4 years. That’s it, you know? And so, it’s all like super positive in the flesh. These people just get behind the keyboards and you know, they’re just not afraid to let the fur fly. 

DR So you mentioned poker. I want to ask you about a couple of your experiences because you’ve gotten to experience poker in two very different realities. So let’s start with the most recent. During that time between when Penn let you go and before Dave rehired you, I know you were doing some events for PokerGo. That kind of business used to advertise all over ESPN and every other sports broadcast. What is the health of the poker-centric sites and businesses in 2024? 

BM: Well, the online side of it is not doing as well, but for live poker, the numbers have never been bigger. I think a lot of it was, coming out of Covid, people missed it.           

I’m actually heading out to Vegas on June 29th for the World Series of Poker. I’ll be out there and it’s all around you. I’m playing a few warm-up events, and I’m playing my ninth World Series of Poker main event. I’m playing the last day on Saturday, July 6th.          

Live poker, I mean, it’s not just crushing in Vegas. It’s crushing everywhere. The online stuff is still lagging way behind because, there are a few states where it’s legal, like Pennsylvania, Delaware, Michigan, New Jersey and Nevada, but that’s not the whole country.           

Online poker was so great from like 2003 or 4 to 2011. You had the whole world playing together, so you got such a massive player pool. Then when the government tried to  crack down on it, it’s never been the same. There are a few sites that operate illegally, that people play on that are pretty big, but honestly, the online thing’s just, you know, I maybe play a couple times a year, but it’s just I’m not really that into it anymore. 

DR: Are a lot of the guys you’re going to be at the table with for the World Series of Poker, will they have action on sports as well? 

BM Yeah, most poker players are down to gamble because you’re kind of doing it for a living and just looking for edges and stuff. You see some, you know, real heavy football and sports betting guys I play poker with, for sure. There’s definitely a ton of that.           

You know, the poker sportsbook thing kind of go hand-in-hand. Poker rooms are always right by the sportsbook. They’re kind of first cousins in a way I would say.

DR: So the catalyst for that big boom, obviously, was how much ESPN invested in the World Series of Poker back in the early 2000s and started airing the main event on ESPN, obviously on delay. Do you think that poker can enjoy something like that again now that gambling in general has become less taboo? 

BM: I think the big thing with poker, you see this big push nationwide for sports betting and poker is just not that big of a business. I’m not saying that the poker world’s still not big, but, you know, there isn’t that much of a push to get it going nationally and, you know, they no longer have the World Series on ESPN. Now they tape it for CBS Sports.           

You mentioned PokerGo. Those guys keep this thing going. I mean, if you like poker, you pay 15 bucks a month and they’re the ones that live broadcast all these World Series of Poker final tables every night. I worked with them for six weeks last summer, and I just can’t say enough about what they do for the poker scene. 

DR: So let me ask you this in relation to something that I talked about with Mike Francesa last week. I asked him about the legalization of sports betting going everywhere and what that has done for horse racing, which he loves. He said that horse racing is a sport that can’t get out of its own way. It does not know how to grow a new fan base. Is that similar to what you’re seeing at these World Series of Poker tables, or are young players coming to it all the time? 

BM: You know, there’s still young blood coming into the game. I think the big thing about poker when you draw the World Series is you still get the international element. The European Poker Tour blew up over the last ten years. A lot of the best players in the world are out of Europe. Those kids, Germany? They’re on a level that I mean, it’s crazy how good they are.        

I think that’s what’s helping drive that growth of poker is just that, you still see kids in the United States get into it, but it’s not like it was during the boom when everybody was playing online and came up. You know, a lot of college kids came up through online poker. Now, I think it’s become such an international thing.           

When you play the World Series, I mean, the amount of Europeans that are around for the WSOP, heck, there’s like Brazilians and Argentineans. You get people from South America coming over, too. So, I think that’s what’s driving the worldwide growth.          

In the United States, it’s kind of interesting. Now, there are some pockets of places that are very random. They get these huge events. Like Cherokee, NC, which is over by Asheville. I mean, they have four World Series of Poker circuit events a year. They get 12 to 15 hundred people for them. I went to Firekeepers Michigan, up in Battle Creek last month, and they got 2800 people at a $1,000 event. You see that also in Grant, Oklahoma, north of Dallas. Those Oklahoma tournaments always pull Texas people. You see numbers like that returning. I mean, it’s still doing extremely well.

What’s interesting about poker is everybody’s all about that World Series of Poker dream, because that’s what they see on TV. I love the World Series main because it’s got a brand name like Super Bowl or The Masters, but like a lot of the World Series is extremely overrated. There’s no way to hold a field of 7,000 people. It’s a numbers game. I mean, only nine make the final table.

DR: The poker experience makes me wonder about sportsbooks. As poker became harder to play online, people had to go back to casinos, but the opposite is happening for sports bettors. A physical sportsbook is a great experience, but people will choose the ease of betting online nine times out of ten. Do you think we will ever see physical books go away or is the offering unique enough that they will always have some kind of demand?

BM: I think it’s going to keep fading. Obviously when Nevada was the only place you could do it legally, that was always the big thing – going out there. But, you know, a lot of these same companies have the apps, MGM and Caesars. I guess they feel there’s still value, but I think what you’re going to see is them fade more and more because it’s just an online world now. Like you said, just being able to fire on the apps and the convenience of it.           

A lot of these casinos are in random locations and stuff too. You know, people are just trying to fit it in their day-to-day lives with their families and jobs and all that kind of stuff. Having it on your phone, is a game changer. I think it’s going to continue becoming more and more digital, especially as more and more states legalize. 

To learn more about Point-To-Point Marketing’s Podcast and Broadcast Audience Development Marketing strategies, contact Tim Bronsil at [email protected] or 513-702-5072.

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Sports Broadcasting Can Be a Family Affair

Sports are such a generational activity.

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Screengrabs from WTBS and CBS Sports
Screengrabs: WTBS and CBS Sports

It’s Father’s Day this weekend, a time to celebrate and recognize all the dads out there. Growing up it was always my dad taking me and my brother to the park to throw us extra batting practice. He coached our Little League teams and was seemingly always there. It was my dad that took me to my first baseball game. 1972, Wrigley Field, Cubs and Giants. He took me to my first hockey game. 1974, Chicago Stadium, Blackhawks and Bruins. I have special memories of those games and times.

Sports are such a generational activity. Passed on from grandparents to parents and to their kids. Sometimes covering sports is the same. There have been many father/son combinations that have called games, either with the same team or not, either in the same sport or not. It has to be a pretty special thing for all involved, realizing the significance. A few years ago, I featured a few father/sons and in one case grandparent combinations in honor of the day. A lot of those folks are still calling games. Some have moved on to retirement.

The names may have changed in some cases, but the story or stories have not. It can’t be easy to grow up the son of a broadcaster, especially early in life. Parents have to miss birthdays, graduations and a lot of ‘firsts’ that come along with growing up. Strangely enough, what separated them, can bring them together. A better understanding of what dad does for a living. A better understanding of the time away. So, let’s get on to some of these popular combinations. I’m going to highlight some of them, and this time around it’s not limited to only baseball.

Noah and Ian Eagle

Ian Eagle is one of the busiest guys in broadcasting. This past March he called his very first Final Four and NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship Game. He was excellent in that role, taking over the spot from the legendary Jim Nantz. The elder Eagle also calls NFL on CBS and the NBA on Turner Sports. He is also the television voice of the Brooklyn Nets on the YES Network.

Noah is starting to make a name for himself in the industry. After brief stints at Fox and CBS, he joined NBC last February to become the play-by-play announcer for the newly acquired Big Ten Saturday Night package, as well as the Big Ten Basketball package on Peacock. The younger Eagle was also tabbed to call US Men’s and Women’s basketball games during the upcoming 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris. Noah also just debuted as the lead voice for NBC Sports/Peacock at the 2024 French Open tennis championships.

The natural question would be, how tough it is to live up to expectations, considering that his father has reached the pinnacle of the profession.  Noah seems to have a pretty good attitude about things and is trying to be his own person even with the pressure.

“I think it’s there, I think it’s true of any profession if you follow a parent — if you’re in the limelight, if you’re not in the limelight — there are people that are going to be around you within that profession more than anything else that are going to look at you and say, ‘Well you better be successful,” or, “You better do it this way, you better do it that way.’” Eagle told The New York Post in December 2023. “My philosophy has always been I’m going to put in 100 percent effort, maybe even in my thought process, 150 percent, whatever that looks like, maximum effort into my preparation, maximum effort into my relationships that I build, and then just focus on what I can do — which is go out there and perform at a high level.” he added.

“I know it sounds cliché, but to me if you can control what you can control, and that is doing the job at your highest level, whatever that is, then you’ll live up to your own expectations.”

The Eagle’s both succeed in bringing a little personality and humor into their respective broadcasts.

Both have called Brooklyn Nets games.

Marv and Kenny Albert

One of the more versatile duos on the list, Marv and Kenny Albert have called a multitude of sports, sometimes in the span of a single week. They’ve both done radio and television and have styles that are unique to each.

Marv got started at the age of 19. Working his way up, starting as a young ball boy for the Knicks. He managed to strike up a friendship with the legendary New York sportscaster Marty Glickman, who took a liking to Albert and his passion for sports. Albert would get a chance to fill in for Glickman on several Knicks and Rangers games on WCBS Radio before he was 20.

“That was kind of ridiculous, especially when I go back and listen to the tapes.” Albert told the Sports Broadcasting Hall of Fame.

Marv is best known for his work at NBC, on their NFL and of course NBA coverage.

Kenny is also a multi-sport play-by-play man. The younger Albert does baseball, football, basketball, hockey and the Olympics. He’s seemingly on the air all the time. Albert works for FOX, TNT and used to call hockey on NBC. He also works on the New York Rangers radio network.

Now as far as growing up with one of the most popular sportscasters of his time?  “I couldn’t have asked for a better teacher,” Kenny said of his father. “I tagged along as often as he would allow and I picked up a lot by osmosis.” he writes in his book, A Mic For All Seasons.

“I also received a tape recorder from my parents for my birthday when I was about five or six years old. I would set up my room like a radio or TV studio. I would start calling games into the recorder.”

Harry, Skip, Chip and Chris Caray

The family with the longest lineage, now spanning 4 generations, the Caray’s. Harry started it all. His radio work in St. Louis (with Jack Buck) led him to television stints with the White Sox and Cubs in Chicago. Harry’s son Skip was next to be on the air. Skip joined the Atlanta Braves broadcasts in 1976 and stayed there until his death in 2008. Skip, like Harry, became popular outside his ‘home market’ because the games were broadcast on Superstation WTBS.

Now a second father/son duo has emerged from the Caray family tree. Chip Caray and his son Chris Caray are both major league broadcasters. Chip has been around for a little while, starting with the Cubs in 1998. He was supposed to work with his grandfather, but unfortunately Harry passed away during spring training of that year. Chip has done work for the Atlanta Braves and now is with the St. Louis Cardinals.

This year, Chris was hired by the A’s to do some of their television games. He just so happened to be working a game, when the Cardinals (and Chip) came to Oakland in mid-April. Chip and Chris met on the field before the game and spoke to the Associated Press that night.

“I’m the old guy now and I remember when I was 24 and I got my first chance to do this and my dad was in the other booth on the radio side in Atlanta,” said Chip. “And it’s very different having the torch being passed instead of being passed to you. I’m really excited and humbled and honored that Chris is here. He’s doing a great job already and I’m really excited about where he’s going to take this family business as we call it.”

Only a couple of weeks into his new job, Chris was calling a game with his dad sitting a couple of booths away. “I’m grateful and fortunate enough that they picked this series to be my fourth game. I can’t really even put it into words to tell you the truth.” he told the AP.

The Caray’s “family business” could grow by one soon. Chris’ twin brother Stefan is also calling games. In fact, Chris and Stefan both called games for the Amarillo Sod Poodles the past two years calling the games of the Diamondbacks’ Double-A affiliate.

Happy Father’s Day to all the dads out there, enjoy yourself, you deserve it.

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