We all know how much the NFL hates gambling. Don’t tell that to one of America’s top sports broadcasters, Al Michaels.
The NBC sports commentator frequently incorporates gambling references when covering sporting events.
AwfulAnnouncing.com offered a classic example of Michaels bluntness when it comes to such references. During last season’s Pro Bowl, the broadcaster “was genuflecting about the point spread for the bizarre game-ending attempt at a return touchdown”.
So the Million Dollar Question: Has Michaels ever been scolded by his bosses for offering the gambling references?
“No,” said Michaels in an interview with AwfulAnnouncing.com. “The only time was when [then-ABC Sports president] Dennis Swanson asked me not to before the San Francisco-San Diego Super Bowl in Miami after the 1994 season. The league was sensitive that the spread opened at 19 and I think it went to 18 or 18 ½. So Swanson said to me — and not really seriously — that the league is really sensitive to the big spread so if you can just avoid it. And I did … until the end of the game.
The game was 49-26 San Francisco so you have a 23-point differential and there is one play left in the game. San Diego had the ball at the 35-yard line and Stan Humphries is going to launch a pass into the end zone. That’s when The Rascal could not help himself. I said “Humphries launches one into the end zone and all over America hearts are beating furiously. Incomplete.”
Michaels also revealed that, despite a commonly held belief, talking spreads during games has never been considered taboo.
“I think some of us do,” Michael acknowledged when asked why sports commentators do not typically discuss the spreads on games. “Look Brent Musburger is great. He just out and out tells you what the spread is. I like to play around with it. I don’t think it is necessary. To say on the air the Steelers are a six-point favorite once in a while it is germane to what I am trying to point out, so I will say the Steelers are favored by about a touchdown. I find it more of a fun thing because there has always been this perception it is verboten and we are not allowed to talk about it.
“Look, ESPN is picking games against the spread and a lot of sports-talk shows do it. It is out there and the league knows it’s out there, but they certainly have to take a stand because you don’t want some gigantic scandal. The league knows it is a multi-billion deal and creates extra interest in the game as does fantasy football.”