Jim O'Donnell: Jimmy "The Greek" Snyder -- will sports gaming media ever generate another one like him?
JIMMY "THE GREEK" SNYDER has been betting with fellow spirits in the sky since his death in 1996.
He exited network TV even earlier than that.
In January 1988, CBS Sports fired him almost instantaneously after some fateful remarks about the physical traits of Black athletes.
His name is now in play because the nation remains in the midst of a legalized sports wagering frenzy, fueled by billions of dollars in advertising and promotional money.
And after all of that gold dust has been sprinkled, Jimmy "The Greek" remains the best-known American sports tout of the last 75 years.
WHY HAS THE NEW GENERATION of sportsbooks failed to produce one colorful, towering outcome picker?
The reasons steam down to one core reality: The people running the online tout services are doing little to craft creatively.
Instead, they continue to try and turn proven sports journalists into fake gambling experts and attempt to assign some sort of sustained credence to longtime Vegas churn-outs.
Somewhere, somehow, they need to find a five-tooler: Someone fresh who has lived the life, can summon passionate detachment and can present information with theatrical wit, insight and élan.
Spirit of Norman Chad, where are you?
FANDUEL HAS SPENT CLOSE TO $1 billion chasing new customers and holds a national-best 47% market share of play. But any showy FD ace selector has gotten lost in the starting gate.
DraftKings bought Vegas Stats and Info and gained dandy organizers (Brian Musburger, Bill Adee, et al). But DK also got a meandering band of "experts" who deal in the sort of snoozy redundancies that would send Sister Jean canceling all action on her beloved Loyola basketball Ramblers.
Bet MGM has nothing of note. Ditto for BetRivers, the comparatively modest sports wagering outfit owned by Churchill Downs Inc. and Neil Bluhm.
PoinstBet -- another second-tier operation -- has an editorial arm that claims "1 million followers."
But the site is an also-ran more obscure than the coaching afterlife of Charlie Weis.
Even struggling staff at Sports Illustrated is taking a whiff and missing.
BEST OF BREED GOING right now -- as the nation breathlessly awaits the outcome of the Bears (+3 and floating) at NYG Sunday (Fox, noon) -- is Caesars (caesars.com/sportsblog).
With a pair of fellows named Max Meyer and Brad Hardwood manning the point, the site is at least easily accessed, properly promoted and consistently encompassing such essentials as game-by-game line movements, betting splits and a breakdown of handle percentages.
Last-minute injury updates and triggering intuitions remain the tasks of the sharper gambler.
But nothing comes close to the swarthy flair Jimmy "The Greek" Snyder had on CBS's "NFL Today."
SNYDER WOUND UP doing 12 NFL seasons on the network before his ouster (1976-87).
He looked the part. He talked the part. And he had lived the life.
"The Greek" was not the greatest football selector to ever walk Planet NFL.
But he had street cred, dating back to his wayward youth in Steubenville, Ohio.
And, he was, as the network desired, a memorable "wise guy with an opinion."
IN THE SUMMER OF 1978, Snyder turned up one weekday afternoon in The Classic Club at the old Arlington Park.
He could have stayed hidden in one of the more privileged rooms but didn't. He was consistently polite as a lunch with chums was continually interrupted by pandering fans.
Midafternoon, as the celebrity worship subsided, he ambled down the second deck of tables to B-9, where the fabled Red Rush was sitting with mates including charismatic insurance whiz Jim Faetz and three entitled twentysomethings.
AFTER ALL INTRODUCTIONS and friendly chitchat between Snyder and Rush, one of the goslings couldn't help himself. He blurted: "Hey Jimmy. Do you like anything left on the card?"
"The Greek" responded: "Kid, gimme your program."
"Kid" eagerly did. Snyder flipped through a couple of pages and handed the program back.
With all attending young ears going high sonar, he said: "From Race 7 on, bet all the overlays."
(In racetrack parlance, an "overlay" is any entrant with odds above the natural chances of winning. In an eight-horse field, that means any starter 8-1 or higher is an overlay -- the naturals odds are 7-1.)
ESSENTIALLY, SNYDER HAD JUST told the table, if you want to catch a fish, put a worm on a hook and throw the thing in deeper water.
Elementary, Blabs, didn't matter. Jimmy "The Greek" had just given three apprentice stooges some personal insight.
"Kid" did as told, making a flurry of $10 longshot win bets on the day's final three races. None cashed and he wound up down about $230.
The loss didn't matter. The tip was direct from Jimmy "The Greek" Snyder.
Where is that sort of theatrical star power on the big-stroke apps of the multibillion dollar American sports gaming industry today?
• Jim O'Donnell's Sports and Media column appears Sunday and Thursday. Reach him at email@example.com. All communications may be considered for publication.