Chalk this latest incident up to the hypocrisy that is the National Football League.
Normally, something like this doesn’t even make it to the ticker. But the NFL, ever the paragons of virtue that they are, decided to make a big deal out of nothing. And now, a lot of people are talking about it.
We’re talking about a segment involving Bradley Cooper and a promo for his new movie “Silver Linings Playbook” that was supposed to run during last Thursday’s “Rich Eisen Thanksgiving Special”. Incidentally, the segment was being promoted to no end in the days leading up to it as the headline segment of the show. The only problem, at least as far as the NFL is concerned, is that the movie had Robert De Niro playing a character that was a part-time bookie. So the league, at the behest of commissioner Roger Goodell, decided to pull the plug on the segment, leaving the network, particularly Eisen and his crew, scrambling to find a suitable replacement for Cooper. All this even happened after the pre-taped segment already got approval to be be aired at the NFL Network.
Understandably so, Harvey Weinstein, the film’s producer, wasn’t too happy with the NFL snub. Talking to the New York Post, Weinstein said, “We are deeply disappointed in the NFL’s decision, and we are quite frankly surprised. Pulling a pretaped interview with our stars is nothing short of censorship . . . [‘Silver Linings’] is not a film about gambling in the NFL. It’s a film about fathers and sons and football bonding a family together.”
To their credit, the NFL didn’t try to spin the issue and flatly confirmed through a media representative that the segment “was pulled because the movie included content related to gambling on NFL games.”
Hooray! A rare moment of honesty for a league that has made an art out of talking from both sides of their mouth!
All that being said, this latest episode just goes to show the lengths the league will go to just so they can disassociate themselves from gambling, a notion they believe is paramount to protect the integrity of the “shield”, as Goodell so loquaciously says every chance he gets. But therein lies the hypocrisy of it all because, dare we say, a huge part of the game’s popularity is rooted on gambling. It’s no secret that the biggest gambling day in America is during the Super Bowl, a fact that the NFL knows helps in keeping the league as popular as it is yet somehow tries to sweep it under the rug because they refuse to acknowledge that gambling plays a huge part in the game’s popularity.
Not just gambling per se, too. Even fantasy football, in it of itself, can be characterized as a form of gambling when pots are placed in a certain league, yet the NFL continues to promote the game by running tickers on the network regarding the stats of its players for fantasy purposes.
And just so its clear, Silver Linings Playbook is as much a gambling movie as Ice Age is a psychological thriller. Robert De Niro plays a part-time bookie and there’s a backbone of the story involves the entire family’s seeming obsession with the Philadelphia Eagles. That’s all it is.
But the NFL once again overreacted, censoring a segment it already gave the green light to. It certainly doesn’t add up, although its hardly surprising, either. The NFL has always been adept at hedging their bets – no pun intended – on issues surrounding gambling. Pulling the plug on a pre-taped and hotly promoted Bradley Cooper segment on the NFL Network because it had “content related to gambling on NFL games” is just the latest proof of that. Remember this classic piece of broadcasting from Al Michaels and Chris Collinsworth from 2010? We could only imagine the conversation the league had with the two the morning after.
Great job, NFL! Now you can go back to telling everyone that concussions don’t carry long-lasting effects on your players.