Monday, July 24, 2006

If I told you how many hands of poker I've played this past week, you wouldn't believe me. I guess you could call it a 'sense of urgency'.

I've fielded a couple calls and emails on this pending poker legislation, and I hate to admit it, but I'm very cynical about the whole thing. I'm expecting every morning to wake up and discover that my livelihood is now illegal. Surreal.

I'll say one thing - if this bill does somehow pass in the Senate, I'm immediately starting a new blog dedicated to workarounds and such.

Bleh. I'm contemplating an uber but will prolly end up ramming and jamming on the poker tables. Gotta try and make a living while the aquarium is stocked full.

For now, if you haven't seen the video of Otis eating two Keno crayons for several hundred bucks, you must go watch it this moment. Props to Dr. Pauly, always the epicenter of good, clean fun.

Here's a fine TV rant that I found amusing to hold you over.


Poker, dominoes, darts: sad commentary on the TV sporting public

ESPN dedicated a two-hour block of programming Tuesday night to the World Series of Darts and World Series of Poker.

It begs one question: How long must viewers wait for the World Series of Twister?

Picture Stuart Scott twirling the spinner and breathlessly barking out: Left hand, red. Right foot, blue. Imagine Chris Berman calling the action: "Look at Eugene Pennypacker, a daredevil of dexterity, as he reaches with both hands over his opponent and arches his back, back, back."

At least with Twister someone would have the potential to pop a hamstring. You could watch hours of poker and darts and not see a competitor break as much as a sweat.

Poker. Darts. Dominoes. What has our sports nation allowed itself to become?

We used to watch sports programming to see well-conditioned athletes. Now, we watch it to see people who look a lot like us. Flabby. Skinny. Pasty. Ordinary. Competitors who prepare for the next day's event by downing a six pack of Heineken and a tray full of cheese nachos.

The networks are lowering the bar, and we're flocking to the front of the limbo line.

The popularity of televised poker is more troubling to me than the New York Yankees' payroll or LeBron James' decision to accept a shorter contract. Poker is not a sport, yet its stars - Chris Moneymaker, Chris "Jesus" Furgeson, Doyle Brunson - are more recognizable than those of modern track and field.

A sad commentary.

Hey, I'm all for variety. I grew up with Wide World of Sports. Every Saturday afternoon I tuned in waiting to see where ABC had dispatched Bob Beattie.

Cliff diving from Acapulco. Barrel jumping from Helsinki. Arm wrestling from Petaluma, Calif. (Where else can you hear the phrase, "Put the strap on," and not feel a little guilty about watching?)

No matter how bizarre or obscure the event, the Wide World offerings had a common thread: They required some sort of athletic prowess. It's why I watch the X Games, chuckle at the World's Strongest Man competitions and tolerate basketball's bastardized Streetball concept.

These guys break a sweat without the aid of studio lighting.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I confess an affinity for one-day annual events such as the Scripps Howard National Spelling Bee and Nathan's Famous hot dog eating contest.

When I watch Joey Chestnut's body begin to quiver on Wiener No. 41, I feel empathy for his plight to unseat the dynastic Kobayashi. When I watch the World Series of Poker, I feel a greater appreciation for the athletic abilities of NASCAR drivers and bowlers.

I never would have thought that possible.

Before the explosion of cable television, activities such as poker, dominoes and darts would have been lucky to bump competitive log rolling out of the CBS Sports Spectacular lineup. With so many networks and so many programming hours to fill, however, it seems no activity is too ridiculous to televise.

ESPN executives realize they can only show so many reruns of SportsCenter and Baseball Tonight. The network deserves applause for its promotion of World Cup soccer and its championing of women's sports (World Cup of Softball).

It wouldn't be peddling dominoes and darts if not for the ratings success of poker. There's no legislating against bad taste in television viewing.

There's also no law against poking fun at it.

Once upon a time you needed superior athletic talent or a willingness to risk bodily harm to appear on national sports TV. Nowadays, all you need is a catchy nickname and enough money for the original entry fee.

To those fans, I say enjoy your celebrations of the ordinary. Just don't ask me to watch.

I'd rather swan-dive from the cliffs of Acapulco.

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