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Unobstructed: Darren Rovell (EP. 8)

Darren Rovell joins Mike Evenson on the Unobstructed podcast to discuss the changing landscape of sports business. Darren has covered the industry for more than 20 years, with stops at ESPN and CNBC before joining the Action Network in 2018 as a Sports Business Reporter & Senior Executive Producer. His unique approach and personality has earned him 2 million+ followers on Twitter.

In this episode, they discuss remote fan engagement, the future of the in-venue experience, the role of ticket revenue in the decision to restart college athletics, his bold approach on social media and more.

You can follow Darren Rovell on Twitter at @darrenrovell.

Unobstructed: Darren Rovell (EP.8)

 

Announcer: You're listening to Unobstructed your view on the live events industry.

[00:00:10]

Mike Evenson: Welcome back to another episode of Unobstructed, I'm your host, Mike Evenson. Thank you so much for joining, sorry for the hiatus last week, but we're back on and super excited to have Darren Rovell join us today. Darren Rovell, who has over 2 million followers on Twitter, is known by basically anyone who follows sports or sports business. He's a sports business analyst for The Action Network, but lots of people might know him from his previous work with ESPN and CNBC. Really excited to have Darren on, Darren, how you doing?

[00:00:47]

Darren Rovell: I'm doing well, thanks for having me, Mike.

[00:00:49]

Mike Evenson: Did you watch the last dance this weekend?

[00:00:52]

Darren Rovell: I did.

[00:00:53]

Mike Evenson: And what's your take on it so far?

[00:00:56]

Darren Rovell: It's kind of interesting. I mean, I was in Chicago from 96 to 2000. So not only do I know about Jordan and not only am I someone who my entire career has, or my entire life has spanned Jordan. I saw every game he played in terms of not saw every game, but was a fan for every game he played. Saw him in person, maybe 20 times. I used to go to every Knicks game, every Nets Bulls game and it's amazing. I'm a child of the eighties and it's just so cool how in the eighties, I can tell you, I got a lower bowl seat for 10 bucks. It was the White Castle plan. And the family got the burgers and there's just something so sexy about how close you got the eighties. From 86 to 88, I used to send Michael Jordan things in the mail to sign, he signed about 25 things for me.

[00:01:54]

Mike Evenson: Wow.

[00:01:54]

Darren Rovell: Until about 88 and that's when it kind of dried up, which is about the time that he went national. Which is kind of funny because you think, well, he was Rookie of the Year in his all-star game and he was, but you know, it took a long time to get people to know how good he was, just because it wasn't on and off. So, unless you were watching Sports Center, which is probably one of the greatest things that I've kind of noticed, like the Scottie Pippen thing. So many people were talking to me and saying like, oh my God, I never knew that Scottie had such tension with the Bulls, especially in that 97, 98 season and coming back or not and Toni Kukoč. And at first, I was like, what do you mean? Like, why would you not know that if you're a big sports fan.

[00:02:40]

Mike Evenson:  Right.

[00:02:40]

Darren Rovell: And then I realized, well, I was in Chicago then. And the only way you would really know that is if you were in Chicago, because it was in the newspapers. But at the time, if you think about the state of media in the country, there was not anything that was, there was the CBS Sports Line or ESPN Sports Net, whatever zone, whatever it was called at the time. There weren't national reporters who were talking about these types of things, they didn't exist.

[00:03:08]

Mike Evenson: Yes.

[00:03:08]

Darren Rovell: So, you'd have a column from Peter Bessie or someone right. But you would, in The Daily News and maybe that would be syndicated, but other than that, people wouldn't be talking about this. So that's one of the things that I've kind of taken away and then obviously just the love for Jordan memorabilia and stuff I've been covering the hell out of, which has been fun.

[00:03:31]

Mike Evenson: Well, as a kid up the road on I-94, grew up in Milwaukee. I mean my experience seeing Jordan was at the Mecca arena and at the Bradley Center. And it was always, as a Bucks fan, it was always, it was fun to go to those Bucks games when Jordan and the Bulls came to town. But to have your own stadium completely taken over, was such an interesting experience. And it was just, you know, a lot of my classmates were massive Bulls fans and it just goes to show that people love a winner.

[00:04:04]

Darren Rovell: Yes, it was, the other thing was, I mean, I was a kid who was at the hotels and stuff like that. It's interesting to think back on, again when it got too crazy, the autograph guys really started. The professional autograph guys started to come around in about 96 when Jordan came back and I was in high school in 93, so 96 is when it was my senior year. And so, I was going off to college and going to Chicago ironically, but like there was a noticeable change of sports becoming more big time. And I always say, I read the book Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell and he talks about how, Steve Jobs and Bill Gates were both born in 1958 and worked it out for them because by the time they got to college, that was the first year that computers were in libraries. For me, it was almost the same thing as a sports business reporter, like the first year that I coverage sports business was basically the first year that I could have covered sports business from the national perspective, because how things were moving.

[00:05:17]

Mike Evenson: Yes, and that's, it's interesting and again, this podcast is focused on live events and just it’s been interesting though to watch that documentary and kind of see the ticketing side and just how strong that demand was for wherever Jordan went. I didn't even realize Atlanta changed venues in order to sell as many tickets.

[00:05:45]

Darren Rovell: I didn't either, when I saw that in the dome, I do not remember that game. But it is interesting, today's people do not, today's kids just think it's as easy as Stub Hub, they didn't yet, in negotiating with a scalper was a great business lesson for me.

[00:06:06]

Mike Evenson: Oh yes.

[00:06:07]

Darren Rovell: My dad was like, why don't you do it kid? Would go up to them and maybe if you do it in your pre-puberty voice, you'll get us some better seats. So that's one of those things, it's not a face to face thing and who knows where it will go next. But yes, I know the tickets, the way that information now is transparent in terms of the marketplaces around memorabilia or tickets. I think we've kind of taken that for granted and because you didn't know anything about, I mean that was the scheme of the cards of the memorabilia and the cards,  the 89 90, 91. You know, we're thinking all these kids are thinking that we're going to get the Ken Griffey Jr upper deck rookie card, and it's going to pay for a college education. Well had eBay's been around at the time we would have known exactly how non-limited edition those cards were.

[00:07:02]

Mike Evenson: Yes

[00:07:02]

Darren Rovell: And so, it's amazing to explain to people the hole that you were in, the black hole that you were in because you didn't see the transparency of the marketplace, which gives you so much an advantage today.

[00:07:15]

Mike Evenson: Well, and you've used your platform and you've used your followers to kind of amplify that insight from what I've seen and being able to kind of show what the market rate is. Not only for things like memorabilia, but also tickets, what the going rate is. And as you look at kind of where we're at now in this, I would say, yes unprecedented, which is a totally overused word, unprecedented spot in live events. What's your take on, and I know you don't have a crystal ball, but what do you think this fall looks like?

[00:07:57]

Darren Rovell:  I can't imagine fans in the stands this fall.

[00:08:02]

Mike Evenson: Wow.

[00:08:03]

Darren Rovell: I just, I can't, I'm trying to imagine play in team sports, but it's a little bit difficult still.  I think, because I think we're not going to have a vaccine based on what people are saying, I think it's going to require for fans to be in the stands and for sports to be played. It's going to be, a requirement is going to be that there has to be some sort of letting down of this virus, a natural letting down of this virus. And if it comes back then fine, but I feel like we still have a ways to go, to be able to play team sports given how contagious it is.

[00:08:47]

Mike Evenson: Yes, I think unfortunately you might be right, which then moves on to the next piece, which is looking at who can afford for sports to go on in a different model. And obviously we saw over the weekend, we saw the UFC happened without people in the stands and it's kind of a change, the live event experience. And you’ve spent a lot of time, I think looking at how, what remote engagement looks like in live events. And I'm curious how you see that evolving even more. Let's say we're in a world where these major leagues are occurring without fans. Let's say college football figures out a way if that's even possible. How do you think that engagement experience might evolve or might change?

[00:09:41]

Darren Rovell: Well, there has to be a way to get the fan who's sitting on their couch, the feeling of being in the stadium, it has to be there in some way. And so, and there's got to be a way for sponsors to still reach fans other than the TV. And so, it cannot just be the standard we are home, so we're watching it as we always have.  And so, I think things have to change a little bit so that there's some people, even if they're sitting at home, that they could still be satisfied from the fan experience.

And there's a lot of work to do, I think the problem is that there's work to do, but there's still so much uncertainty. At what point do you make the call that there’s going to be no fans and how flexible can your systems be. College is difficult for me to understand, because I feel like there's so many people making individual decisions about whether their campus is going to be open or closed. And if they're not all on the same page, you can't really have a team out there, their campus is closed. So, I mean do you then play with 10 SEC teams or 9 big 10 teams? What do you do?

[00:11:04]

Mike Evenson: Well, then you've got, yes, you've got the student athlete who's also a student first, hopefully right and then also it will be different.

[00:11:12]

Darren Rovell: Right and then this morning, I mentioned to me guess the chagrin of people on Twitter, the idea of waivers. I can imagine NFL players signing waivers saying if they COVID then it's not the league's responsibility.  College it's a little bit down further there and I'm not really sure. These guys don't have a union, they're not going to be together on things. So, I'm not sure how colleges are going to play and still absolve themselves a responsibility, which I assume they'd want to, or their lawyers would advise them to.

[00:11:52]

Mike Evenson: So, we've seen it's interesting because let's say these leagues figure out, let's say the NBA picks Disney or wherever to kind of finish out the season and they figure out kind of where they're going to play. I'm curious, I'm really fascinated to see without fans, without if you were to play in a ballroom or not, obviously you're not going to play in an empty 20,000 seat arena. Whether that will change kind of that television experience and whether they're going to look at that as an opportunity to play around with things. I mean, you and I seem like a similar age and we've been through the debacle that was the laser puck in hockey and stuff. So sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't, but I'm curious if this will make some fundamental changes to kind of what that television experience will be.

[00:12:45]

Darren Rovell: So, in 2000, I wrote a story about what the next iteration of the stadium was. And I think this guy probably went a little bit too far into the future, but we might finally be there in some sense. His name was Watts Wacker and he was a futurist and he said that the next stadium is going to be 1500 people on the soundstage, where the grass is LED and everything around it is optimize to viewership, clarity, stats. Just a complete overload of a fan experience because 99.99% of the people are still watching from home. So, it's important to kind of service those people. So, I think it's going to be interesting to see if there are no fans, how stadiums, surfaces, right. If you're going to build basketball courts in ballrooms or. how do you deal with the tech to optimize it, to make it an even better experience then just straight up watching from home would be.

[00:13:59]

Mike Evenson: Yes, it and then then let's say that works and then all of a sudden, you move into an era where people can come back into the events into stadiums and experience it. You know, how do those two come together, I'm sure that we'll figure it out. But how do you, because from my perspective, still nothing replaces live, I don't think it ever will. There's something about that before event experience, the experience you have after, and obviously the memory that they can create long term. And so, it'll be fascinating to see if they do make some changes and those experiences are better. What's going to end up ruling is the television experience going to rule or is the in-person experience going to rule?

[00:14:43]

Darren Rovell: Well, now you have a situation where like It's almost like you don't want to make it too good right. I mean, with the NFL, they were already in a situation where fans were also fans of the sport, they were fans of fantasy. So, it became a problem when you do the whole analysis pro con of what should I go or should I not go to a live game. And you're thinking okay. I got like, I got to leave two and a half hours in advance then I go to a live game of kind of missing my fantasy. They say the Wi-Fi is good, but it's not really that good. I'm trying to follow everything else while I'm trying to follow my team. My seat's not that good, so I'm not really watching my team. Like I mean, there was this one day where I said to my friend, what are you doing? And he says, I'm just going through the Jet game. And I said, you were just at the Jet game. He goes, yay, I know I'm going through it now. Cause I missed a whole bunch of things when I was there.

[00:15:39]

Mike Evenson: Right.

[00:15:39]

Darren Rovell: I just want to see a different vantage point, and it's like okay like he's single, but I have a wife and three kids. Like, it's enough if I say I'm going to the game and then if I sat down and said, no, no, no, no, I'm just going through the game so I could see the rest of the game that I didn't see. I would get divorced.

[00:15:55]

Mike Evenson: Yes.

[00:15:56]

Darren Rovell: I mean, so it’s like there's a ready with the NFL, a sense that you can't be, are you the best fan if you're in the stadium? And I would say no and so that becomes a problem. And I think for other sports it's how do you provide something that people are pleasantly surprised about that they're happy about and at the same time, it's not so good that they say, Oh, give this stuff to us next year. Even when we don't have to be worried, like I'll just stay here and have my beer at home and be close to my bathroom and I'm good. So, I'm sure they don't think about that now. And it's probably unproductive to think about that now, but it could be an issue if somehow, they present a presentation that is so much better based on the fact that they realized there's no live crowd.

[00:16:50]

Mike Evenson: And then kind of, it's interesting because it happened over the weekend again, for those that follow the UFC, but there's always been this big debate, like can fans truly impact the outcome of a contest of a game? And you have to wonder what is that impact going to be when there isn’t, a live audience. Does that completely do away with home court advantage? You know, I think again, I think in the UFC, I think you could hear the announcers, so, you know, changing tactics mid-flight and everything. It's just going to be so interesting to see all those preconceived notions or perspectives that we had before. How is that all of a sudden going to change when there are no fans, is there a truly a home court advantage?

[00:17:39]

Darren Rovell: Well, I actually did this story as far as from a betting standpoint and I talked to our guy, Collin Wilson, who is our college football handicapper at The Action Network, and I asked him how much of his formula accounts for home field home court advantage. And he said not much, except in the places where it really matters. And I automatically said, okay like Alabama and he goes no. None of the places where you think it really matters, it matters. I go okay. So, what is it, where does it matter? He goes, Eastern Michigan. And I'm like, what? And he's like yes, yes because they have, there's a track around the football field and no matter how much they pack it up and its salinity, the sound you cannot, does not travel because the people are so far off the field that there was no home.

And he gave me like 10 names of schools, and I wouldn't have guessed any of them. Cause we're all over-indexing and ah, it's a big crowd there. You can hear the play, but that's not it, that's not it. And so, it's very minimal the home field, but it's there in some places and so my intrigue now is who is a great player that is now going to suck because they don't have the motivation.

[00:19:09]

Mike Evenson: Yes.

[00:19:10]

Darren Rovell: Like for me, like if I lay it out, it's like, okay, like Bryce, Harper is not going to feel right if he can't turn to the crowd.

[00:19:17]

Mike Evenson: Right.

[00:19:18]

Darren Rovell: He's like the gladiator and he relies on being pumped up and I think he could have a serious issue. Mike Trout is a, in the head kind of guy and could care less, whether there's one person or 50,000 people. I think there's going to be some great players who literally have not had bad years in their career, that if they play with no crowds, some of them will be awful and some of them will be okay.

[00:19:48]

Mike Evenson: I wonder if the opposite will occur, where there are some marginal players that all of a sudden will step up. And it's like all it took was not being heckled or anything by the opposing team. And all of a sudden

[00:20:02]

Darren Rovell: Yes, it's just harder to pick up a marginal guy because we're used to the tendencies and we're used to the stars. Those are the people who we've studied the most. So, like it's easy for me to come up with people who I think would be like okay with no crowd.

[00:20:20]

Mike Evenson: Yes.

[00:20:21]

Darren Rovell: Like I mean, Zack Greinke, if they played a whole season, Zack Greinke 30 and O, it would be really interesting and I think it has a chance, not like I'm rooting for this to be a great psychological study, especially if, if guys would overtly affirm how they felt on the field.

[00:20:44]

Mike Evenson: So, I think we're all hoping live events come back, hopefully they come back with the audiences. We've spent a lot of time looking at and thinking about how that venue experience is going to change forever. And we had Dr. Bill Sutton on the podcast a few weeks ago, and perspective was that these organizations need to really invest in like a Fan Health and Wellbeing Officer and having someone like that thinking about what that venue experience is, and that public trust. And I'm wondering, we talked about the economy of live events, but all of a sudden, just changing your approach to staffing around who you need to run a venue and all of a sudden transforms. I think we saw a little of that after 9/11 too.

[00:21:42]

Darren Rovell: Well, what's the priority? I mean, like it used to be that you, you dial a number. If you see another fan beating another fan up. Now the priority is someone's three feet away from me. I mean, again yes that's a stark contrast there, right? I mean, if the utmost concern is social distancing, then you have different priorities. And I know that there was thoughts about the masters potentially, or some golf tournament doing RFID and tracking people and someone overlooking how close people are in general to others. There's going to be parts of the fan experience that are going to be completely different. For example, if they stipulate that the people that you buy tickets with have to be an immediate family or someone that you know, I mean, and it wouldn't be with your friends in a typical way.

I think that's an issue.  I think someone like me for people that follow me, the food experience is going to be a disaster. We're going to go all the way back to about 1970, where everything has to be wrapped and all the creativity is gone because all people care about is things being sanitary, not being like an overindulgent two-foot hotdog with nachos on it. Like people can't even imagine that anymore.

[00:23:08]

Mike Evenson: Hey, when I was a kid, we went to County Stadium, we brought our own coolers. We brought our own food and maybe now there'll be all this space around us, maybe we can get back to doing that again.

[00:23:19]

Darren Rovell: Yes, it's amazing in 60 days, just how much even when you're watching like movies and people are like extra close, you're like ah. And having kids and my kids saying things like, my daughter caught me watching the last dance. And she said, is that live? And I said, no and she goes, Oh, I knew that because there was a crowd there and I was like It's

[00:23:42]

Mike Evenson: Wow.

[00:23:42]

Darren Rovell: Oh my God, this is as if virtual sleepovers weren't enough or they leave FaceTime on as they go to sleep, both horrible and sad. Then that was also a, she knew that that couldn't be today cause she saw the crowd.

[00:24:00]

Mike Evenson: Yes, how are your kids doing with this whole thing?

[00:24:05]

Darren Rovell: My wife trying to homeschool three kids while I'm occasionally chipping in. I mean, the issue with me is that there’s fewer things happening, which means that I have to scramble more. I have to have more creativity I have to have my eyes on things more. And so, I'm actually working more because I need to find things. But it's difficult, I do think that if we can get back that the gambling world will get back almost immediately. Sure, there's a delusion in what people consider disposable income, but I also think there's a pent-up demand from people being so bored with their lives that people will bet, and betting will be back. But the rest of this stuff has to solve itself first.

[00:25:05]

Mike Evenson: Well, yes so, it's interesting you raised betting and maybe that's where some of the money goes. I'm curious, when you look at like the macro economy for live events, where it's going to distribute, where it's going to shift. And you look at parking, you look concessions, you look at local restaurants around. I mean, so many of these businesses are reliant on these live events to be successful. I know that it just having anything open in the near future will be a positive. But I mean the economic impact of this is so wide reaching, it really is, it's sad for someone, who's been in live events, his whole career.

[00:25:47]

Darren Rovell: Yes, I don't know how revenue distribution is going to work out. Obviously, the leagues that have the most in local revenues and tickets like the NHL, they’re going to be more susceptible to having issues. I mean, you wonder if college, the fact that their tickets ticketing is so much a fabric of their equation. Whether they decide that they need to try to risk going to maybe February or March, just because it's so, so important to get that ticket revenue. And it almost doesn't matter playing without it. So how ticket revenue determines potentially making a call. I think that's going to be a major factor, especially college football.

[00:26:42]

Mike Evenson: Well then, I think you, it was a couple of weeks ago, you kind of throughout the ramifications, financial ramifications how reliant these athletics departments are on football, and it created a bit of a spark on Twitter, which you have a knack of doing. Why do you think, you're so polarizing on Twitter.

[00:27:08]

Darren Rovell: I'm not afraid to say what I want to say.  You know, today I had a tweet about how I possibly thought the NFL would get back and that included, having them sign waivers, which is definitely going to happen to absolve the teams or their responsibility. And the idea that if a player test positive, whether they're asymptomatic or not, they have to go out. But the middle part of it was that all players would sign that waiver. And I said, you know, CTE is a virtual certainty and obviously, they sign nothing with that. There's no waiver of, hey I'm at risk of having a head injury and people kind of, you know I think a lot of players kind of came at me   saying that this is distasteful or low or this and that.

I'm just trying to make my point on Twitter, which is not easy. It by its nature is out of context. And so, I was just trying to make my point, I stand by my point. I think that every player would sign it, beyond money.  I think that they already take risks that are life and death potentially, or shortening your life or death and that was my example. So, listen, I never want to be the guy that people don't think about me at all. Whether you love me or hate me, I want to be relevant. I think the worst place in this world is to be in the middle. You're just like a prompter reader, and no one care about you.  I don't try to be polarizing, I'm just genuine. And I'm not scared to say what I feel. So as long as you're in that place, you're never going to be in a world of pain because you care about what you say, and you believe in it and I do. And so, people are like, well, how do you take all this? It's like, well, I don't really care what you say. I feel good about what I say. And I know it comes from my heart and I know that it's genuine.

[00:29:24]

Mike Evenson: And speaking of being relevant, I mean now these, these sports teams and these athletics departments need to find ways to be relevant on social media when events aren't happening. I'm curious if you know, what you've seen out there that has really impressed you from some teams or some even personal athletes. I mean, now that we're headed down a path of everyone, hopefully being able to profit from there.

[00:29:48]

Darren Rovell: I love the teams that have been aggressive with coloring books. You know, getting the younger kindergarten, first grade kids to paint by number or whatever. There's been several impressive things that I've seen as far as PDFs that mix and match what would count as schoolwork disguised as fun with their favorite team. I think every team has been kind of doing that now, but it's really amazing to see that someone figured that out. I don't know who, I wish I could give the first-person credit for that. Someone figured that out and then they just gravitated to it and said, wow, we need to do this!

You know, and I've seen a lot of great stuff for pretty much kindergarten to third grade, relating to those young fans who were probably the most impressionable. I think parents embrace it too and I can speak from experience because they have a hard time, like kids seeing the parent as a teacher, it's difficult. And so, if they can present something that kind of disguises the team and their love for the team as schoolwork, I think that helps. So, I think both of the parents and the kid appreciates it.

[00:31:11]

Mike Evenson: Yes, no, I agree. I think obviously there's been idle time at home. We have two, two young kids as well, and my wife's done a remarkable job to be a full-time teacher and work from home parent and everything. So, I agree those that have been able to connect with the younger audiences, that's always a good strategy, not even, not just during this time period. So that's good advice. So just a couple of fun questions here as we finish this up. Do you have a favorite sports tradition?

[00:31:51]

Darren Rovell: I have a favorite sports tradition that I do, or someone else does?

[00:31:55]

Mike Evenson:  Either one of each. Unless you do the haka, if you do the haka.

[00:32:02]

Darren Rovell: No, no, I do not do the haka. I don’t really eat on Northwestern football game days.

[00:32:09]

Mike Evenson: Oh, is that like a superstition or a tradition?

[00:32:14]

Darren Rovell: So, it came out of when I broadcast the games in college, I just was so busy up until the time of the game that I didn't really eat. And so, I don't know, I'm just used to having an empty stomach, when I watch my Northwestern games. So, it's not really something that I do on purpose, but it's almost, I've been doing for like 22 years. So, it's like, I wake up and like, most people were like, Oh, it's a weekend, I'll have a beer, I got to get loose. And like, I'm just like sitting down and especially with betting now and having to cover college football and all the big bets that come in. Like I'm usually not eating anything until game time.

[00:32:59]

Mike Evenson: And those press box spreads have improved over the years. I would assume.

[00:33:04]

Darren Rovell: They have, although at Northwestern we had a place called Heckies. The motto was strangely, it's the sauce. And then which led some people to say, well, then it's not the meat. But they made a good pulled pork sandwich, but it was soft, the roll and the pulled pork was soft enough that you could eat like seven of them very easily. So, maybe that was the origin of things.

[00:33:36]

Mike Evenson: And what about a tradition out there that you see that just kind of blows your mind or you get chills even though you may not, never have experienced it.

[00:33:44]

Darren Rovell: I mean, you're like pushing me into the Iowa hospital tradition. That's the one that with waving to the children's hospital. I mean that's something that's pretty damn good. And for the fans to look forward to it and the children to look forward to it, I can't get enough of that.

[00:34:03]

Mike Evenson: Yes, no that's a good one. It's hits close to home in the big 10. I was a senior in college at Wisconsin when the first jump around happened.

[00:34:13]

Darren Rovell: Oh yes!

[00:34:13]

Mike Evenson:  It's really neat to see these different schools kind of come up with their own traditions. And I agree that Iowa thing is awesome.

[00:34:22]

Darren Rovell:  What year were you? What year did you graduate Wisconsin?

[00:34:24]

Mike Evenson: 99. 99.

[00:34:26]

Darren Rovell: Okay yes so, we're basically so yes. So, what was amazing to me, and this is not the question of yours. But so, one of the craziest interviews for me was Ron Dane, after he ran for like, I'd like to know, but maybe 200 something yards against Northwestern at Northwestern. I was broadcasting the game and after the game, when I interviewed him, he talked so slowly like this. And I was like, how does someone who's fast Twitch muscle fibers and who's making decisions and cuts, like how is his mind when he's talking, going so slow? And I could I, again, it's like 21 years later and that is one of the craziest interviews I've ever done because of how slow he was talking. And, and obviously people have different physical spacing versus, you are how their motor is working when they're, when they're thinking and they're talking. But that was one of the things that blew me away.

[00:35:33]

Mike Evenson: Yes no, it was a great time to be in, in college. He was amazing to watch. And I'm looking forward to seeing Jonathan Taylor lineup for the Colts, hopefully this fall. What about the best event you've ever attended?

[00:35:51]

Darren Rovell: That's a tough one, I always like to surprise people, like one of the best events I've ever attended was the Kimbo Slice fight. Elite XC Kimbo Slice fight at the Prudential center. Yes like, okay, I've been to like 16 Super Bowls and 14 NBA finals and you, whatever. But like that one was something where there is so much energy in the crowd. It was like his first fight after people had watched him beat the hell out of others on YouTube. And like they were seeing it in person. And I don't know if it lived up to its hype, but it was good.

I mean everything, all my events kind of, or as a reporter, the surreal one was the Giants, Patriots Super bowl, and the comeback by the Giants at the end and the Tyree catch. And being in essentially sort of, it was one locker room, one media scrum, but divided. So, most people were on the Patriot side because they had determined that they had pretty much won. And it was, it obviously wasn't the iPhone era, but it was not in a, like we weren't getting information in the bowels of the stadium. We heard that the cheers, but we didn't know what it was. Everyone is at the Patriots locker room and then you know, it was like two minutes to go. And then all of a sudden, we find out the Giants win and none of us, no one in the media has seen the end.

[00:37:24]

Mike Evenson: There's no context whatsoever.

[00:37:26]

Darren Rovell: So now it's like okay, now I'm going to the Giants' locker room. And like, my best question is going to be like Eli, what happened?  And it's not like what happened, like from your point of view, it's like literally the most open-ended questions because none of us know what just went down.

[00:37:44]

Mike Evenson: Oh, that's fascinating, I never thought about that. But that makes so much sense. I wonder.

[00:37:49]

Darren Rovell: Cause they didn't have TVs positioned in there.

[00:37:51]

Mike Evenson: Yes.

[00:37:51]

Darren Rovell: Cause it's like they think about it and they're like, all right, the press is going to go down with like two minutes to go in the game. And no one thought about the fact that like it's that scenario. So again, like we have no access to information and now we're being asked to tell the story for the people who had just seen it.

[00:38:14]

Mike Evenson: Never thought about that before, that's hilarious. Not to ask a controversial question, but which program will be stronger in five years, Northwestern football, or Northwestern basketball?

[00:38:27]

Darren Rovell: I think football. I am glad that I went to the Northwestern basketball tournament games. I remember having a funny conversation with my wife, she says, well what happens if they win the second game? And I go, I stay on the road. She's like, no, no, no, no, no. I'm like, no, yes, I do, yes, I do. I've been suffering for 20 years and I will travel with the team until we lose, that is the deal. She's like, how come we've never discuss this before? I'm like, well, cause we've never been in the tournament before, but since you've never been in the tournament before, that means that I stay on the road until they lose. And I guess, luckily for my marriage, they lost that second game, but I was fully planning to go to the sweet 16 if I needed to.

[00:39:11]

Mike Evenson: But your sense is that football will kind of be consistently stronger?

[00:39:17]

Darren Rovell: Yes. Yes, I mean we've been pretty good over time.

[00:39:22]

Mike Evenson: Yes, for sure.

[00:39:24]

Darren Rovell: So, I think football is going to, it's easier to win and football. I think it's easy to be good at football. I think it's easier to scout in football. We can get players at the Northwestern academic level in football, better than we can in basketball. But for Northwestern basketball, it has to be not only running a different system, but also that we have guys who are seniors, and we have a chance through that to have more guys who are seniors than anyone else, because they didn't come in thinking they were going to go to the NBA. Teamwork can be that much better. I think that’s the equalizer.

[00:40:12]

Mike Evenson: Yes.

[00:40:12]

Darren Rovell: Teamwork, the understanding that you know exactly what the other guys are doing cause you've been with them for four years.

[00:40:18]

Mike Evenson: It sounds like you're describing Badger basketball, so yes that's.

[00:40:24]

Darren Rovell: Mike Koski.

[00:40:27]

Mike Evenson: Oh yes, wait Mike Koski who's that?

[00:40:30]

Darren Rovell: Was that Andy Koski?

[00:40:32]

Mike Evenson: Andy Koski. Yes, yes going all the way back.

[00:40:33]

Darren Rovell: Yes.

[00:40:37]

Mike Evenson: 2005 and 14. Absolutely.

[00:40:39]

Darren Rovell: Yes, yes.

[00:40:40]

Mike Evenson: Mike Kelly.

[00:40:42]

Darren Rovell: Mike Kelly that's what I meant.

[00:40:43]

Mike Evenson: Mike Kelly and Andy Koski yes.

[00:40:45]

Darren Rovell: Right there you go, put them together.

[00:40:47]

Mike Evenson: Then he got John Bryant hitting three's.

[00:40:49]

Darren Rovell: And Dwaney, Dwaney

[00:40:51]

Mike Evenson: Dwaney Dwaney. He once dunked over me at The Surf on campus.

[00:40:56]

Darren Rovell: Oh nice, that's awesome.

[00:40:57]

Mike Evenson: So that's my not claim to fame. One last question we often tout upsells, like the opportunity when you're selling tickets and obviously, you're selling parking, you're selling concessions, you're trying to get as much of that share of wallet as you possibly can. Do you think that people will ever buy a ticket and make a bet in the same transaction?

[00:41:19]

Darren Rovell: It doesn't really matter, and I'll tell you why. So, we had always thought that like the ultimate was kiosks in sports stadiums where you'd make a bet at a stadium and see it, and that would be ultimate involvement. And then like over the last couple of years, we found out that kiosks really aren't that profitable. They’re not profitable at all from a data information standpoint. Like I know you guys do look at a ton of data and basically like if I'm doing one off that and I'm going to go to a kiosk, I'm probably doing quick bets without even saying who I am.

[00:42:01]

Mike Evenson: Right.

[00:42:02]

Darren Rovell: And that's why when you go to the Prudential Center and you go to the William Hill, so-called sports book, but it's really like sports bar. But it's really people who are trying to get you to download the app on the phone because they don't really care about you betting it there. They care about making a lifetime customer so that when you are sitting on the couch or not being there the 99.99999 9% of the time, that you'll still bet.

So when you asked me that question, I think that's the old way of thinking of things like, okay, well you do have, it is tied to that person's data if they're buying it a ticket. And then making a bet, I don't think people want one, I don't think people want, the team may be to have access to what their betting information is. And I think it'd be harder to parse those two, if it was done in the same transaction. And two, it would have to be like an exclusive relationship and potentially that's not the best line.

[00:43:04]

Mike Evenson: Yes.

[00:43:05]

Darren Rovell: You know, I'm in New Jersey now where I could look at 19 different sports books, and I'm going to look to get the best line.

[00:43:10]

Mike Evenson: Yes.

[00:43:11]

Darren Rovell: So, yes, I mean, it's intriguing to have the kiosk in the sports bar and it's intriguing to ask those types of questions, but the key is to get the download down.

[00:43:26]

Mike Evenson: Yes, it'll be fascinating to see how as that becomes more mainstream, what that betting experience has been like. Darren, thank you so much for joining Unobstructed. Really appreciate it for those that don't already follow, and there's millions more that that could follow you. Follow Darren Rovell on, on Twitter and make sure that you're always going to The Action Network to check out what Darren and his colleagues are up to. Darren, appreciate the time, stay safe out there, stay sane with your kids and your family. And hopefully we'll be at live events soon.

[00:44:03]

Darren Rovell: Thanks Mike.

[00:44:05]

Mike Evenson: Thanks again to our guest Darren Rovell for showing up on Unobstructed today. Some really insightful takes by someone who has his fingertips and pulse on a lot of what's happening in the sports world and looking at the sports economy. So, it was a great conversation, knowing we're a similar age and experience Big 10 football and live events. It was a good chat; I've got some exciting guests coming up over the next few weeks and we're going to tackle what post COVID looks like in the live events world. All the way from social distance seating and what that might look like and it's an evolving conversation. And what we think we know now will likely look different as we learn more and hopefully come out of this pandemic, with new exciting innovations and opportunities for live events to be not only consumed in person. Cause that's what we all crave and love, but also finding new and exciting ways for people to, to interact with live events. Football, soccer's starting again in Germany. Baseball started over in Asia and we are starting to see cardboard cutouts of fan. So, who knows what the future of live events is going to look like, but there's always going to be opportunities for you to engage with your favorite artists, your favorite sports team, your favorite musical. And we'll be here talking about all of it. Again, this is Mike Evenson from Unobstructed. Thanks again for listening. Have a great day.

[00:45:56]

Announcer:  Thanks for listening to Unobstructed your view on the live events industry. Subscribe today, wherever you listen to your favorite podcasts.

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