January 12, 2005

Tilt, Bankrolls, and Moons

  • As a poker-crazed degenerate who has been known to watch replays of World Series of Poker episodes I've already seen 100 times on ESPN2 over a live football or basketball game on another channel, I am actually pretty intrigued by ESPN's new show, Tilt, which premieres tomorrow night.

    However, my gut feeling is that the show is going to be disappointing. ESPN also produced Playmakers, which while a semi-watchable show, sensationalized nearly every conceivable aspect of the NFL. Guys were failing drug tests, smoking crack at halftime, beating their wives, concealing the fact that they were gay, hitting on the owner's daughter, and getting into fights with coaches -- and that was all within the first 15 minutes of the first episode.

    I had no problem with the show because it was strangely entertaining for short bursts, but if ESPN tries to do something similar in their portrayal of the poker world, I have a feeling it'll be a huge mess. On the other hand, who knows? I like Michael Madsen and the guys behind the show are the same ones who made Rounders, which is one of my favorite movies. Plus, any show with Frank Sobotka in it can't be all bad. I just hope ESPN can resist the urge to sensationalize every single bit of their topic for once.

  • Speaking of poker ... my online bankroll peaked about two weeks ago, at which point I was just short of thinking I was ready to compete in the WSOP. Well, poker has a funny way of showing you just how unready you are. Over the last two weeks, I have been on such an incredible losing streak that I am at the point of dreading logging onto to Party Poker to play again. About 15% of my bankroll has been wiped away, after it took me about six months to build it up.

    The worst thing about the losing streak isn't the money I've lost -- my bankroll is still pretty good and it was all winnings anyway -- but the fact that I have now realized I am not a good enough poker player to make major changes in my game when I go through a tough stretch like this. I mean, I have a general idea of why I've been losing lately, but I am not at the level where I can step back, point to a couple things I need to change immediately, make the adjustments, and then go back to the tables and start winning again.

    Imagine a great pitcher who had an incredible first half and then had 4-5 awful starts in a row to begin the second half. Now imagine he can't really explain why he's been struggling. I bet he'd tell you that's what scares him more than actually losing a few games.

  • You know you're a little too into your fantasy teams when you cancel all plans and consider the day a success by 10 in the morning because you completed a trade for Tim Duncan. Seriously, I had all sorts of optimistic plans for last Friday afternoon, but the Duncan trade offer was in my mailbox when I woke up, I looked over the numbers of the players involved while I still had sleep in my eye, pulled the trigger on the deal, and then wiped out the rest of the day's schedule immediately. The day da Vinci completed the Mona Lisa, I bet he didn't go out grocery shopping.
  • I suppose I'll close today's entry with a few words about Randy Moss and his now famous "mooning" incident. First of all, what he did does not offend me at all, mostly because he didn't actually do anything -- his uniform stayed on, no skin was exposed, and it lasted all of two seconds. I didn't find it offensive, obscene, disgusting or any of the other strong words being tossed around. I suspect most of the people who do have a major problem with Moss' actions on Sunday are probably the same people who responded to my anti-FCC entry a while back with all sorts of great things to say about government censorship.

    And before you all e-mail me using the "what about the kids?" argument -- which is the #1 thing people bring up in a situation like this -- let me say that I have three young cousins who I am very close to and love very much. They are all great kids, they all do extremely well in school, they all have active social lives, and they all appear headed for extremely enjoyable and successful existences. And not one of them is scarred by the fact that a football player pretended to moon people. He didn't kill, he didn't injure, he didn't rape, he didn't get drunk and go driving -- he pretended to show his butt. And I use "pretended" in the loosest of terms, because clearly Moss doesn't have much of a future as a mime.

    There are plenty of things to pick on Moss about without making what he did Sunday a headline story across the country. Also, I am sick of the media trying to create a story, rather than trying to cover a story. As ESPN.com Page 3's Paul Katcher pointed out on his blog yesterday, the amount of hypocrisy involved in the coverage of Moss' actions by ESPN and FOX is startling.

    ESPN initially wouldn't show the clip, and Chris Berman and company had incredibly harsh things to say about Moss. Remember, this is the same network that produced the aforemorementioned Playmakers, which showed semi-clothed people having sex, smoking crack, and fighting each other (and worse, probably, but I didn't see most of the episodes). FOX wouldn't show the clip and their pre-game, halftime, in-game, and post-game coverage was devoted to telling the world what a horrible person Moss was. Remember, this is the same network that produced reality shows about women competing to marry millionaires they've never met, daughters trying to guess who their real fathers are, and much, much more.

    Just to be clear, I don't object in any way to any of the things ESPN and FOX have shown in the past. I object to the fact that they act like they are above showing such things when it makes a story more sensational. I was watching the Vikings/Packers game live on FOX. When I saw Moss' touchdown celebration, the first thing I thought of was not that it was offensive or that he was a terrible person. No, the first thing I thought of was that I was now going to have to be subjected to intense media coverage of the non-incident for the next week.

    Joe Buck, who was announcing the game for FOX, immediately called the celebration "classless" and "disgusting." I disagree, but even more than that I think it's worth noting that Buck is the guy who appeared in a series of beer commercials with a fictional character named "Leon" who portrayed the stereotypical view of athletes like Moss. Then later, during a World Series broadcast Buck was announcing, Leon was planted in the audience and interviewed for an extended period of time, during the game. I'll take Moss pretending to do something that isn't even all that horrible for two seconds over having FOX cram product placement down my throat any day of the week.

    What Moss did on Sunday is catch two touchdowns and help the Vikings win a playoff game. The idea that one of his touchdown celebrations has led to any sort of public uproar is far more disturbing than anything he did or pretended to do. Beyond that, the idea that whatever public uproar he caused is anywhere close to the level suggested by the media is at best ridiculous and at worst outright false. For all the outraged members of the media screaming bloody murder, the results of ESPN.com's own poll on Moss that generated tens of thousands of responses shows a completely different story.

    - 58.3% described what Moss did as "funny."

    - 87.2% said they were more interested in the outcome of the game than anything Moss did.

    - 53.8% said Moss should not have been fined by the NFL.

    - 73.8% said they wished the media would "quit talking about" the incident.

    - 67.4% said Moss is "good for the NFL."

    Similar to the "national outrage" portrayed by the media in the case of the FCC crackdowns on "indecency" that have been taking place since last year's Super Bowl, the actual people outraged are in the minority, yet they are given a disproportionately loud voice. It's a shame, because there are an awful lot of people in this country -- men, women, and children -- who can see something like what Moss did on Sunday and simply go on with their lives.

  • Today at The Hardball Times:

    - Team Bullpens (by Studes)

    - Rivals in Exile: Everybody Was Wrong (by Ben Jacobs and Larry Mahnken)

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