ESPN’s Ryan McGee appeared on the Rule The Galaxy podcast last week and discussed some of his higher and lower-level conversations with college football and Star Wars fans.
McGee is a huge fan of the movie franchise and chopped up a bunch of different topics on the podcast.
“It’s like talking about football,” McGee said. “My brother and I talk about this all the time. You get on a plane, and the guy next to you says, ‘Oh, I’m a huge college football fan,” and then when you really start talking with them, you realize; you’re operating on a different level than they are.”
McGee correlated the realization to Star Wars and dove deeper into his meaning with the Rule the Galaxy crew and 104.5 ESPN’s T-Bob Hebert, who is a huge fan of the franchise himself.
“They like going to games, but they have no idea what an RPO is,” McGee continued. “So, you can’t talk about it. So, with Star Wars…T-Bob, the first time I ever did one of your shows, and you asked a question—I went, “oh, ok.’ I got some guys in Omaha that I do shows with all the time, and we do spoiler warnings. Like now, we are going to talk about the movie we just saw, and it’s liberating to be able to talk about it.”
McGee appropriately name-dropped a little bit to drive home his point with included a nod to his Marty & McGee co-host, Marty Smith.
“I can’t sit on a bus with a bunch of country music guys that Marty’s introduced me to and go, ‘Hey, Luke Combs, where are you on Rey?’ But then it’s awesome when you find out that they dig it.”
McGee just signed a new deal at ESPN after starting there in the mid-90s. Disney does own ESPN and Star Wars—maybe McGee worked a pair of premier tickets to the next movie into his deal.
Sports Betting App Wagr Raises $12 Million From Series A Funding Round
Two of the investors include the New England Patriots and Philadelphia 76ers ownership groups.
Sports betting app Wagr announced its public launch after completing a $12 million Series A funding round that will allow the company to further develop its product and, more importantly, expand to other states. During its private beta release, the app was available in Tennessee.
As reported by Front Office Sports’ Michael McCarthy, two of the investors in the Series A funding round include The Kraft Group, established by New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, and Harris Blitzer Sports & Entertainment, which owns the Philadelphia 76ers and New Jersey Devils.
Created by Harvard Business School students Mario Malave and Eliana Eskinazi in 2019, Wagr is intended to stand out from other sports betting apps and appeal to more casual users by incorporating a social component.
The app matches a bettor with someone else in the same state who’s willing to wager the opposite side. Leaderboards and community posts will also be a part of the user experience.
Wagr charges a 5 percent transaction fee on each bet, which is how it generates revenue.
Other investors involved in the Series A funding round for Wagr are venture capital companies BITKRAFT Ventures, Greycroft, Pear VC, and Seven Seven Six. (Seven Seven Six, run by Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian, first invested $4 million in the betting app in June 2021.)
According to McCarthy, Wagr hopes to obtain betting licenses in five more states by the end of 2022 and aims to launch an app for Android users in the next couple of months.
Ariel Helwani: ‘Working At ESPN Wasn’t What I Thought It Would Be’
“One of the good things about going to a place like ESPN is that people view you in a different way.”
Sometimes, when we get that dream job in the media industry or meet someone that we looked up to for years as kids, the experience is not always what we had envisioned it to be. That was the case for Ariel Helwani while he was at ESPN, but he was able to make the most of his situation.
Helwani was a guest on the most recent episode of The Adam Schein Podcast. He mentioned always wanting to work at ESPN when he was a kid. But as he started actually working there, something wasn’t right:
“My dream, as is the dream for a lot of people, was to work at ESPN,” Helwani told Schein. “I grew up idolizing ESPN as a brand and looking up to all those guys like Stuart Scott, Rich Eisen, Chris Berman. This was my life.
“I’m very thankful and grateful for the experience. But it wasn’t, if I’m being honest, what I thought it was going to be. There was some disappointment in that initially, but I was able to turn that disappointment into excitement and opportunities.”
While there was some disillusionment, having ESPN on his resume did help Helwani as he got into future endeavors because now he felt he could do different things for different people.
“Leaving ESPN has been incredible because thankfully, one of the good things about going to a place like ESPN is that people view you in a different way,” he said. “I’m still the same guy, but you’re now the former ESPN guy. You get a lot of opportunities and people want to work with you.
“What was great about my situation was I realized I didn’t want to be exclusive. I wanted to cut up my services into a puzzle and I would do this for these people and that for these people and everyone was okay playing in the sandbox. I have freedom. I have my voice back. I was feeling censored. I was feeling stifled. I don’t have to worry about that stuff anymore. I haven’t been this happy in quite some time.”
One of the things that helps Helwani in trying to grow his brand is that he takes in a lot of sports media. He tries to apply that to what he does because he realizes his responsibility to the audience.
“I’m not a big ‘J’ journalist, but I feel like we have an incredible responsibility to the audience,” Helwani explained.
“They come to us for the facts, news, and entertainment as well, and I don’t want to BS them. I think what helps me is I consume a lot of media. I’m obsessed with sports media. I listen to you while I’m driving my kids to and from school, I listen to WFAN here or 98.7 FM or SIRIUS, I listen to everything. I know what I want as a viewer or listener and I want to be the best version of that in my little world as well.”
In fact, one of the people who helped Helwani early in his career was Schein. He told a story that Schein never heard before. When he was at Syracuse, Helwani contacted Schein for advice and the now SIRIUSXM host took it a step further.
“2003, they tell me to go to the Student Center and there is a computer there,” said Helwani. “You can type in whichever industry you want to work in within broadcasting, media. Network, whichever person you want to connect with, all within the NewHouse family.
“It actually worked. I got an internship at HBO Sports as a result of that. However, I typed in your name and your contact info came up. I emailed you and you called me as you were filling up your car with gas. I get a cold call from you and you were like, ‘Hey, man I got your email.’ I was a junior, a total nobody. You were the only one and I emailed everyone. You gave me advice about careers and life outside.”
New York Mobile Sports Bets Likely to Pass New Jersey for No. 1 in U.S.
“The data tell us that New Yorkers are dumping illegal sportsbooks for the new legal options, and operators are also excelling at attracting first-time bettors.”
New York looks well on its way to become the new No. 1 in mobile sports betting. Bets from the state blasted off in the first two weekends they were available.
This could put New York in position to overtake its neighbor, New Jersey, for the top spot.
According to the Associated Press, Vancouver, Canada-based tech company GeoComply Solutions recorded 17.9 million transactions last weekend in New York. That’s up from 17.2 million the weekend before, when betting went live in the state.
The transaction numbers are related to sports betting activity from a specific location of a customer. Bettors are required to make bets within state lines where it is legal.
The company says 1.2 million new accounts were created in New York since mobile sports betting began on Jan. 8. Nearly 88% of those customers are new to legal sports betting, never having been verified before by GeoComply.
“The momentum of New York’s sports betting launch has continued and it is mostly home-grown,” GeoComply managing director of gaming Lindsay Slader told the AP. “The data tell us that New Yorkers are dumping illegal sportsbooks for the new legal options, and operators are also excelling at attracting first-time bettors.”
These numbers imply that the New Jersey market might be hurting as a result of New York surging. However, while the transactions show New York probably took more bets, they also indicate that New Jersey hasn’t lost any business to New York so far.
New Jersey averaged 12.6 million geolocation transactions in the two weekends before New York’s mobile launch, and 13.1 million in the two weekends since.
About 9.3% of bettors have accounts in both states, the company said.
“The growth in New York has been explosive,” said Rush Street Interactive CEO Richard Schwartz, whose company runs the BetRivers online sportsbook. “It is, by far, off to the fastest start of any of our sportsbook markets in terms of handle. Along with having the largest population of any state with legalized sports gambling, New York is one of the few U.S. states with multiple teams across all four major sports. It’s simply a recipe for long term success.”
Sports gambling company FanDuel is “very pleased” with how New York customers have embraced betting.
“While all markets are critical, it was especially important for FanDuel to do well within our home state,” said spokesman Kevin Hennessy.
While New Jersey is still thriving, it should be interesting to keep an eye on the market as more and more business pops up in New York. New Jersey casinos and sports books say at least 20% of their business has come from New Yorkers crossing over into New Jersey to make bets before New York opened up the market.
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