It’s a tried-and-true NFL tradition, taking the results of just one game — often featuring star players who sat out the preseason and have some rust to shake off — and overhyping the winners while underrating the losers. Overreacting to Week 1 is an inevitable part of the annual football fan/pundit experience.
And just as it was ill-advised to write off the 49ers when they lost in rainy Chicago to open the 2022 season or to pencil in the Bucs for another Super Bowl run after they trounced the Cowboys that night, it’s probably unfair to judge a new sports betting-focused TV show based on its premiere episode.
But we won’t let that stop us.
FanDuel TV debuted not one but two shows this weekend featuring Sal Iacono, a.k.a. “Cousin Sal” (Jimmy Kimmel’s cousin and a longtime writer on his late-night show). Iacono began hosting a sports betting podcast for The Ringer in 2017 and took his show to his own newly launched podcast network in 2020. But as FanDuel announced heading into this football season, he’s now back in the fold at The Ringer, which has long had an advertising partnership with FanDuel.
So on Friday morning, FanDuel TV debuted Cousin Sal’s Winning Weekend, an NFL and college football betting preview show recorded the night before, and Sunday morning saw the premiere of Ringer Wise Guys, a live-streaming NFL countdown show.
The general takeaway: There’s plenty of potential here, but it was Week 1 and with that came undeniable rust to shake off.
How wise, how winning?
Cousin Sal’s Winning Weekend is also available as an audio podcast and clocked in at 48 minutes for Friday’s episode, while just the first 12 minutes of the video version are available on The Ringer’s site.
It’s fairly similar to Iacono’s podcast work, as this episode includes a lengthy pick-focused conversation with Cousin Sal’s buddy Harry Gagnon (part of the “Degenerate Trifecta” that joins him on every episode of the Against All Odds podcast), an interview with sports betting great Billy Walters, and some scripted Iacono rants and bits.
The best line of the first episode was Iacono declaring Dan Campbell “ballsier than the pit at Chuck E. Cheese” after the Lions coach made a couple of high-risk fourth-down decisions in Thursday night’s season opener.
Despite having accumulated plenty of TV experience — he was a talking-head fixture for several years on FOX’s Lock It In — Iacono came off fairly stiff as he read the teleprompter the first few minutes of the show. It’s safe to say he’s better utilized conversing with co-hosts and guests than monologuing to the audience.
Ringer Wise Guys, meanwhile, enters a crowded and competitive space, battling for eyeballs on Sunday morning against not only the various major-network NFL pregame shows but also the ever-growing list of online livestreams from purveyors of betting and DFS advice.
The show partners Iacono with three voices familiar to Ringer podcast listeners: host John Jastremski, Bill Simmons’ college buddy Joe House, and former Action Network analyst Raheem Palmer. There’s a FanDuel odds ticker on the bottom third throughout the show, resembling the approach of such programs as the late Lock It In and ESPN’s Daily Wager.
The first episode, unfortunately, was plagued by technical issues that made it feel more like an internet-level than a TV-level production. There were awkward Zoom delays and the related talking-over-each-other moments, plus some freezing video on House’s end and even him briefly dropping off the call. On at least two occasions, the onscreen odds were incorrect.
In the producers’ defense, though, a little “Preseason Week 3” is bound to show up in most teams’ Week 1 performance.
The personalities generally meshed well, and the bets touted by the hosts had a decent hit rate (which would have been much higher had they not had so much love for the Steelers getting 2.5 against San Francisco). House nailed a two-leg parlay on the Falcons-Panthers game and an impressive underdog moneyline parlay on the Packers and Browns.
But there were formatting stumbles. There was a segment called “Rat Bet of the Week,” but the four hosts didn’t seem to be on the same page about what a “rat bet” or “rat line” is. There was a segment where three of the hosts gave exotic bets such as teasers and anytime-TD wagers, but Jastremski went with a simple Ravens -9.5. Then in the segment devoted to everyone’s longshot Super Bowl picks, Palmer handed out Dallas -3 against the Giants — a fine betting recommendation, but … one of these things was not like the others.
Also, Simmons popped up in a 30-second recorded segment to share a losing parlay.
Again, it’s Week 1. Both shows boast the ingredients to entertain and inform once the kinks are worked out, and even Sal’s cousin Jimmy is quick to admit it took him multiple years to get his late-night show humming.
FanDuel TV may have a couple of winners here; it’s just a little too early in the season to know. Super Bowl futures can’t cash until February — and we at Sports Handle like to think we know the difference between a Super Bowl future and a Week 1 spread bet.
DraftKings has shows, too
While FanDuel is teamed up with Cousin Sal and friends, rival DraftKings announced last month the addition of GoJo and Golic, pairing former NFL player Mike Golic with his son, Mike Golic Jr., on a daily DraftKings Network studio show.
Our intention was to review the show in this space, but we watched all two hours of the Aug. 28 premiere, and there was nary a mention of betting or odds. It was a morning-commute sports radio-style show that just happened to be presented by DraftKings, with DK host Jessie Coffield as its anchor.
So, check it out if you’re a fan of the Golics, but don’t tune in expecting to load up on actionable betting advice or even thought-provoking betting angles.
Quick media hits
- The Volume podcast network has entered into a multi-year partnership with DraftKings to be the presenting sponsor of its programming, Barrett Sports Media reported last week. The Volume was founded by Colin Cowherd in 2021 and counts Draymond Green and Richard Sherman among its on-air voices.
- Variety’s Brian Steinberg opined that “Disney is only making a small wager” in partnering with PENN Entertainment on ESPN BET.
- Could 92% of sports bettors actually be sports radio listeners, even in 2023, with podcasts such a popular alternative? That’s what a recent Nielsen Scarborough study purported, finding that more than nine in 10 sports bettors surveyed listen to at least some AM/FM sports talk, while 20% of sports bettors say they listen to 13 hours or more a week.