Saturday, September 27, 2003
Chris Moneymaker isn't your typical sports icon.
In fact, I had never heard of the 27-year-old and probably never would have if not for ESPN2. That's where I discovered the World Series of Poker last summer while searching for something interesting to watch on television.
When I flip the channel to ESPN, I expect to see the latest baseball, football or hockey highlights, or even golf. I never dreamed that I would be watching poker on a major sports TV station.
Since when did a bunch of guys sitting around a table acting like they are smoking cigars and cigarettes (it's against the rules to actually light up) become a sporting event?
Surely the programmers at ESPN could find something better to air than poker. Isn't they could air out there in which the athletes break a sweat, or at least have to get out of a chair?
Thank goodness for football season.
Now at least when I flip on the television, I can find a college football game, or at least a few highlights.
Has sports television really come to the point where they are forced to televise hours of poker?
But I must confess: I'm beginning to find poker intriguing.
I think there is something hypnotic about no-limit Texas Hold 'em, or at least the type of person who is willing to put up $10,000 to enter the World Series of Poker.
The players sit around the table, wearing sunglasses to hide their expressions and gambling thousands of dollars in a single shot. The idea in this game is to eliminate your opponents en route to claiming the grand prize.
There were 839 players entered in the tournament, and it took five days to crown a winner. In the end, Moneymaker eliminated Sam Farha to take home the grand prize -- and a check that made him a millionaire.
But I find it hard to buy the idea that poker can be considered a sport, despite its best efforts to look like one.
The World Series of Poker had a play-by-play announcer and some hokey analyst. The final round took place in Las Vegas back in May, but thanks to the magic of tape-delayed television, the moment Moneymaker claimed the prize could be seen on television at least once a day for most of the summer.
The program also reinforced my belief that we live in a sports-starved nation where networks will go to any length in efforts to find new viewers.
In a world where sportswriters bicker about why sports such as football and baseball are different than a card game, the line is constantly being blurred by the decisions of the people who put sports on television.
The fact is that TV shows and sports reporters will not make the final call on what is, or is not, a sport.
That will be left up to the viewers who flip on the television looking for Sports Center only to find a poker game.
It's true that Moneymaker isn't your typical sports icon -- but someday he could be.