Last week, over two years of anticipation finally came to a close. At long last, online sports betting in Maryland officially launched on Wednesday,
Among the group welcoming in the new era of legal gambling in the Old Line State was Baltimore Orioles legend Cal Ripken Jr., a special advisor to the Board of Directors for DraftKings Sportsbook.
A notable former pro athlete teaming up with a legal online sportsbook, that has become commonplace in this world of regulated betting. For area greats to step into the role of brand ambassador or spokesman. To play up the sportsbook, invite new users to join, promote responsible gambling.
In Maryland, though, plenty of room exists for legends of the game to join Ripken in similar roles. But who would be the best names, past or present, we’d like to see align themselves with a sports betting brand?
Tier 1: High Budget Gets
Nowhere to go wrong on this list. Start with Ray Lewis, the 2018 Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee who won two Super Bowls with the Baltimore Ravens. That includes Super Bowl XXXV, in which the feared linebacker took home MVP honors.
Stick with the Ravens and Hall of Fame safety Ed Reed, who owns franchise records for career interceptions and defensive touchdowns. Imagine that BetMGM Sportsbook MD commercial. Lewis kicking down a living room door, smoke pouring in as he enters performing his patented “squirrel dance” to Nelly’s Hot in Herre. He tosses a phone to the civilian, who places a bet and tosses it back to Lewis. Reed bursts into frame, snatches the phone from the air and sprints down the street, leaving the civilian bewildered.
Staying in football, Doug Flutie is a local legend. Born in Manchester, Flutie lived in Maryland until his family moved to Massachusetts while he was in high school. Of course, Flutie went on to win the Heisman Trophy at Boston College, then bounced around the USFL, NFL, CFL (winning three Grey Cups and six Most Outstanding Player awards) and again back to the NFL, winning the 1998 Comeback Player of the Year award.
Of course, no list of Maryland greats would be complete without Michael Phelps. The most decorated Olympian of all time with 28 medals, including an Olympic-record 23 golds, eight of which he won at the 2008 Beijing Games. A commercial with the Baltimore Bullet placing a bet with Caesars Sportsbook MD and then foolishly crushing his phone with one of his 23 gold medals because a back-door cover foiled a parlay? I’d watch that.
Tier 2: Solid Choices
It’s not knock to this section, but these names are probably among the second breath of brainstorms.
If he wasn’t a homegrown talent, he very well has the argument for it. After all, for Boomer Esiason, Maryland was the only college football program that came calling. With the Terrapins, Esiason set 17 school records, throwing for over 6,000 yards and 42 touchdowns at Maryland, winning an ACC title along the way. He went on to be an MVP in the NFL and a solid studio presence for pregame, postgame and halftime shows. A recognizable face, to be sure.
Speaking of memorable times, remember the mid-1990s Baltimore Orioles? Remember Brady Anderson? Remember how his prowess and power led to so many convincing themselves and others that his success was a byproduct of performance enhancing drugs? But, also remember, it all remained unproven. Anderson, tried and true and pure, was one of the best hitters in his era.
He blasted 50 homers in 1996, then a club record that is now No. 2 all-time. And that 50th came in his fourth game with a leadoff home run, still a Major League Baseball record. Ridiculous.
Perhaps a sportsbook wants to be more modern, though. Adley Rutschman is that guy. A No. 1 overall pick with a College World Series title, Rutschman has lived up to the hype so far with the Orioles. Plus, his family lineage has a history of success. His grandfather was a major part of college football’s longest streak of winning seasons in NCAA history at Linfield College, a run that continues today.
Tier 3: Likely Available
It’s tough to not think about the Maryland Terrapins’ lone NCAA men’s basketball championship team of 2002. Especially Juan Dixon, the MOP of that year’s Final Four and ACC Player of the Year who ultimately finished as the program’s all-time leading scorer, which still stands today.
One of the more overlooked Terrapins, Steve Francis was selected No. 2 overall in the 1999 NBA draft, then the highest Maryland pick in 23 years. He went on to become a co-Rookie of the Year, performed admirably in the All-Star Slam Dunk Contest and averaged at least 21 points per game three times in a four-year span of the early 2000s.
Of late, however, the more noteworthy area program is the UMBC Retrievers. Of course, we could and should give coach Ryan Odom a nod for leading the America East program to the NCAA Tournament’s first No. 16 upset of a No. 1 seed. Rightfully so. But how about Jairus Lyles?
The Silver Spring native was a transfer for the Retrievers early on. But at the end of his college career, he made it count. He led UMBC to the America East tournament title, then poured in 28 points on 9-of-11 shooting to give the Retrievers a convincing 20-point win over overall No. 1 Virginia in the NCAA Tournament. Through emotions, through determination, through cramps. The ultimate victory.
Tier 4: If League Rules Allowed It
Across professional sports, some active players have lined up spokesperson agreements. The NFL, though, has rules in place prohibiting such deals. Active players and personnel cannot lend their name and/or image “directly to promote, advertise, or publicize gambling-related enterprises” or even make promotional appearances.
But say league rules were adjusted.
As it stands, Lamar Jackson would probably be the hottest ticket. The 2019 MVP has revitalized the Baltimore Ravens, making the team a year-in-year-out favorite to win the AFC North and make deep postseason runs.
Of late, kicker Justin Tucker has become one of the more popular players on the Ravens. Owner of the NFL’s longest made field goal, Tucker will soon set the franchise record for points scored. The guy is funny, well-spoken and also funny.
In terms of locally grown talent, look no further than Upper Marlboro’s own Chase Young. The Washington Commanders defensive end was a finalist for the Heisman at Ohio State and went second overall in 2020 to Washington, where he won Defensive Rookie of the Year.