HGTV's Scoring the Deal stars real estate partners Jason Abrams and Kristen Cook and the show's second season première airs tonight at 11 p.m. ET/PT.
The show features Abrams and Cook of Scottsdale's Abrams International as they help professional athletes find their dream homes, and there's usually a significant time constraint for the athlete. This season will feature NFL star Kyle Arrington of the Patriots, NFL rookie EJ Manuel, who was picked up by Buffalo as the first-round draft pick for quarterbacks, NBA players Rudy Gay and CJ Watson, MLB's Jerry Hairston Jr., Brandon McCarthy, and legend David Wells, among others, including WNBA star Brittany Jackson.
While the first season provided a completely new experience for Abrams and his team, he says that the hardest part was actually learning how to be on camera and how to make the talent feel comfortable as well.
"The surprising thing was, they were almost more comfortable on camera than they were off-camera," says Abrams. "As soon as the cameras came on the only person who was nervous was me. They've spent their life under a microscope, so the idea that they were being scrutinized was no big deal for them. It was something I had to get used to."
With the second season under his belt, Abrams has gotten used to the strange world of reality television, including the camera aspect, and he's also had to develop a thicker skin when it comes to the critics. Season one provided the training ground.
"There was one article that was written by a woman in New York who just lambasted the show and kind of destroyed me as a character and talked about how 'America needs this show like America needs deep-fried donuts,'" Abrams says. "It bothered me a lot."
Abrams says that he would watch every episode of the first season, tweet in real time, search keywords for his show, and reply to anybody who said anything negative.
"I would respond, 'Oh I'm really sorry you feel that way, I'd love to talk to you over the phone and explain the show to you,' and before I knew it I was having a lot of those calls," he says. "And I would randomly find people's blogs when they would talk about the show, and I would respond to their blog. I felt the need to justify the show, and I probably won't do that again this season."
Another change from season one is a more well-rounded offering of athletes from all major sports in the U.S., including a female athlete, as opposed to the first season, which was heavy in NFL players.
"To see the world from her perspective and talk sports with her was really enjoyable," he says, in regard to working with WNBA player Brittany Jackson.
"And the WNBA -- which unfortunately seems to the punchline of a lot of sports media jokes -- I think it's a really dynamic league filled with amazing people--to be part of that by representing so many of them, the whole entire process is really exciting."
Abrams says that this season will feature a lot of new cities that were left out of season one, including Denver, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Arizona's own Scottsdale.
While Abrams says he enjoyed each city and that Denver has an amazing palpable energy, he particularly enjoyed filming in San Francisco, against a great historical backdrop.
"We were looking at properties that were right on Haight-Ashbury, literally a block from where the whole '60s revolution took place," says Abrams. "And to be in a place that had that much history, and showing houses there, that was really cool."
Although Abrams says he loved helping out all of the players, a standout for him was helping NFL rookie EJ Manuel.
"He was an awesome, awesome episode," he says. "He was the first-round quarterback -- the first quarterback taken in this year's draft. And he was coming out of Florida State, drafted by Buffalo. So think about this iconic star in beautiful, sunny Florida, and now you're this iconic star in Buffalo. That couldn't be more different. So trying to find him a cool pad in Buffalo was a challenge."
Abrams says that, while he thinks he's proven himself to be a trustworthy real estate leader, he still always feels like he's one catastrophe away from bankruptcy.
"Because it's a small community, and guys talk," he says. "If we waste someone's time or we don't hit it out of the park, word's gonna travel fast."
Abrams and his team offer financial advice in some capacity, but he leaves the heavy stuff to the actual advisers who get paid to do that. Also, at the end of the day, he can give his advice to his clients, but ultimately, he says, it's their money, and they can do what they want with it, he says.
The only exclusion is Abrams still won't sell a first-year player a home. Instead he insists on them renting a home until they become more settled in their new life.
Abrams recently expanded his business internationally and opened up his headquarters right here in Scottsdale.
Abrams has teamed up with local Keller Williams' agent (and also one of the other people Abrams bought the Tempe Keller Williams office with) Brian Gubernick, who Abrams describes as an amazingly successful real estate agent.
"He ranks number five in all of Keller Williams out of over 94,000 agents. He's like a real estate guru," says Abrams, explaining why he ended up choosing Gubernick as his partner in heading his international real estate company. "And forget that he's ranked number five, the guy's just a jedi. When he decided to come on board, it just made sense to have our infrastructure based in Scottsdale."
Abrams' goal with this season is to actually enjoy it, as opposed to last year, which he spent nervous and unsure of what to expect.
"This is going to sound naive, but I didn't know if it was going to air, and all of a sudden I'd walk in to a restaurant and everybody's going to go 'There he is!' I really didn't know," he says. "It turns out that's not the case. So I'm not worried about that this year, I was really worried about my privacy [last season], and it's funny because people could care less. The only people who want to know where I'm going to dinner are still my mother and my wife."
Abrams has a 10-month-old son, Jackson, and after doing the NFL morning show a month or so ago, it was the first time that his son recognized him on TV.
"I have this photo of him looking up at the TV and seeing his dad, and he's clapping," says Abrams. "I think that is so cool."
Although his job still requires him to travel just as much, Abrams says he now tries to come home for two days between cities, versus doing back to back to back to back cities.
An of course, Abrams wife and son will join him on the road when they can. His wife, Kristina Abrams, is a prominent architect in Michigan, where they make their home, and her job allows her flexibility to take her work with her if she wants.
"Whether she does or not is another story," says Abrams. "She's the most dedicated person to a company that I've ever seen."
Abrams credits his wife for allowing him to dream as big as he wants, and giving him the freedom to go make them happen.
"That's really rare to find," he says
Abrams thinks his show offers a unique opportunity to see today's modern-day gladiators, which he considers our professional athletes to be, do something really human, which is purchase and sell real estate.
"I just don't think you get that opportunity anywhere else," he says. "And if you're going to watch a reality television show, you might as well watch one that's actually real. With us you can be sure that it is, these athletes don't have time to make a scripted real estate show.
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Scoring the Deal airs tonight on HGTV at 11 p.m. ET/PT.