There's great current optimism for legalized U.S. sports wagering. Just don't expect network announcers chatting about it during games in the future.
Directly devoting entire network shows to gambling is still taboo on NFL broadcasting networks and especially the conservative NFL Network. However, it is fascinating to witness gambling-related talk slowly seep into the discussion every week.
Not since the long-forgotten days of Jimmy "the Greek" Snyder have point spreads been among popular themes for hosts to gently reference. Al Michaels has become legendary for his wry quips involving the spread and especially the Total Over/Under during already decided NFL Sunday Night Football games. It's fun to hear Al remind us that last touchdown was "overwhelming" (hint hint) or "that last touchdown was very significant for some in our TV audience". If you're not paying attention, it's almost like you're left out of some insider joke. Many key NCAA games on ESPN have point spreads graphics next to upcoming games meant to increase audience interest.
Ironically, legendary CBS & ESPN broadcaster Brent Musburger got into trouble years ago making a game total O/U comment during a Fiesta Bowl involving a last second special team blunder. Now he co-hosts "My Guys in the Desert" at the South Point Casino in Las Vegas. A popular onsite broadcast, livestream and SiriusXM show that concentrates on nothing but sports wagering, bettor information and handicapping advice. Very significant, as this could be the benchmark of a typical television pre-game show of the future IF sports wagering is legalized by the Supreme Court of the United States.
Therefore, like sex or a bad argument last night, can we just openly talk about game wagering on television LIVE DURING THE GAME should PASPA (the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act) be reversed next year? Don't bet on it. Here's a few proven reasons why not:
Sacred "integrity" of the Game
Should PASPA be reversed, all roads dictating it lead though the National Football League. And no force takes the issue of integrity, fairness and honesty of the game more seriously than the NFL.
My clairvoyant hunch believes the NFL will rule with the courts that all mention of point spreads, total over/under and anything connected to wagering on their games will be forbidden to be discussed during a live telecast of an NFL game. A protective device to not "fuel the fire" that any play or occurrence during a game is connected to altering the outcome in any way for gambling purposes.
In following their lead, also expect Major League Baseball, the NBA and the NHL to follow suit, instituting into legal policy. Of course, should the NCAA also be included in the PASPA reversal, they would also mandate no gambling talk being referenced.
Horrendous Beat Examples
Two NFL games last Sunday could be used as testimony of what could flame an enormous controversy if announcers freely focus on point spread or O/U Total outcomes.
Green Bay (-2.5) at Cleveland (Odds courtesy of BetOnline)
No NFL team on Sunday was more desperate for a win or seemed more certain of winning than the hapless Cleveland Browns. Leading late 21-7 at home against Green Bay without fourth quarter miracle man QB Aaron Rodgers, it appeared impossible for Cleveland to lose, let alone not cover. Then again, remember they are the Browns and why they earned that 0-12 record.
After back-up QB Brett Hundley led the Pack to a tie in regulation, they both won and amazingly covered the spread in overtime 27-21. Plenty of questionable referee calls enabled Hundley along the way along with very mysterious inept Browns play. A perfect scenario for any TV commentator to enrage Browns bettors and help Packers backers jump into their own stands at home. Not only did Cleveland blow it by losing for the 13th consecutive time but didn't cover as well.
Indianapolis Colts at Buffalo Bills (-3) (Odds courtesy of Bovada)
While players are the usual targets of game fixes, this is a prime example of where an NFL head coach could be a potential false radar of suspicion.
On Sunday the Colts and Bills fought it out in a near Buffalo blizzard for almost the entire four quarters with the Bills clinging to a 7-0 lead. The wind made passing the football virtually impossible with future Hall of Fame Colts kicker Adam Vinatieri missing key opportunities.
Finally, Indy broke through and scored a touchdown with 1:16 remaining in regulation. Smartly knowing the 3-9 Colts had nothing to really lose, coach Chuck Pagano chose a rare late 2-point conversion to put them ahead. Remember, weather conditions made it brutal to score. And uhh...we're also considering the Colts 2018 NFL Draft position without admitting it at gunpoint.
Result: Good!! But wait a minute. The referee has called a ten-yard penalty on the play mandating another Pagano decision. This time he elects to have Vinatieri try a 43-yard extra point. Result: Good! But, tragically bad if you bet on the Colts. As +3 bettors would have been dancing with either that 2-point conversion decision or praying Adam missed the long extra point.
Yes, many in the television audience were sadly thinking it. But forbidden to warn bettors the worst "bad beat" of the season was shortly coming. In overtime, the Bills LeSean McCoy piled through the snow 21 yards for a touchdown, resulting in a 13-7 win and Bills cover. Not since the miracle Frank Reich 41-38 playoff comeback over the Houston Oilers in 1993 has there ever been a more exciting winning wager on the Buffalo Bills.
So, who to blame for your fortunes if you happened to wager on the Colts. Head coach Chuck Pagano or the referee who called that controversial 10-yard penalty on the two-point conversion? Upon further review, it's irrelevant now. A sure thing is never expecting a word about these types of debates to be spoken during a live game in the NFL, MLB, NBA or NHL in the future.
But for legalized wagering business purposes, can we expect much more of them to be discussed BEFORE & AFTER the game on television, radio and online? You bet.
Glenn Greene covers the games from a betting angle every week exclusively at OSGA.com. For weekly betting insights, inlcuding previews and picks from Glenn, click here.