HBO’s Real Sports Claims That People Wouldn’t Watch Football Without Drinking And Gambling

  • Matt Rudnitsky

HBO’s “Real Sports,” the impressive, investigative “sports newsmagazine” had a strange moment during last episode.

Following the tragic follow-up story of a brutally beaten San Francisco Giants fan, the panel discussed the unacceptable, possibly-rising trend of fan violence, and concluded that, “going to a game these days ain’t what it used to be.”

Then, the question was asked, with television coverage as advanced as it is, “Why even go?”

A perfectly legitimate question, and one that is supported by declining attendance across most sports. But then the conversation took an odd turn, as correspondent Jon Frankel followed up with some questions of his own.

“Are people really interested in sports? What happens if you take the drinking and gambling out? What happens?

Check out the video for yourself.

Not that we should rip on Frankel for a little slip-up like this, but that was a pretty strange quote. Of course, if you count fantasy football as gambling, it kinda-sorta makes sense as hyperbole — obviously, people would still be interested, but it’s reasonable to think popularity would decline dramatically. But “are people really interested in sports?” Um, yes, I believe they are.

Still, nobody even slightly questioned Frankel’s embellishment, and Bryant Gumbel, in fact, supported it defiantly.

Not football. Not football. Baseball, yeah. Baseball, yeah, probably.

So, nobody would be interested in football, the country’s most popular sport, if it weren’t for gambling and booze? But they’d probably still like baseball? I’m not going to spend time shooting down these arguments as they seemed like offhand remarks, but, again, this whole conversation was incredibly odd.

Then, following Bernard Goldberg’s fairly reasonable analogy to fans and their “gang mentality,” relating them to the Crips and Bloods, the weirdness continued. Gumbel jokingly accused Goldberg of racism for not instead mentioning the Irish and Italian mobs, upon which, even more strangely, Goldberg suddenly got über-defensive, trying to defend his name. The two reconciled their faux-feud, yet my brow remained furrowed.

It was an utterly bizarre sequence on an otherwise brilliant show — one that certainly left viewers scratching their heads.