Bradley Cooper Uninvited From NFL Network's Thanksgiving Special

NFL Network has scrapped an interview with actor Bradley Cooper from the “Rich Eisen Thanksgiving Special,” because a character in his current movie, “Silver Linings Playbook,” is a part-time bookie.

Just when you thought it was a safe bet that you would be able to watch an interview with Bradley Cooper on the “Rich Eisen Thanksgiving Special” on NFL Network, the league that operates the channel flips the script.

Just hours before the actor was scheduled to headline a video version of the NFLN anchor’s popular podcast – a special hour-long edition airing the Friday after Thanksgiving – the league announced that the interview with Cooper would be purged from the program, because a character on the movie that Cooper is promoting, “Silver Linings Playbook,” which opened in select theaters on Wednesday due to the holiday weekend, portrays a bookie.

“The segment was pulled because the movie included content related to gambling on NFL games,” a league representative informed the New York Post, which first broke the story in the early morning hours of Black Friday.

The questionable character in question, played by Robert De Niro, is the father of Cooper’s character in the film produced by Harvey Weinstein, who called the league’s sudden change of heart “nothing short of censorship.

“We are quite frankly surprised,” he said, adding that the plot of the movie revolves around “fathers and sons and football bonding a family together… It is not a film about gambling in the NFL.”

The league has had a hard stance on gambling. This past summer, the NFL cracked down on Shannon Eastin, who would become the first female referee in the league, albeit as a result of the infamous replacement referee strike, because of her past participation in the World Series of Poker.

Yet, the league still permitted her to ref a few preseason games as well as some regular season games before the NFL finally struck a new deal with the regular refs.

It’s bad enough that the whole replacement ref period was much maligned from the getgo. For the league to punt an interview with an actor promoting a movie in which he plays the son of a part-time bookie, that is pure hypocrisy on the NFL’s part.

Here’s another example: Last summer, there was a report that about two dozen NFL players, including Jets wideout Santonio Holmes, had funded a now-defunct casino in Alabama.

Fast forward to this summer, and Santonio Holmes is appearing on NFL Network.

So a player who was linked to a casino investment venture is free to roam on NFLN’s airwaves, but an actor who is not even playing a fictitious bookie is bad news?

The NFL can’t have it both ways.

And so, if you tune into the “Rich Eisen Thanksgiving Special,” you won’t watch Eisen’s previously promoted chat with Bradley Cooper.

Ditto if you download the audio version of Eisen’s podcast – which, by the way, bears the slogan: “Get Rich Quick.”

Give me a break.

EDIT: I rarely update posts with reader comments, but Kevin brings up an excellent point via Facebook that I failed to think of, despite its ubiquity in 21st century football: “How about every network pregame show (including NFL Network) having some “fantasy guru” schmuck on to tell you who to activate. Isn’t fantasy football gambling?”

Indeed, there are some variations of fantasy football that involve money (e.g. premium leagues and some “keeper” leagues). But the most popular and most desired forms of fantasy football are free leagues. You hear everybody from ESPN to CBS Sports to Fox Sports promote “free” leagues to join. The most popular of them all, Yahoo, experienced a technical outage a couple of weeks ago that sent some fantasy players into a tizzy. But the one thing to keep in mind is that some, if not all, of  the aforementioned entities also offer “money leagues” in which entrance fees are involved.

As you know, NFL.com also offers fantasy football games – including one geared toward kids! Alas, I cannot find any premium leagues on their website. So the league is in the clear there.

And since fantasy football is so mundane, all of the aforementioned entities do provide their own “fantasy experts” advising you who to start and who to bench, as well as your “sleepers.” Enabling such activity may promote gambling, but the league will direct you to the official definition of “fantasy football”: A football competition with imaginary teams which the participants own, manage or coach, and with the games based on statistics generated by actual players or teams of a professional sport.

See? Not one reference to “gambling.”

And don’t even get me started on NFL.com’s “fantasy guru.” Michelle Beisner is such a better fantasy football expert than their resident “guru” Michael Fabiano, it ain’t even funny. He once anointed Oakland Raiders wide receiver Denarius Moore as a “best value player” on a week in which he only mustered one measly reception for seven yards. In that same week, he liked Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo in the game against the Cleveland Browns – a game that saw their rookie quarterback, Brandon Weeden, toss more touchdown passes than Romo. However, I’ve noticed that lately, Beisner has been somewhat sparing with her own fantasy advice, even being so coy as to not even provide any legitimate advice at all. And if you’re one of the nearly 40,000 followers on Beisner’s Twitter account, you know that she literally gave away fantasy advice like candy, up until the end of October. Since then, she only offered one iota of fantasy advice for the entire month of November – start Joe Flacco vs. the Raiders over Ryan Pitzpatrick vs. the Patriots; Flacco ended up getting twice as many all-purpose touchdowns than Fitzpatrick on that day. I wonder if Michael Fabiano complained to the league and requested to put a muzzle on the inner fantasy football expert in Michelle Beisner.

Anyway, to answer your question, Kevin, fantasy football is not gambling – unless you depend on the advice of one Michael Fabiano.

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