We’ve gotten a sobering reminder this week of how out of whack our view of athletes sometimes is.
And, yeah, sports betting and fantasy sports have something to do with what often feels like the commodification of human beings into data-generating engines for our own amusement.
When Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin collapsed on the field after suffering cardiac arrest in Cincinnati Monday night, prompting medical personnel to perform CPR, most people looking on could only stare in horror and worry. Some members of the sports media speculated a bit prematurely on what Hamlin’s medical emergency — and he was still in intensive care “with signs of improvement” as of midday Wednesday — meant for this NFL season.
No doubt the NFL is considering postponing the rest of this game – but how? This late in the season, a game of this magnitude is crucial to the regular-season outcome … which suddenly seems so irrelevant.
— Skip Bayless (@RealSkipBayless) January 3, 2023
Skip Bayless’ tweet led to some blowback for the longtime TV instigator. His own co-host, ex-NFL tight end Shannon Sharpe, boycotted Tuesday’s episode over the tweet before engaging in a heated conversation about it on Wednesday. Current NFL players also chimed in with their disdain for Bayless’ way of thinking.
But it’s not just talking heads and former reporters whom people accused of lacking empathy in the wake of Monday’s frightening events. Former NFL linebacker Bart Scott took heat for implying on ESPN that receiver Tee Higgins’ actions during the play contributed to Hamlin’s injury.
Straight bozo https://t.co/fLGZj3VjFi
— Tyler Boyd (@boutdat_23) January 4, 2023
Is fan engagement a hollow goal?
While there’s no direct connection to sports betting in this discussion of what’s right and wrong to say in the minutes and hours after a life-and-death situation, it’s pretty obvious where all of this is heading. The sportsbooks generally paid out the bets that had already won from Monday’s game and voided the remainder of the tickets as the NFL figures out when, or if, it will resume Monday’s game.
Sportsbooks routinely push studies showing how much more engaged sports bettors are than people who don’t have money on a given sporting event. A recent study commissioned by Variety, for example, indicated that 68% of sports bettors say they watch the NFL more often when they have a bet on the game.
Leagues and teams, of course, will gobble up information like that, but this is a moment to pause and ask: What kind of engagement are we really promoting? Is it the kind in which we engage more fully with the personalities of those who thrill us with their physical and mental gifts, or is it the kind where we simply view the players as a means or impediment to cashing our next ticket?
PointsBet adds basketball show
One sportsbook seems to be intent on creating as much sports betting content as it can.
PointsBet, which touts itself as the “leader in live betting,” announced Wednesday that it would air four episodes a week of its new Count It YouTube show, which explores story lines in the NBA and college basketball.
The show will provide analysis and betting picks and be hosted by MSG Networks’ Kazeem Famuyide at the sportsbook’s New York studio.
“We’re thrilled to kick off 2023 with Count It following an incredible year filled with new content and talent additions,” PointsBet Senior Vice President Liam Roecklein said in a statement. “Kaz brings a dynamic unlike any other analyst out there, providing an injection of energy and unique perspective on the NBA and college basketball, as well as unmatched insights into picks of the day.”
The sportsbook is hoping the show helps drive action to its Lightning Bets feature, which allows bettors to wager on every play, such as who will score the next basket or snare the next rebound.
PointsBet already has a show called The Straight Line, hosted by former Washington State and NFL quarterback Ryan Leaf, and a soccer show called Stoppage Time with Ian & Jay. Fans can tune into any of the shows via YouTube, Spotify, or Apple Podcasts.
Cardinals still seeking play-by-play voice
Three weeks ago, the St. Louis Cardinals announced that Dan McLaughlin was dismissed as the team’s TV play-by-play voice after 25 years behind the microphone. McLaughlin was arrested in early December for drunk driving, his third such incident in a little more than 12 years and classified as a felony because of the persistent nature of the offenses.
As spring training approaches next month, the Cardinals might have a difficult time finding their next long-term solution. Joe Buck, son of legendary Cardinals announcer Jack Buck, has already said he’s not interested, as have St. Louis’ own Bob Costas and Greg Amsinger, who recently re-upped with MLB Network.
The Cardinals and Bally’s Sports Midwest are hopeful they can find a replacement in time to get the person some face time with the team at spring training, but with most top announcers already signed elsewhere, they might be better off using multiple broadcasters to get through the season and then refocusing with a long-term search for beyond the 2023 season.
They shouldn’t have trouble drumming up interest for one of the most iconic broadcasting roles in sports. Who wouldn’t want to follow in Harry Caray’s footsteps?