Tom Ross: TV sports network goes to new lengths

Series will capture all the drama of competitive dominoes -- seriously

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April fools!

I know, I know. That was Saturday. But practical jokes were all I could think of Sunday when I glanced at the front page of the New York Times. The headline read: "After luck with poker, ESPN bets on New York dominoes."

In case you missed the story, the nation's dominant sports television network, in its never-ending quest for cheap programming, is testing the appeal of dominoes tournaments.

They have to be kidding. Dominoes is a game that requires highly skilled players to manage a slate of wooden tiles imprinted with different numbers of spots. The goal of the game is to play all of your tiles and empty your slate first by putting them down on the table one at a time. Here's the tricky part -- you can only place your tiles next to opponents' tiles with the same number of spots.

That's going to get ratings? America is going to hang on dominoes tournaments the way it hangs on American Idol?

ESPN executives seem to be convinced that all of the jovial trash talking that goes on at dominoes tournaments, and the animated way in which contestants slap their wooden tiles down on the table, is going to make great television. I've got news for them --- daylight savings time arrived during the weekend. We can come home from work and still have enough daylight remaining to go for a bike ride before dinner. Why would I plop down on the couch and watch guys with big guts play a game that 11-year-olds can master?

I must be missing something. If dominoes sharks are destined to become TV stars, I say, "Why not Candy Land professionals?"

Don't tell me you've never heard of the board game Candy Land. If you have children, or if you were ever a kid, you've played Candy Land. In fact, there's a good chance you played Candy Land until it gave you a tummy ache.

Allow me to refresh your memory. Every contestant in Candy Land is assigned a gingerbread man game piece. The goal is to move clockwise around the board by drawing cards with instructions for moving specific numbers of spaces. The first player to reach Candy Castle wins. Still with me?

Candy Land is a little more complicated than dominoes. Contestants travel a path that is fraught with danger. They could become lost in Lollipop Woods, mired in the Molasses Swamp or stuck in the Gooey Gumdrops.

Candy Land is a game that embodies all the turmoil and strife of modern life, along with the complexities of contemporary relationships. If you doubt me, try working things out with Queen Frostie or Lord Licorice. They make those scowling poker players behind their mirrored sunglasses look like Pez dispensers.

The day you read in the Times that a certain sports network owned by Disney is testing Candy Land tournaments on ESPN for Kids, you'll know they copped my idea.

But you needn't feel bad for me. I'm already in discussions with FOX about televising cribbage tournaments from my living room.

-- -To reach Tom Ross, call 871-4205, or e-mail tross@steamboatpilot.com

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