Sports Book Scene June 28th 2000

Handicapper Wayne Root sets up shop without Feist. This and more in Wed.

One of the benefits of the baseball season for bettors is the virtual disappearance of tout services from the wagering scene.

But fear not, they will soon be crawling out from under the rocks from whence they have gone on summer hiatus, full of new schemes to “kill your man”.

Now hold on, this is not the prelude to a diatribe against touts.  We’ve been around the sports betting world long enough to realize that these characters are a fact of life.  And they, in fact, could not exist without greedy, gullible players.

But of course, not everyone who pays a sports service for picks falls into that category.  Nor should they automatically be considered suckers.

Whether or not to buy picks is a personal choice, with which we are not going to quibble.  Although we will state upfront that we do not pay for picks, that doesn’t mean we don’t scrounge around for help and look at lots of free picks.

It is understandable that many bettors who don’t have time to handicap would like some help in making what is essentially an investment decision.  After all, investors in the stock market, who don’t have time or expertise to do proper research, get help from analysts.

It is not the existence of sports services that we find off putting.  It is the gawd awful, insulting, demeaning stratagems they use in seeking our business.

With Jack Price off the Scorephone for a while, the worst offenders are TV touts who pursue bettors as if we were the dumbest clucks on the face of the earth.  Maybe we are, since those shows don’t buy TV time for their health.  There are enough responses to keep touts in pinky rings and all the other trappings they deem necessary.

Most of the tout shows are like parodies rather than real programs.  The hollering, screaming and other histrionic excesses appeal to a certain mentality.  But apparently, there are enough desperate bettors every week to guarantee a nice return to the touts.

Well, that might all be changing this football season.  Someone is looking to transform the image of sports services, starting with a national TV show and a syndicated radio program.

Who is the mover and shaker with such an ambitious agenda?  Wayne Root.

Now, before we get inundated with emails telling us Root is part of the Jim Feist stable, let’s put that in context.  Root left Feist.  It required litigation to gain his freedom, but according to Root it wasn’t a bitter legal battle.  Eventually they parted amicably, he told us.

Perhaps it was Wayne’s up-close-and-personal participation in Proline – the TV tout show, that is probably the best known sports service marketing vehicle – that prompted him to start a new organization, eSportsEntertainment (  Root spent several years appearing on Proline trolling for clients.  Does that make him a bad guy?  No.  Hell, we don’t consider Feist a bad guy.

We are well aware of complaints against touts.  Sure, they operate boiler rooms designed to skin pigeons.  Our position is, fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.

Anyway, although the general consensus is that touts are undesirable, for some reason they proliferate like cockroaches.

Given the undeniable demand for such services, Root is looking to lead the industry in a different direction.  He’s pretty hush-hush about many details, since lawyers are still dotting i’s and crossing t’s.

This much we can pass along.  His TV show will be seen on a national network Saturdays and Sundays during football season.  The syndicated radio show will be carried in 70 percent of U.S. markets, including 15 of the top radio markets.

And, in a typical understated tout pronouncement, Root said, “We will make an announcement by August regarding the biggest web partnership deal ever consummated in the history of the sports service industry.”

Just for good measure, he added, “With a management team from Columbia, Stanford and Harvard Business, we are aiming to change the image of sports handicapping shows.”

Given our skeptical, even cynical attitude towards sports services, some might wonder why we’re writing about Root in a positive way.

We remember him as a football betting analyst on a cable network show in Los Angeles, back in the late ‘80s.  Then, as now, he was a bit full of himself, but in an agreeable way.  His insight was intelligent and refreshing.  We don’t remember his batting average, but felt he was credible, particularly since he wasn’t selling anything.

Flash forward to the present time.  The organization he is launching “is as much about entertainment as it is about picking winners,” he states.

That’s good enough for us.

We’ve seen a pilot of the TV show.  Here’s our review.

* * * * *

So who would have thought a graduate of the Feist stable would create an updated, cleaner, hipper version of a sports handicapping show, circa 2000?

 While eSportsEdge hasn’t reinvented the wheel, it has put a slicker, more intelligent spin on a format that essentially relies upon the host and his panel of authorities to provide credibility and hold viewers’ attention.

 Give Root credit, he has come up with a stellar cast of on-air personalities, including John Riggins as host.

 The old Washington Redskins fullback, who punished defenders like few running backs in NFL history, oozes charisma.  Watching him host the show was a revelation.

 Riggins is a poised, polished broadcaster whom we rate superior to the Terry Bradshaws and Howie Longs who, amidst much hoopla, star on NFL pregame shows.  He deftly anchored the proceedings, kept the show moving, and was fast with several well-aimed quips.

 The supporting cast is a tribute to Root’s ability to choose ex-jocks who not only had a big stack of press clippings, but could interact among each other with genuine chemistry.

 Randy White (Dallas Cowboys), Phil McConkey (NY Giants) and Dan Hampton (Chicago Bears) bring a lot to the table.  When you consider all the NFL greats who have stumbled badly in their attempts to work on television, it just makes this group stand out even more.

 Unlike many handicapping shows, where the experts are in a rush to get out those 900 numbers to call, eSportsEdge didn’t offer any 900 numbers.  Each of the handicappers has his own 800 number, which are plugged during commercials and during the show.

 Root is joined by ex-Feist stablemate Larry Ness, to round out the handicapping crew.

 In one section of the show, Root and Ness argue different sides of a college matchup.  They went at it gamely, but it had a scripted feel and seemed a tad strained.  It was almost a piece of déjà vu for Proline.

 Much more successful was Root facing off vs. McConkey in a lively, animated analysis of an NFL game.  The ex-NY Giant has an agreeable down-to-earth demeanor, and he and Root seemed to get into the spirit as they traded good-natured barbs.  If it weren’t ad libbed, we couldn’t tell.  This is the stuff that’s worth tuning in for.

 Presumably, another area that will differentiate this show and its sponsors from others is the lack of high pressure selling by the phone room personnel.  Root has vowed that this show will be run totally different from any other sports service now doing business.  We’ll take him at his word.

 This is the first show sponsored by a sports handicapping service that actually seems to realize how boorish is the prevailing style of the competition, and it wants no part of emulating any of them.

 The show is notable for good analysis, natural interaction among the participants and an overall feeling that these guys are for real.

 We’ve never spent a dime to buy a pick, but we’ll watch this show because there is a lot of interesting analysis and a lot less selling than is seen on other shows of the same genre. | June 28th, 2000

– – – – – – – – – – – –About the writer
A long time sports betting columnist, Buzz Daly

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