Al Michaels long has made sly gambling references during NFL games he announces. But now that sports betting is becoming legal in more states by the year, might NBC become more open in discussing such matters?
Michaels said that in the short run, he expects “Sunday Night Football” will approach the subject much as it has in the past but that in the long run the evolution of attitudes on sports gambling will be “fascinating.”
“I’ve had a lot of fun through the years coming in through the back door and sliding in in unexpected ways,” he said on a conference call Tuesday promoting NBC’s coverage.
“I think people enjoyed the fact they thought I was being a bit of a rascal and all that, but it was all in good fun. Now, I don’t know how this is going to turn out in the long run, because to me this is the great unknown.
“How to incorporate not only the gambling into the telecast, but how this whole thing will work as it probably gets [passed] in almost every state in the country.
“We will probably see the day when fans are going to sit in the stands with their mobile devices and bet whether we get a run or pass on third down. Maybe we’re going there. I don’t know. I can’t predict the future in that regard. It’s going to be fascinating, and I don’t know what’s going to happen.
“My feeling is, this year anyway, kind of go the same way we’ve been going in a way. Most people who have bet on the game don’t have to be told what the point spread is. I don’t know how it’s going to wind up at the end of the season. I think at the beginning I’ll probably go about it the same way I’ve been doing it in the past.”
Michaels’ producer, Fred Gaudelli, agreed, saying gambling talk likely would be reserved for situations where it adds insight, such as when NBC posted the Colts’ Super Bowl odds before and after Andrew Luck retired.
“In instances like that where it really kind of crosses into the editorial, now that we have some leeway, I could see us doing it,” Gaudelli said.
“But as Al said, if you bet the game, no one knows the point spread better than you. Or if you bet the over/under, you know it. I would see that part of it going the way it has been, but I agree with Al. It’s a great unknown.
“I think there will be some type of alternate gambling feeds perhaps sooner than later where you would be able to watch our game or any other NFL game and maybe the commentary would be more gambling-centric or there would be a way for you to play a game. I could see that happening.
“On the national broadcast, I still think it’s going to be somewhat isolated.”
Gaudelli said that since he started producing NFL games 30 years ago, TV contracts specifically have barred gambling talk. “That’s why Al was talking about the side doors he’s been coming in for decades now,” Gaudelli said.
But he added, “We’ve had conversations with the league this year, and there really hasn’t been any certain course of direction. We’re starting to have those conversations about what’s possible going forward.”
Michaels said that while gambling might be part of the game, it cannot be bigger than it.
“To me, the game is the thing,” he said. “We’re there to report on the game. As Fred said, maybe there will be a special side-door gambling telecast. To me, football is great, sports are great, because of the competition and the drama and the excitement.
“If you get overwhelmed about all this craziness about betting on a run or pass on third down, to me you’re just losing the essence of why you’re playing these games in the first place.”