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The Return of Sports: What If People Die?

“As leagues rush to resume seasons, featured columnist Jay Mariotti asks if inevitable failures in testing and quarantine protocols will lead to outbreaks … and deaths.”



Axl Rose, back in the jungle, is selling t-shirts for charity these days. “LIVE N’ LET DIE WITH COVID 45,’’ goes the message, which has nothing to do with a Guns N’ Roses remake of a James Bond-inspired movie tune and everything to do with the rowdy singer’s damning political platform: He blames the 45th U.S. president, Donald Trump, for a pandemic that soon will kill its 100,000th American.

Live and let die. Wealth over health. Economy over mortality. Such are the oblivious, hellbent mantras of a country that, in ample swaths, doesn’t care about the ongoing death toll as long as some semblance of normalcy returns — and physical distancing restrictions can be flouted by creepy COVID-iots in crowded swimming pools. There is little regard for human life and a mind-numbing absence of responsible thinking, as Rose notes. Hence, his rock band, citing “an abundance of caution,’’ postponed its North American and European tours in lockstep with a wary music and theater industry, which sees no sense in hosting live performances before 2021 — particularly if fresh coronavirus tidal waves are preparing to assault the planet.

I wish the same medical logic was being used by the $200-billion U.S. sports industry. But trumpeting a need to heal the national condition and psyche — translatIon: a desperate pack of wealthy titans unaccustomed to   financial bloodletting are trying to recoup billions — the NBA and Major League Baseball are ready to live and let die themselves this summer. By that, I mean exactly how it sounds: Athletes, coaches and support staff will not be safe within various capsules of quarantine, regardless of self-serving assurances about advanced diagnostic testing and airtight daily protocols, assuming the leagues do execute their mad rush to resume live games. With no magical vaccine or mass immunity blanket in sight, even commissioners have been forced to acknowledge the health dangers and say they expect a number of in-season positive tests, increasing the risk of infectious breakouts and spread within the isolated frameworks and in greater communities beyond.

“Nothing is risk-free in this undertaking,’’ MLB boss Rob Manfred said.

“No decision we make will be risk-free,” NBA boss Adam Silver said in a teleconference with players, per the New York Times. “We’re going to be living with this virus for the foreseeable future.”

And you know what that means, given the potentially lethal impact of any COVID-19 trigger effect. People might die.

If anyone cares.

In the parlance missed by so many deprived fans, all of this feels like a hurry-up, no-huddle offense when sports should be in the ultimate prevent defense. The prudent, level-headed route would be a complete shutdown of the industry, NFL and college football included, until next year. Sports will have more answers then about the development and distribution of a vaccine and fewer worries about the bad optics of depleting the national testing supply, still very much a concern for extreme virus hotspots. Think I’m overstating a coronavirus death wish? Here’s what Diana Zuckerman, president of the National Center for Health Research, told the Washington Post about the premature scramble to come back before the virus wants sports to come back.

“I think you’d end up with a lot of infected players and other personnel. If it isn’t done right, not only would people get sick and potentially die, but it would shut down the season,’’ Zuckerman said. “I don’t see a way around it. It would be a miracle if … it didn’t end up infecting people.’’

But the NBA marches on anyway, hopefully avoiding a Mickey Mouse setback as it explores a single-site proposal within ESPN’s Wide World of Sports complex at Walt Disney World. The plan is to use three arenas and several luxury hotels on a “campus’’ where players will live, practice and resume competition in late July. As I’ve written, basketball is among the activities most vulnerable to an outbreak — players literally are dripping sweat on each other in an indoor environment, with every play involving close-up physical contact and a ball touched by as many as 10 players and at least one referee, not to mention incessant chatter that will discharge speech droplets for more than two hours. Then you hear Jared Dudley, a Players Association representative with the title-contending Los Angeles Lakers, say the so-called quarantine bubble won’t be as restrictive and secure as the NBA has led us to believe.

“You will be allowed to leave,’’ said Dudley, who has been on key group calls with Silver and union executive director Michele Roberts. “Now just because you leave, if we’re going to give you that leeway, if you come back with corona, you can’t play.’’

You can’t play? What about: How many people inside the bubble might be victimized by the one infected doofus — or doofuses — who needed to play golf or visit an Orlando strip club? And if family members or players are part of the social experiment … yikes. This cannot be anything short of an absolute, isolated lockdown involving as few people as possible. And the players need to know going in, from LeBron James to the last guy on the Brooklyn Nets’ bench, that the quarantine could extend for months, depending on whether the league tries to retrieve lost broadcast revenues and finish the regular season (bad idea) or immediately start the playoffs. And am I hearing this correctly? In a league where at least 10 players have tested positive for COVID-19, including three who faced each other in that instructive Utah Jazz-Pistons game in Detroit, players still prefer the less-accurate saliva test to the uncomfortable, full nasal swab test.

They aren’t taking this seriously, are they? They don’t grasp that 35 percent of virus carriers are asymptomatic, according to CDC studies, with the global number of infections jumping by a million-plus over the last 2 1/2 weeks. The thought process among millennials and Gen Zers, the NBA’s player demographics, continues to boggle the mind: They’re too young, strong and healthy to fall victim. They miss the point like an airball misses the rim. If someone has the virus, where else is he spreading it? And how many others are contracting it?

At least the NBA will need only a fraction of the 200,000-plus tests required by MLB, kits that could be used by sick patients who urgently need them. Even with such a massive inventory, baseball’s plan is to test players and personnel just “several’’ times a week when the sport’s best player, Mike Trout, has said he doesn’t see the season happening without testing every day. The strategy is beyond risky when Manfred says only those who test positive will be quarantined, never mind the possibility that the infected person already has spread the virus to others. The ballgames must go on, you see, with MLB preferring travel to existing ballparks to the NBA’s bubble concept. As for standard recommendation by health officials that an infected person stay isolated for 14 days? Dr. Manfred says otherwise, requiring a player — or, closer to the truth, a superstar — to pass only two subsequent tests in a 24-hour period to resume play.

Then consider the stifling restrictions within the daily MLB protocol. Players can live without handshakes, high-fives and clubhouse buffets, I suppose. But being spaced at least six feet apart at all times, wearing masks everywhere but on the field? No sunflower seeds or smokeless tobacco, which can be vices for players more than treats? No showers on the premises, a flashback to Mom picking you up from Little League? Hand-washing after every half-inning and every time equipment is touched (which is constant in baseball)? No saunas, pools or chambers to ease injuries? If social distancing is a mandate, can a runner still slide into home plate or a base if an opponent is tagging him? Can you still hold a runner? Attempt pickoff plays?

And that’s just at the ballpark. On road trips, no one can eat or drink in public. Preferably, you do not leave your room, and please use the hotel stairs to avoid elevator buttons. No one is allowed in the room but family members, so tell the groupie to stay home. When returning to personal residences after a home game, everyone is urged to isolate and not go anywhere — for months. Would a prison sentence be much worse?

None of which will happen, of course, if the owners and players can’t agree on a financial resolution. Never mind that baseball, already beset by numerous existential issues and lagging interest, could be committing long-term suicide if the season is canceled over a money dispute amid a pandemic. Per The Athletic, the owners have moved off a demand to split revenues 50-50 with players for an abbreviated 82-game regular season, but that is merely a starting point when players are the ones taking the life-and-death health risks. The union is disgusted, understandably, that owners would wage a public-relations battle amid a pandemic, when 40 million jobless Americans might not grasp why players wouldn’t return to lucrative gigs. But if I’m a player with a wife and children at home, I am assessing the laundry list of risks and having grave doubts. And if I’m Trout or another megastar with a nine-figure contract — and Trout’s wife is expecting their first child in August, remember — I’m not going anywhere near a field. And if I’m a player with an underlying medical condition — or a mental health issue exacerbated by the pandemic — the answer is simple: No, the virus risk is not worth it.

Ask golfers Adam Scott and Lee Westwood, who aren’t satisfied with PGA Tour protocols and won’t be traveling to the U.S. for events. If golfers are nervous in a no-contact, distance-protected sport, basketball players should be petrified, right? I can just hear the blowhard fan who doesn’t have empathy and wants athletes to “man up’’ and play. Please, try to get a life at some point. The wife of Oakland Athletics pitcher Jake Diekman, whose issues have included colitis, already has clapped back at critics.

“(Resuming the season) should not be coming at my husband’s expense,’’ Amanda Diekman tweeted. “No offense, but I really don’t care that Bob from wherever is bored at home with no sports and it’d be `good for him’ to watch.’’

Hell, every pro and college athlete should worry about protocol after Dana White showed the sports world how not to test for the virus, making a debacle of procedures at UFC 249 and forcing more stringent guidelines for the next event in Las Vegas. Two swab tests will be required of each fighter before competition, followed by self-isolation until the scheduled bout. “During this time, no athletes or cornermen will be permitted to leave the Athlete Hotel without express prior approval from the Nevada State Athletic Commission,” states a UFC memo to the fighters. “You also should not have physical contact with anyone other than the members of your camp.”

I’d say the Nevada commission just bombed White with a head kick.

So why do the leagues ignore common sense and power on? Ask Pink Floyd, the Notorious B.I.G., the O’Jays, Dire Straits, Donna Summer, the Steve Miller Band, Wu-Tang Clan, Cyndi Lauper, Ludacris, Randy Newman, 50 Cent, Lil Wayne, AC/DC, Puff Daddy and the Beatles — MONEY!!!! When billionaire owners and broadcast behemoths see a way to stop drowning, any pangs of guilt and irresponsibility fade quickly. The NBA would lose more than $1 billion if the remainder of the season is canceled; the same applies to the NHL, which is eyeing a 24-team postseason in Vegas and a second hub city. MLB would suffer a $4 billion shortfall if its season is ditched. The NFL, which absurdly thinks its season will proceed with bodies in the stands, will lose $5.5 billion in revenue for a season without fans, or $14 billion if canceled altogether. College football would lose $4 billion — and that sport is a mess, with traditional Southern powers such as Alabama, Clemson, Florida, Texas and Oklahoma prepared to march on without conference brethren. Ohio State is ready to do the same — in front of 50,000 fans if possible, says a hallucinating athletic director — as rival Michigan says it won’t play football at all if students aren’t on campus.

Meanwhile, in South Korea, sex dolls were placed in seats to make a soccer stadium seem less empty. If that isn’t a reminder of how far sports has strayed from normalcy, consider this jolt: The meatpacking plant that produces the legendary Dodger Stadium item, the Dodger Dog, was hit by an outbreak of 140 positive coronavirus tests among employees.

Not that sports addicts can’t find content to shoot into their veins: auto racing, UFC, professional bull riding, Mike Tyson in a wrestling ring — all without fans. None of it was half as fun as watching Tom Brady suck at golf in the Florida rain, playing so horribly that commentator/hopeless hacker Charles Barkley razzed him. Of course, Brady had a Hail Mary in him, holing out from from the fairway on No. 7 … as his microphone fell off. “Take a suck of that, Chuck,’’ Brady told Barkley, as a TV camera revealed Tompa Boy had split his pants. That was the coolest sports moment of our national shutdown, made better by the $20 million in virus relief raised by Brady, Peyton Manning, Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson in an entertaining dude-fest called: “The Match: Champions For Charity.’’

We continue to venture into the unknown, the frivolity of games diving blindly into the poisoned pandemic pool. But this much is certain: I’m tired of mishmash that posits sports as a spiritual salve, a symbol of American rebirth, such as this from Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell: “America needs baseball. It’s a sign of getting back to normal.’’ And this from prominent sports agent Scott Boras in a New York Times op-ed: “Time and time again, baseball has helped our country heal.’’

A pandemic is not an earthquake in the Bay Area, a bombing in Boston or even 9/11 in New York. A pandemic is invisible.

And the ghost lurks, furtive and dark, ready to end seasons that never should have been played and lives that never should have been risked.

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.”



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.



@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.”



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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