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I am clueless. I am about as plugged in as an Amish toaster. Not only do I not know what's up, I would need a GPS and two sherpas to find up.
This became clear the other day when I heard my fairly athletic 17-year-old son on the phone, trying to "get a bunch of players" together. And he said how "the game yesterday was sick!" And how he was working on his "reads," needed "a really good kicker" and "wouldn't it be cool to get on ESPN someday?"
And I thought to myself, Hey, that's great! He and his schoolmates are playing some backyard football!
Wrong. He and his schoolmates are playing Texas Hold 'Em in the basement. He and his schoolmates and what seems like half the formerly sane world have been sucked into the televised poker craze. Do you realize that the 2004 World Series of Poker drew bigger ratings on ESPN than the first two games of the last Stanley Cup finals? And by one website's estimate, $100 million is bet on poker every day online?
So I started watching. And I came to this startling conclusion: This poker craze is the biggest waste of time since Stevie Wonder went to a mime festival. From what I can tell, it seems to be a lot of people who sit in dark rooms and watch a lot of other people sit in those windowless rooms wearing sunglasses.
I haven't seen this many doughy people since the Krispy Kreme company picnic. Do they tan under 40-watt bulbs? Where is the thrill in watching guys with 300 cholesterol levels play cards and rattle their chip stacks 1,000 different ways? The current World Series of Poker champ, Greg (Fossilman) Raymer, wears back-of-the-comic-book gag glasses and gemstone necklaces and goes about 275 pounds, though a good 3% of that is muscle.
Now Bravo has a hit with Celebrity Poker Showdown, featuring celebs like Carrie Fisher saying breathlessly to Mimi Rogers, "I'm all in!" You know your sport is smokin' when you can get Carrie Fisher.
I hear what you're saying. You baboon. You don't have the foggiest idea what it takes to play world-class poker. It's cerebral. It's psychological. It requires patience, aggression and brains.
Really? Is that why a guy named Chris Moneymaker won the 2003 World Series of Poker after having played the game on the Internet for three years? Or why actor Ben Affleck won a major open poker tournament this year? Can you imagine somebody taking up basketball three years ago and suddenly becoming the leading scorer in the NBA? Or Affleck winning the Buick Open?
Yet teens hold up these pasty poker pudges as gods. I never hear them talk about Tiger Woods or Kevin Garnett anymore. They talk about Chris (Jesus) Ferguson and Phil (the Unabomber) Laak, who peers out from under a sweatshirt hood for the whole game, shadowboxes during hands and kneels behind the dealer as the last two cards are turned. Maybe he should pray. God: "Look, let's put the whole Fallujah thing on hold. I need to make sure Phil gets a six here."