Set­ting the line

How will NBC ap­proach gam­bling on Sun­day tele­casts?

The Morning Call - - SPORTS - By Neil Best

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.”

MARK ZALESKI/AP

Al Michaels, right, and Cris Collinswor­th, sec­ond from left, broad­cast from the field Dec. 30.

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