I was surfing my favorite sports channels recently and saw an episode of ESPN’s “30 for 30” about professional gambler Jimmy “The Greek” Snyder, which originally aired in 2009.
Snyder was not a model citizen, to say the least. Late in his career he was shamed into obscurity for making blatantly racist remarks on national TV. But prior to that, for three years after an interstate gambling conviction, he claimed to be in the public relations business. His client was Howard Hughes and it’s been reported that most of his work for the reclusive billionaire was arranging secret one-on-one meetings with women. These appalling liaisons certainly do not fall under the communications umbrella that would qualify him as a real, legitimate public relations professional. But some might say, in one very specific way, Snyder was a thought-leader.
You see Snyder wrote a sports-betting column for the Las Vegas Sun that became nationally syndicated in a time when sports betting was considered to be taboo in most American communities. It was the precursor to getting sports betting into the mainstream and laid the foundation for televised poker tournaments. And if you follow the trail long enough, probably a pre-historic version of Fantasy Football and all that it has become today.
He became a recognized leader in sports gambling. His column led to a 12-year run in the ‘70s and ‘80s on NFL Today on CBS, the pre-game show featuring Brent Musburger, Irv Cross and Phillis George, during which Snyder predicted winners without actually using the term “point spread.” Al Michaels went on to do this masterfully as well at the conclusion of each Sunday, Monday or Thursday night football game that he was announcing, somehow referring to the over-under bets on the game without actually saying it.
To his credit, Snyder correctly predicted the winner of 18 of 21 Super Bowls.
There is a lot to dislike about him but one thing is for sure: Snyder understood the power of being at the forefront of an issue and how to capitalize on the value of thought-leadership through mainstream media.