NBA, ESPN pushing viewers to focus on gambling and not Finals

NBA, ESPN pushing viewers to focus on gambling and not Finals

Consider where we’ve arrived and what we’re doing here.

So the network boss calls in his or her top sportscasters for an important meeting. He or she steps to the center of the stage, adjusts the microphone then speaks:

“I have a very exciting announcement to make, today, and I wanted you, our most visible, well-known and even cherished employees, to be among the first to know.

“We have purchased a significant interest in a sports gambling operation. This business — now our business, as well — has one goal: Do whatever it takes, including making false promises of striking it rich overnight, to have our customers lose their money investing in this business.

“This entire enterprise that we now share is predicated solely on the public losing its money by being suckered into believing it can make money. And now we get a slice of this money pie!

“So let’s hear a round of applause for this proud addition to our network inventory, a testament to our foresight and strike-while-it’s-hot financial acumen …

“Now, your job, as the faces and voices of our network, is to encourage viewers and listeners, especially those who admire and trust you, to serve as the most conspicuous come-on men and women, to excite as many as possible into losing their money betting on games and players, all the odds, of course, much in our favor.

Stephen A. Smith, Mike Greenberg, Michael Wilbon and Jalen Rose on the NBA Countdown set for the NBA Finals.
NBAE via Getty Images

“I see a hand raised out there. Yes?”

“But isn’t this a scam and why do you want us to be party to it?”

“Scam? Not at all! Scams have a way of backfiring, leading to criminal charges. This is better; this is government-sanctioned no-fault theft, legalized con-artistry.

“Another question, back there.”

“What if we request to be excluded from participating in such a business, you know, on moral grounds? It doesn’t pass the stink test.”

“Neither does the lunch we’re serving, but should I cancel it?

“Besides, disloyalty to the corporation is your option, but it comes with risks, personal risks, if you get my drift.

“Any more questions? No? Good. Now get out there and sell losing investments. Oh, and emphasize parlay bets, they carry the worst odds and really excite the younger suckers, like those in TV ads with their caps turned backwards. Got it?

“Lunch is served.”

And so Thursday night, just before Game 6, which became the last game of the 2022 NBA Finals, tipped off on ABC/ESPN, two gambling come-on segments appeared, both pitching DraftKings, a business partner of the NBA and ESPN. The NBA and ESPN sold their souls, credibility, logos and certification for their cut of guaranteed gambling losses.

The second segment began with Mike Greenberg setting up Jalen Rose with, “Now it’s time for tonight’s DraftkKings Sportsbook predictions, Jalen.”

The two ESPN regulars then focused on three prop bets, one for each of three Celtics or Warriors starters. Whether these were the same over/under numbers posted by DraftKings was not clear.

The Warriors celebrate winning the NBA championship.

But this was abundantly clear:

Moments before the tip of Game 6 of the NBA Finals, the audience was encouraged not to watch the game, but to watch their action by focusing on three players. The game — the biggest of the season — became secondary business with the considerable help of Greenberg and Rose. No shame, no foul.

Apparently, neither had the ability or conviction to turn this down, to declare to their bosses that they refuse to be shills who urge viewers to lose their money chasing easy money. And they’re just two of dozens who populate TV and radio.

“And during the Finals,” Greenberg piped, “New customers can bet $5 to win up to $150 in free bets, instantly!” As he spoke, a box loaded with tiny print appeared. The long odds of reading it in full before it disappeared were not included.

Yep, first one’s free. Well, sorta.

A good walk spoiled by MLB

The game Wednesday between the Rays and Yankees was delayed 16 minutes in the eighth inning while the umps figured out if Aaron Boone was allowed to (slowly) walk to the mound to remove reliever Miguel Castro.

The delay was over whether the Yankees were entitled to a second trip without a pitch being thrown. Pitching coach Matt Blake had visited Castro while the Rays tended to injured-by-pitch Randy Arozarena.

Even by modern MLB standards it seemed a colossal waste of time.

That brings us to reader Henry Blaukopf, a man with a practical solution: “Why must the manager visit the mound to change pitchers? Can’t he just use the bullpen phone or gesture from outside the dugout?

“It’s exciting enough to watch umpires gather around the phone talking to clueless replay officials. Some of us like to watch baseball.”

MLB already saves a ton of time with its automatic intentional walk rule, roughly three minutes per season.

Ryan Weber, unknown Yankees call-up as witnessed by number 85, is listed as 6-foot-1 and 31 years old despite appearing to be about 5-10 with a baby face that smiles a lot. Weber pitched wonderfully in relief, Thursday. He allowed two hits and no walks in 3 ²/₃ innings, providing the Yankees the opportunity to win, 2-1.

As Weber was relieved, he headed for the dugout. The crowd began to rise and applaud. This shot was well worth sticking with to view his reaction to both fans and teammates. The sight of feel-good moments were fully anticipated.

But YES cut away for commercials. Curses!

ryan weber
Robert Sabo

Perhaps when the commercials ended, we’d see what we missed.

Instead, we saw a reel of what we’d already seen several times: Weber pitching well, hustling to cover first and smiling, all of which is why he was about to be awarded a standing O from both fans and Yankees. Double strokes!

You like Rob Manfred’s all-in designated hitter rule change this season? You subscribe to hit-into-the-shift analytics?

Well, both have helped produce (through Thursday) a .242 batting average for all players — two points lower than last season and MLB’s lowest since 1968, “The Year of the Pitcher.” After the mound was lowered in 1969, averages rose from .237 to .248.

The last time it was .260 or better was 2009 — just before analytics were revealed as the secret to modern success.

Browns’ Clowney proves to be a clown

How’d you like to be a Browns fan, or worse, ticket holder? Or even worse, a contracted PSL renter? Last week, DE Jadeveon Clowney publicly said that he re-signed with Cleveland because he wants to play with “my boy,” QB Deshaun Watson. Does Clowney have any awareness beyond Clowney?

Jadeveon Clowney

Even while on the bench, Nestor Cortes appears to make the Yankees a better team, more energetic, enthusiastic, entertaining. Forgive me this reach, but until Carmelo Anthony reasserted his rule, Cortes seems the equivalent of Jeremy Lin. And both came from so far back and so far out that they didn’t even qualify as long shots.

After Michael Kay, on YES, announced that Carlos Beltran will be with him when the Astros are here to play the Yankees, reader Christopher Niemir asked if there will be a “Bring Your Own Garbage Can Night.”

Too many on-the-fly stats that are without context or misleading from ESPN’s Sean McDonough during Stanley Cup telecasts. McDonough has the knowledge to debunk such stats — players’ plus-minus numbers can be wildly misapplied — rather than sell them.

Think Vince McMahon’s daughter will fire him?

Briar Patch, Redux: Reader Len Geller on that Rangers fan who sucker-punched that Lightning fan: “I thought being banned from The Garden for life was a good thing.” And the dough he’ll save should easily cover legal fees.

Phil Mickelson played the US Open like he bet against himself.


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