Bad Beats Really Is the Perfect Segment


As sports gambling has exploded to a point where it feels like it can't explode anymore without doing irreparable harm to the atmosphere, it's worth pausing to consider how incredibly Scott Van Pelt's Bad Beats segment has aged through the years. The late-night SportsCenter host, with the help of trusted confidant Stanford Steve, debuted a new batch of regrettable plays last night, which I happened to catch live even as sleep was waging the open stages of a successful battle. And just like every other time, the duo kept me locked in until the last of the bunch. Because much like ad wizards at Pringles want you to believe, once you pop into some Bad Beats, you can't stop. The segment's ability to rack up time on site or in front of a television is reliable and honestly under-appreciated for a very simply reason.

Bad Beats has ascended to a level previously reached by Frisbee or Kleenex. It's cornered the market on a term. A bad beat is any unfortunate gambling occurrence. But when you say bad beat, there's only one piece of media that comes to mind. If that was always the plan, then there's brilliance at play.

Even if that's been a happy accident, there's nothing accidental about the pitch-perfect tone and tenor every edition achieves. It's a mix of incredulity, frustration, helplessness, sardonic humor, and acceptance. It speaks in authentic vernacular and the viewer really believes that Van Pelt and Stanford Steve have ridden the roller coaster of emotions a bad beat brings many times before and they'll ride it again. It captures the highs and lows of having financial interest in a game and brings it to life.

All of this is a long way of saying that I've never regretted the minutes spent diving into the week's horrific gambling maladies. Just like I've never failed to stick around until the very end to see what's coming next. By those simple metrics, Bad Beats is flying in rarefied air.