Note: This was originally posted Tuesday, Oct. 20 and updated Wednesday morning, Oct. 21:
It must have been decades ago — no, wait, it was just last January, when everyone was gearing up for NBC’s coverage of Super Bowl XLIX — and we were cautiously curious about how Al Michaels would deal with a Bovoda.lv prop bet during the upcoming NBC telecast: How many times would the broadcasters mention “deflated” footballs, in the wake of Deflategate?
Michaels went on ABC’s “Jimmy Kimmel Live” and joked about people should take the over on the 2-1/2 line, at which point it went up to 3. But just as fast, Michaels tried to separate himself from any kind of perceived gambling corruption scandal.
“I was having some fun with Jimmy, nothing more, nothing less,” Michaels told us at the time through an NBC publicist when he was in Phoenix prepping for the Super Bowl. “I’m not thinking about anything other than doing the game.”
When the Seahawks-Patriots finally played that game, we’re not even sure if we counted the “deflate” mentions. It surely wasn’t part of our broadcast story.
So it’s just nine months later and now is when Michaels can’t help himself.
He knew that Bovada.lv had posted odds on how many times “Deflategate” would be mentioned in last Sunday’s Patriots-Colts NBC game from Indianapolis. It was again at 2 1/2.
As they showed a “Deflate-cake” being made by a bakery during a break in the game, Michaels said: “You know there’s an over/under out there on how many times we’ll say ‘deflate’ tonight? Deflategate, Deflategate, Deflategate, Deflategate. Four. You won the over.”
Bovoda.lv Sports Book manager Kevin Bradley admitted Wednesday morning they did pay off on the bet — “we’ve never not paid out on something,” he said — and estimated some 75 of the wagers placed on it were for the “over.”
Sunday night’s game may not have done Super Bowl-type ratings, but NBC boasted this week that 23 million tuned into that Patriots-Colts contest — which is actually below the six-week average of 24 million to date.
So now is when the perception starts to become reality with those who love connecting dots. Did Michaels rig his own wager? Did he help a friend win a bet?
You’re going to get headlines like this: “Al Michaels helped people win a ton of money Sunday night thanks to this” on a story by something called FanBuzz.com.
Some reaction: “God bless him, that’s why we love Al Michaels,” wrote Matt Yoder for AwfulAnnouncing.com.
“Al Michaels is the best, the absolute best,” wrote Chris Chase of USA Today’s “For The Win” column.
Michaels responded Tuesday morning via email:
“Just having fun. Nothing more than that.
If anyone makes that sort of prop bet, they probably also need action of whether the sun comes up in the east tomorrow. Nothing wrong with goofing off for ten seconds on a 3 hour telecast.
You know ‘The Rascal’ has to show up every so often.
People I’ve heard from loved it.”
(“The Rascal” is a nickname he gives himself when he decides to twerk the system, which includes making references to over/under odds during an NFL game, as he describes in his autobiography. A paperback version of it came out last month. In the book, he also mentions that he doesn’t wager — except a bit on the horses).
Bradley, who said he created that exotic wager, said he laughed when he heard Michaels rattle off the “deflategate” references.
“Again, when we put up something like that, it’s more to just let people have fun with it,” Bradley said. “We’ll limit the wagers (to $100) because we’re not willing to risk tens of thousands on it. People like cheering for the over, so they often bet that. But at the same time, the 25 percent here who bet the under can’t be too happy.
“So we lost a little money, but what can you do? I’ll definitely be more cautious next time. That’s part of the risk. People may always think there’s something shady going on. Do I know (Michaels)? No. Did I know he’d say it? No. You just go by the past. There’s no way to know.
“I don’t really stress too much about it, even if one of his friends made $100. Good for him. I thought it was pretty cool. And I can’t deny we got some publicity out of it.”
Now, if you want to talk about Michaels joking in the same broadcast about the current tax code …