Danny Sheridan is a man of many contradictions and claims.
The contrasts are easy to pinpoint: he believes he’s an elite handicapper, but admittedly does not wager on sports. He likes a good game of craps, but thinks the stock market is a bad gamble. He says he does not care what his critics think, but in the same sentence, he asks for a reporter’s ideas to help silence them.
His claims are another story. Sheridan recently made headlines for purporting he knew who was at the center of the Cam Newton pay-for-play scandal. The NCAA met with him and later released a statement saying Sheridan made “vague, unsubstantiated claims.”
Sheridan also believes his testimony killed proposed legislation about a decade ago to ban betting on college sports in Nevada, but it’s tough to verify whether his words had any influence.
As for his handicapping record, Sheridan, the longtime sports analyst for USA Today, says he is coming off his best season ever in which he nailed nearly 70 percent of his NFL picks, including the correct side (New York Giants +3) and total (under 54) in the Super Bowl.
He also released three plays on Twitter during one weekend in the NFL playoffs – prior to kickoff, we checked -- and went 3-0.
He says he has a waiting list of clients who are lining up to pay him handsomely for his picks. He also asserts that last season he tried to start betting picks, but that his proposed six-figure wagers were turned down by Las Vegas and offshore books alike.
Sheridan maintains that many Vegas oddsmakers respect his handicapping skill and at least one, Jay Kornegay of the Las Vegas Hotel, supported the notion.
“I’ve known Danny for a long time and respect his opinions,” Kornegay said. “We’ve had plenty of discussions over the years, and he seems to have very good thoughts and opinions. Therefore, I’m sure he does very well.”
Even so, Sheridan has been a magnet for skeptics ever since the lifelong Mobile, Ala., native who is now in his 60s, came into the public eye some 35 years ago when he had some success picking NFL games against the spread on late-night television.
A Sports Illustrated piece written in 1977, a follow-up to a brief feature that appeared in 1975, tracked Sheridan and put his record at 108-112-2 in a two-season sampling.
These days, mostly through Twitter (@DannySheridan1), where he has more than 10,000 followers, his skeptics continue to express doubt, particularly when Sheridan tweets about his stellar record. To his credit, Sheridan responds to all of them, though he’s not sure how to satisfy them.
He also promptly responded to an interview request from Covers.com, knowing he would he would face questions about his credibility.
In a wide-ranging, two-hour discussion, he answered every question we had, and others we didn’t. Here are some of the highlights from the interview:
Q: What do you say in response to your critics, many of whom seem to doubt your claimed won-loss record?
A: I don’t mean to sound arrogant, but I don’t give a rat’s ass about what anybody says. If someone truly believes that I can’t handicap, they could be right, no argument. However, I’m willing to put up substantial money and let them take me on. But that won’t happen because they are chicken sh-- and they know I’ll beat their brains in.
If you’re asking me if I am the best in the world, I’m sure I’m not. If you’re asking me if I am better than the so-called competition, I have no competition. I make an awful lot of money, and I have a good name out there.
Q: Do you wager on the picks you release?
A: If I had to make a living betting games, I don’t think I could do it. I’m the only one who admits it. I don’t bet on games. Why? Because I couldn’t make a living – I won’t lie.
Q: Do you think not betting games hurts your credibility with your critics?
A: When you say critics, it implies they have credibility. They don’t. I’m not perfect, but I am honorable. You can’t compare me to those people who promise bullsh-- “locks” and stuff like that.
Q: You recently tweeted that you’ve been trying to get sportsbooks to take your action, but have been turned down. What’s the story on this?
A: I’m writing a book about handicapping and in my book I challenge Vegas. I was talking to some of them, and every one of them turned me down. They won’t take my action. It’s pretty substantial – I thought they would. I checked with them and they just don’t want it because they know, not that I am the best ever, they know I’ll probably win. They don’t want the exposure and I respect that. They want the square business.
(Note: During one Twitter exchange, Sheridan mentioned being in talks with Cantor Gaming, but would not name a specific sportsbook during our interview. Mike Colbert of Cantor said he would not comment directly on any potential customer, but, he said, “In three years of business, we have never turned anyone away from opening an account.”)
Q: But if you’ve never gambled on sports, why start now?
A: I’m writing a how-to book and it comes under integrity. All these people that write books, they write after the fact and don’t use their own money. If you’re going to write a how-to book, you ought to know how to bet. I believe that with my heart.
Q: It seems you respond to everyone on Twitter, supporters and naysayers alike. What’s your motivation for doing so?
A: My only goal is to be successful in what I do. I don’t enjoy the cruel, real world. I like what I do. I feel bad if I don’t answer right away. It’s kind of neat, but you can’t help the 1 percent that are hateful and spiteful, they are just nuts. I answer everyone until they cross the line.
Q: You say you have a waiting list of clients. Do you have any longtime clients whose contact information you would provide to us, someone willing to speak to your long-term record?
A: I’m sure they would, but I’m not going to ask them to do that. I am asking you, why should I do that? If you can tell me why, I’ll do that.
Q: Well, it might silence the people who seem to insist on questioning you.
A: If you tell me I need to prove myself after 30-something years, you may be right, but I don’t think I need to prove anything. People treat me like Notre Dame – they either love me or they hate me. If you were me, what would you advise me to do differently?
Q: Maybe you should consider posting free picks occasionally in a public forum, so your record can speak for itself. Would you consider doing that?
A: What advantage would that have for me? A handful of people might think we can’t blast him anymore. Show me how it would help me and why I need the help, and I would do it. I know what I can do, and as long as I know it, that’s all that matters. If I start betting on my own, I might do it.
Find me someone who will take my action, and I’ll take care of you. I’ll give you a nice bonus and if I lose, I’ll still pay you. If I win, I’ll pay you really handsomely. If someone will book me, if they let me bet $100,000 minimum a game, I just don’t see how they can beat me. I think the worst I can do would be 57 percent.
Josh Nagel is a Reno, Nev.-based writer who makes a living covering
sports betting and poker, while also trying to squeeze a profit from
both pursuits. Find more of his work at www.joshnagel.com and follow him on Twitter @JoshNagel1.