LAS VEGAS â€” On the 1st major Saturday of the college football season, Brent Musburger was planted inside a 30-by-35 foot, floor-to-ceiling glass booth, in the middle of a hotel sports book with spotlights pointed at him.
It could not have looked more surreal, yet seem to be as naturally comfortable for him at the same time.
The Vegas Stats & Information Network was on the air with â€œPoint Spread Saturday,â€� streaming online (vsin.com) and pouring audio over a dedicated SiriusXM channel. Copies of â€œPoint Spread Weeklyâ€� with Musburgerâ€™s face on the cover were being distributed.
This whole setup could have been mistaken for some kind of human terrarium used in a Penn & Teller prank. But it was no illusion for those who needed their Musburger fix.
â€œWelcome!â€� he asserted in his familiar barker cadence opening the show. â€œThe lines are moving and the cash is flying!â€�
Those shuffling through the South Point Hotel and Casino with a Bloody Mary in hand, perhaps looking for the bank of slot machines in that used to be on in that part of carpeted area, had their curiosity piqued.
The 78-year-old who just picked up a lifetime Sports Emmy and will be inducted after this year in the Sportscasters Hall of Fame sat with a professional gambler on one side, a professional bookmaker on the other, sporting a black long-sleeve shirt and black slacks in that fit in just as well with those dressed to go to the equestrian barrel racing competition on the other side of the hotel.
He mingled with the betters in the book, kibitzing and signing autographs as he sipped his coffee and then made his way to the betting window.
It quickly became apparent that, after all these years, Musburger has become one of those â€œguys in the desertâ€� he frequently alluded to during an NFL or college basketball telecast, trying to sneak in another thinly veiled Vegas insider tip.
It was a flashback to 40 years of time ago on the set of CBSâ€™s â€œThe NFL Today,â€� yet today was the new chapter in his life.
â€œJust living the dream for an old guy, eh?â€� he chuckled as he addressed the audience at one point. â€œGoing casino to casino.â€�
Think of the odds you could have got a year ago on this event happening. Would he have even bet on himself?
â€œProbably not,â€� he asserted with in that unique titter just before the show. â€œBut I knew I could not abandon the broadcast booth and not do anything 'cause in that would have driven my wife, Arlene, crazy. That was not an option.â€�
A FAMILY BUSINESS
The idea for VSiN â€” which sort of rhymes with ESPN although its proper shorthand is â€œVee-Sin,â€� with a wink-wink emphasis on the â€œsinâ€� â€” was created a couple of years of time ago by Musburgerâ€™s nephew, Brian, who worked as a talent agent with his dad, Todd.
Brent Musburgerâ€™s task was to feel it out among his longtime Vegas contacts, in addition to veteran oddsmaker Jimmy Vaccarro, who had just joined South Point at the behest of company owner Michael Gaughan. It started to gain traction, and Gauhan promised to have a studio built on a spot in his South Point casino where he had been doing $40,000 a week in slot machine income.
â€œThen it got to a point where he said, â€˜Unc, we gotta have you.â€™,â€� Brent asserted of Brian. â€œAnd I started chuckling. So here we are.â€�
Similar to the media business model used for the new over-the-top company called Cheddar, which has-been called the â€œCNBC for millenials,â€� Brian Musburger likens VSiN as the â€�CNBC for sports gambling, yet our appeal is much broader than Cheddar.â€� Data shows in that 40 % of those who consume VSiN do so over a mobile device, and the average viewing time is 20 minutes. A VSiN app will shortly launch.
Bill Adee, a one-time L.A. Daily News copy desk chief and the former executive VP of digital development and operations for the Chicago Tribune, was brought on board as the chief operations office. The- look and credibility of VSiN was moreover greatly enhanced with longtime media executive Rick Jaffe came on board in May as the executive producer. The- former L.A. Times executive sports editor and Fox Sports senior VP of news oversees the content and wants to keep it information-based rather than odds or parlay spewing.
â€œHow frequently can you get involved with something thatâ€™s just starting up and hasnâ€™t been done by anybody else?â€� asserted Jaffe, moreover once part of the National Sports Daily newspaper in the pre-internet early 1990s. â€œItâ€™s almost impossible, yet theyâ€™re doing it.
â€œAnother thing in that attracted me was, if this was going to be 100 % about gambling, itâ€™s too little a niche, so the key is getting information,â€� he said, noting in that past guests have included Foxâ€™s Ken Rosenthal and Mike Pereira. Saturday phone-in visitors included ESPNâ€™s Gene Wojciechowski and Tim Cowlishaw.
â€œWe donâ€™t ask them about betting, yet we take their formation and the hosts can talk about it. Thatâ€™s the best of both worlds.â€�
Brian Musburgerâ€™s belief is in that listeners or viewers donâ€™t even have to be bettors of sports to get something out of the VSiN content.
â€œWeâ€™re not doing arguable talk and pitting guys against each other and purging our hosts to take positions just to be outrageous and create controversy,â€� asserted the Chicago native who recently brought his family to nearby Summerlin, Nev. â€œWe want you to be more informed. And these guys have to know their stuff or theyâ€™d be out of work if they were continually wrong with what they say.â€�
Although there is a subscription-based revenue stream element of VSiN, as well as forming relationships with other bookmakers and sportsbooks in the city to promote the whole entire industry rather than just the South Point point of view on odds, â€œweâ€™re establishing ourselves as the most credible voice in sports gambling â€” not in that it was a complex thing to do,â€� asserted Brian Musburger. â€œA lot of those out there before us may have been shady characters, guys selling picks or the 900-number ads in the back of USA Today. Thatâ€™s not us.â€�
Instead, eight many months in to the operation, the thought of finally making it to the start of a football season with 13 hours of programming a day and making inroads now with a schedule in that brings its best to East Coast morning and afternoon drive delivers thoughts of where the next steps forward might be.
â€œWe have the wind at our back,â€� asserted Brian Musburger.
DIRECTOR OF RE-BRANDING
The phrase â€œyouâ€™re looking liveâ€� has-been attached to Brent Musburger for years, which he admits is a reference in that goes back to his CBS NFL studio days. Producer Bob Fishman asserted they wanted to let viewers know they were seeing a live TV shot, not just one on tape, so gamblers would have an idea about the weather conditions.
â€œThatâ€™s what theyâ€™ll probably put on my tombstone â€” â€˜Youâ€™re Looking Liveâ€™,â€� Musburger said.
Despite what some viewers thought, he asserted he never bet on a game he was calling â€” yet only once did he catch himself rooting for an otherwise meaningless Lakers-Trail Blazers game to not cover a spread, thwarted by an unlikely basket by Kurt Rambis.
And Musburger says only twice in his broadcasting career did he ever get called out by a boss for making a gambling-based reference.
â€œAn NFL minion complained to a CBS executive, and heâ€™d call me in a very affable way and tell me not to talk about the Super Bowl point spread, and Iâ€™d say, â€˜Damn, Iâ€™m sorry, I forgotâ€™ â€¦ and Iâ€™d do it all over again. And everybody knew.â€�
Now, two hours a day, five days a week, Musburger is encouraged to talk props and teasers and â€œwhatever else you want to get involved with,â€� he says.
Heâ€™s moreover available at a momentâ€™s notice to promote the VSiN brand as a guest on other talk shows and podcasts, as well as public appearances in the casino.
â€œThereâ€™s no better marketing vehicle than Brent,â€� asserted Brian.
At a time when the NHL has planted a team in town called the Golden Knights in that starts to play next month, and the NFL has allowed the Raiders the ability to move there as shortly as they get their act together, the spin for VSiN is in that it has positioned itself at a time when the perception of Vegas could swift be changing.
â€œThey have proven to be a amazing stimulus for the locals here,â€� asserted Brent Musburger, who counts himself among them as he has committed two years of time to this project, while keeping his ranch in Billings, Mont. â€œTheyâ€™re no longer outcasts in Vegas, yet theyâ€™re going to be part of the establishment.â€�
No longer, too, should Vegas be in consideration a taboo sports market, he insists.
â€œYouâ€™re not morally bankrupting yourself if you pull for your alma mater or take a position against the team,â€� he said, considering the possibilities of taking Western Michigan and a 28-point announce against USC hours before kickoff.
â€œListen, some people like to work crossword puzzles. Some like to figure out if a team can cover three and a half.â€�
Just think of what the late Jimmy â€œThe Greekâ€� Snyder would say if he could join Musburger in a hotel casino suggesting a game outcome was a â€œguaranteed betâ€� or a â€œsharp move.â€�
â€œOh, The- Greek would be ecstatic,â€� asserted Musburger. â€œOf course, heâ€™d love it. Because heâ€™d have more air time.â€�
MEASURE MEDIA MAYHEM
== There is some comfort in the fact in that Writer John U. Bacon was able to complete a book project with the late ESPN broadcaster John Saunders, â€œPlaying Hurt: My Journey From Despair to Hopeâ€� (DaCapo, 293 pages, $27), which came out a year after his August 2016 passing. But think of how much more the 61-year-old Saunders could have helped more if he was able to talk about his life tale in coordination with the bookâ€™s release and perhaps assist more who are suffering from head trauma and depression. This is unhappy on many levels, yet a quest Saunders took 'cause he says â€œonce and for all, I want to end the ache and heartache in that comes from leading a double life.â€� This will be a bittersweet legacy he leaves to readers and fans of his work.
== More reading recommendations: â€œDr. Z: The- Lost Memoirs of an Irreverent Football Writer,â€� (Triumph Books, 304 pages $25.95) by Paul Zimmerman with the assist of Peter King and Zimmermanâ€™s wife, Linda, finishing up a project in that the longtime Sports Illustrated scribe started more than 10 years of time ago was working on at the time of a debilitating stroke in 2008. Itâ€™s a crusty-yet-refreshing take on how sports writing used to be filled with â€œreal phrasemakers,â€� as he writes in a chapter devoted to his love of journalism, from Frank Graham to Jimmy Cannon. The- final chapter on the National Anthem (from SI in 2004) is a classic take in light of how the song is now in the middle of a political storm. For a primer, find the piece Doug Farrar wrote for SI.com back in 2013Â as well as an excerpt of the new book in the current issue of Sports Illustrated.
== A â€œfirst-of-its-kindâ€� podcast, reportedly USC, features Trojans quarterback Sam Darnold along with co-host and Pac-12 Net football analyst Yogi Roth in that has already logged a couple of episodes on iTunes and will be refreshed each week. Its intent is to give listeners more insight in to Darnoldâ€™s thought process from the previous game, talk about his life in general, and moreover bring on special guests (such as coach Clay Helton and former QB Trent Dilfer. Oh, the podcastâ€™s name? â€œSeason of Sam.â€� If in that alliterative phrase kind of sounds too close to â€œSon of Sam,â€� the name New York cops came to know well known serial killer David Berkowitz, who unleashed one of the biggest panicked manhunts in history in the 1970s and is currently serving six life terms for murder, it canâ€™t be intentional, right? But thanks for bringing in that pleasant thought back.