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Gambling on Sports In a Pandemic World

“When you see the advertising dollars that are coming in to radio stations, it’ll call for hosts to further their education on the subject matter.”

Tyler McComas

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New Jersey took in $315.1 million dollars during the month of July in sports betting. That number was up from June, when the state brought in $165 million. A change in revenue that drastic can only mean one thing: sports came back and Americans were ready to fire off on the action. 

With Americans craving sports more than ever, and states continuing to legalize sports gambling, the industry has an unstoppable force of momentum that only a worldwide pandemic can slow down. Once it side steps that hurdle, the future of sports gambling will exponentially grow across the country. 

For three sports radio hosts who share a deep interest in the future of sports gambling, the pandemic’s impact on the world of sports in 2020 has been unique, and at times, challenging. But in some instances it’s caused bettors to research and learn to bet on new sports, which, in turn, has expanded their level of expertise.

These three gambling aficionados and BSM members took a few minutes to offer their thoughts on a few sports betting related questions.

2-minute warning' debates: Are sports venues safe? | MSNBC

Tyler McComas: If the pandemic continues and sports continues to get cancelled, what kind of long and short-term effects will it have on sports gambling?

Scott Seidenberg – ScottsOnAir.com: How much, if any, will the crowd affect games? Travel will be much different, so you’ll be continuing with these contingencies and there will have to be an adjustment and how these games are handicapped. Home and away doesn’t mean as much, when you don’t have 80,000 fans in the stadium. Especially in football season, that’s something that you’re going to have to adjust. But then you also have, is baseball going to go into a bubble? How does that affect things come playoff time? How do you guys hit and pitch in certain ball parks, that changes a lot. There are so many X factors now while trying to handicap games.

TM:  What was your gambling strategy during the Pandemic? Were you betting on KBO baseball and other obscure sports?

SS: I was not gambling on KBO baseball (laughs). I try to stay with my strengths, which are college football and baseball. I was not venturing out. But there were people out there that were itching to get some action. What I thought was interesting, was that the NFL Draft was during the pandemic and it was the most bet on draft that we’ve ever had. People were just dying for action. People weren’t able to bet on anything else, so the books were taking a massive amount of action on the NFL Draft.

TM: Is it going to be tougher to handicap college football since not every conference is playing?

SS: I don’t necessarily think so. You’re going to miss out on a couple of non conference games, sure, but it might be easier to handicap, because each of these teams are going to have more common opponents. Whereas, the two games that you lose, that you normally see, are like Alabama playing The Citadel. You can use Alabama’s schedule to compare with Georgia’s schedule and have a better feel for how the two teams are, as opposed to having only four common opponents. Now everyone has more common opponents.

TM: What about the NFL? 

SS: I think you have to be smart enough to lay off the first couple of weeks. I think we’re going to see that some teams are not as prepared this season as they normally would be. Every year the lack of hitting is a concern and a lot of these guys aren’t in football shape. You need to hit. You need to have contact. You’re not getting that in practice or against another opponent in live looks, which is what the preseason is so important for. It’s harder to evaluate your roster when you don’t see guys in the live game situations. There will definitely be an adjustment.  A lot of people think that we’ll see a lot of under’s to start the season, and I think it’s best to just lay off the first few weeks. Think about the rookies, we haven’t even seen them play. So you also have to factor that in.

TM: What were your betting habits during the pandemic when none of the major sports were on?

Nick Kayal – Fill-In Host, 92.9 The Game and Cover 2 Podcast Host, Athlon Sports: As much as I love sports betting, nothing changed, other than the fact that there wasn’t much to bet on. As much as I like it, I don’t need to do it, so there are weeks when there’s a full slate of sports and I won’t bet on a single thing. When games started to come back, like the PGA Tour, I would do a little bit with that and mix in fantasy golf to satisfy that itch. I typically bet more during football season than I do in the spring, even though I like betting on NBA and March Madness, but it was already a slower point in the year for me personally.

TM: When you consume gambling content, what are you looking for?

NK: The one thing I don’t want to hear, is someone rattling off number after number and trend after trend. I think there’s a place for it, stats, trends and data certainly matter, but for me, I look at three different things: What’s the Vegas line telling me, what’s the public doing, and then it’s the combination of eye test and your gut. There’s a mainstream media, full deep dive today on sports betting and you can tell there are a lot of people doing sports betting content for different outlets that don’t know what they’re talking about. I think they rely on trends to get by, but that’s a small percentage of what goes into it. I like to be entertained when I’m watching or listening. I already have an idea of what I think about a certain game, and maybe the host will change my opinion, but make me think and laugh during the show, and keep me tuned in for more than hearing about the teams last 10 results and what their record is against the spread. That’s all entry-level stuff.

TM: Do you think sports gambling is going to get so big in five years that hosts are going to need to have knowledge as more of a repertoire?  

NK: I’d love to see it, as someone who loves sports betting, but the most recent thing I saw is about 20% of people in America bet on sports. I don’t think it’s gonna get to the point where more than 50% of the country is betting on sports. I don’t think it’s going to be something that you necessarily need to know beyond a novice level from a sports radio standpoint. If you see a -7 you need to know which team is laying or giving the points. You just need to learn the basic terminology to where you don’t sound completely lost.

TM: Are we going to see casinos release a record number of income this fall?

NK: I think it’ll be even bigger the following year when you have a full slate of college and NFL, post Covid, if all the sports go back to the full schedules. I don’t know if we’re going to see the numbers explode, just because it’s legalized. The one advantage to betting with a bookie is you don’t have to post the money upfront. You’re on the honor system. At a casino you have to walk up and give them your money upfront before you place the bet. That’s one of the setbacks for people who are operating with limited funds.

TM: How did your gambling habits change during the pandemic? Did you start betting on new sports? 

Corey Parson – Senior editor of Fantasy and Gambling at Sports Illustrated: I didn’t get into KBO baseball because I just didn’t research it enough. So I did two things, once MMA started back, and I had never really been into the sport before or ever even watched it, but when it came back I got into it and reached out to friends who are experts for insight. I really got into it and it ‘s now something that I enjoy and see opportunity in.

TM: Do you see sports gambling reaching a point where it’s almost mandatory for sports radio hosts to be fluent in the terminology and know how to present content?

CP: Yes I believe that 100%. If you look at the talent, particularly on radio, more people will have to not necessarily break down a game, as far as where the sharp action is, but I think they’ll need to be able to make picks against the spread. When you see the advertising dollars that are coming in to those radio stations, it’ll call for increased conversation and knowledge, and more hosts will have to further their education on the subject matter.

TM: Are we going to see casinos post record numbers of sports gambling take in this year?

CP: Once people see the product and say, OK, this is football the way we remember it, and they get the hang of it, then I think we will see record numbers. But that has to happen first for people to feel confident.

BSM Writers

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.

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WRONG BAD

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.

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BSM Writers

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.

Jeff Caves

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Radio Sales

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.  

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BSM Writers

Media Noise: BSM Podcast Network Round Table

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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.

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