The recent movie Uncut Gems (our review here) is focused on sports gambling, with Adam Sandler and Kevin Garnett delivering notable performances and even Mike Francesa (who missed his show for this!) appearing as a bookie. But there’s a sports media error in it, and one that’s received a fair bit of Twitter chatter since the movie’s release; at one point, Sandler’s character (Howard Ratner, a jeweler turned obsessive sports bettor) is watching a Celtics’ game on TNT, then goes to deal with his kid, returns to find his wife watching another channel, and tells her to “Put the game on ESPN.”
It turns out that DAZN’s Adnan Virk caught this while at a premiere, and he spoke to co-director Benny Safdie about it afterwards. Virk shared that story on the Dec. 11 edition of his Cadence13 Cinephile podcast. The full Uncut Gems conversation there starts there around 7:06, and involves Virk sharing a story of talking with Sandler afterwards. But the notable part about the TNT/ESPN error starts at 10:00 of the full podcast; here’s that audio clip, featuring Virk talking with producer Joseph Engelbrekt.
Virk starts with “Cool meeting Sandler, and then I go up to Benny Safdie, who Ben [Lyons, who Virk attended the premiere with] knows a little bit, the director, and I say ‘I just have one question for you. Why is it when Sandler is watching the basketball game he’s gambled on—Boston Celtics, Kevin Garnett, by the way, is in the movie—and then he goes to put his kid to bed after Idina Menzel, his wife, is yelling at him, and then he comes back, and his wife has changed the channel, and he says ‘Can you put the game back on ESPN?’ I said ‘There’s no way that game was on ESPN. It was on Turner, TNT.’ And you just see the blood drain out of Benny Safdie’s face.”
“And then Ben Lyons, because he’s the best, immediately jumps in and goes ‘Oh, just because the character’s so unhinged, he doesn’t know what channel to put the game back on.’ And the guy, Benny, is just starting at me, and I go ‘Dude, I’m 100 percent positive.’ I didn’t want to be like ‘Hey, I worked at ESPN, trust me,’ but I would know Mike Breen’s voice versus Kevin Harlan or Marv [Albert] or whoever’s calling the game. So this is the heart attack I gave one of the hottest young directors in Hollywood.”
“And he immediately pulls his phone, he’s like, ‘We’ve got to watch this right now,’ and I’m like ‘Okay.’ Time stops right now. Because just imagine, if this is wrong, he’s going to have to call A24, ‘Hey, can we get Adam Sandler to retrack, can we reshoot this scene? Just have him say ‘Can you put the game back on TNT?’ Can we ADR it, loop it in somehow?’ And by the way, I’m 1000 percent confident that I’m right, I’d put a billion dollars on it. So he’s checking his phone, someone else comes up to him and we’re like ‘Buzz off, he’s checking this phone thing,’ so he goes through it, and the look on his face, and I was like ‘I’m so sorry.'”
“And I realized in that moment that I’m a total jerk. I’ve just given this guy who’s sweated over this film for years, I wouldn’t say that I’ve ruined him, but I definitely pissed him off in that moment. But I’m a sports guy, I’m going to notice that; when he says ‘Put the game back on ESPN’ and the game’s on TNT. And the look on his face…but thankfully, again, Ben saved me, he’s like ‘Dude, whatever, the guy is losing his mind. It’s like when someone says ‘Put the game on ESPN’ and you know it’s on ABC. It’s not actually important.’ And I said ‘Of course! Benny, you’ve made a great film. Nobody’s going to notice. I’m the one guy who notices these things.'”
“So that was my moment with Benny Safdie, one of the best young directors. And even afterwards, Joe, I realized that I probably shouldn’t have done it, but I honestly was curious. I wasn’t trying to be like ‘Hey, you screwed up,’ I was trying to be like ‘Why did you do that, did anyone notice that?’ Continuity, Joe, it got to me.”
Virk and Engelbrekt discuss it a bit further from there. It’s certainly an interesting little sports error, although far from the biggest we’ve seen in a sports movie (consider the list of factual errors in Moneyball, for example, and it actually got a lot right compared to many sports movies). And it’s certainly not something that only Virk noticed, as the Twitter dialogue on this shows.
But at the same time, Lyons’ note is a fair one. There are a ton of people who don’t pay attention to what network a game is on, and who default to “put on ESPN,’ and it’s certainly conceivable that Sandler’s character would do that at this point in the movie. And at least he picked a network that also currently has NBA rights; imagine if this was “Put on NBC.” You could even argue that the Uncut Gems universe features something that many have lobbied for that will probably never actually happen; non-exclusive national broadcasts of key games, where you could pick whichever network’s announcing team you wanted. (This does sometimes happen in early playoff rounds where you can choose a local feed or a national one, but yeah, we’re probably not going to get simultaneous ESPN and TNT broadcasts in the real world.)
Still, Virk’s commentary on Safdie’s reaction illustrates that this was an error rather than an intentional choice. It doesn’t ruin Uncut Gems, as both our review and Virk’s review (available in the full podcast here) of it had significant praise for it, but it is notable that the movie got that wrong.
[Cinephile with Adnan Virk on Apple Podcasts]