All About Action: How Betting is Changing the Way That We Watch and Talk About Sports

Omar Zahran
6 min readNov 12, 2023

Once a taboo subject in sports broadcasting, gambling is now an essential part of the machine, and its influence is only growing

I recently saw a post on X (formerly Twitter) about a recent college basketball game between Florida Atlantic and Loyola Chicago. What interested me about this game was not what was happening on the court but rather what was coming from the commentators of the game. This game was part of the Barstool Invitational. For those unaware, Barstool Sports is a digital media sports outlet that started as a free transit publication offering gambling advice and fantasy sports projections. It has since grown into a media behemoth characterized by loud and sometimes obnoxious personalities with a heavy influx of lewd content and attention-grabbing headlines.

Towards the end of the Florida Atlantic and Loyola game, Barstool veterans David Portnoy (the company’s CEO and founder) and Dan “Big Cat” Katz were yelling at FAU players to shoot the ball with an 18 point lead so that the bets that they placed would win. The commentary was rightly criticized by hoops fans on social media, but it underlies a reality in modern sports coverage and journalism: gambling is very much a cog in the machine whether we like it or not.

Taking the Lead

It is no secret that when there are sports that are being played, people betting on games is not too far away. It is in our nature to wager on these sorts of events. Consider how people that play billiards or bowling in their spare time play one another for money. There are very few things that we as human beings would not bet on. Whether it is a horse at a track, dice on the street, or chance at a casino, we love the thrill of winning. That is why gambling has always been on the pulse of our favorite professional sports. Whether it is through spreads in Vegas or assessing how big a favorite or underdog is, we are aware of the wagering element in the sports that we love.

The difference today is that we live in a world where the sports leagues have embraced…