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Poker News: September 10th, 2010

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Copyright © Chronicle Journal

HEADLINE: Poker is not a sport

I have a question, and a wish, for television execs, the CRTC, or anyone who hands out licenses, allots specialty channels or those who influence the business of television programming. 

No, I‘m not complaining about reruns of Two and a Half Men, Seinfeld or King of Queens, to the point there are people I know who can actually lip-sync almost any episode. I don‘t care that reality TV isn‘t real except to the gullible, nor the fact it‘s not news when Lindsay Lohan‘s latest court appearance is simply a bail hearing. 

Further, I‘m not even griping about the sudden disappearance of the Blue Jays, a hi-def decision made by the people who actually own the team. For them, the Jays not being playoff bound and while drawing less than 10,000 through the turnstiles with alarming regularity, it was simply a good time to test the waters. Meaning, the executive lumps at Rogers decreed a new, secluded, specialty channel was where their team could be found. What better way to irritate and anger their dwindling fan base, right? 

I‘ll never complain about soaps. Whether it be Young and the Restless, the Bold and the Beautiful or Lax & Lascivious, soap operas have always had the smarts to stake out weekday afternoons, thereby inconveniencing no one in particular. 

My question for sports network powers-that-be is this. Exactly when did poker become a sport? 

Seems to me it wouldn‘t be a stretch to lay the blame at Gary Bettman‘s feet. Why not, he‘s blamed for most shortcomings in Canada. Back in 2005 when he and his 30 fiefdoms pulled the rip-cord on an entire NHL season, the poor souls in charge of life support for the TV business looked under every rock in their frantic search for something, anything, to fill dead air. 

Remember those hockey-less times with Aussie Rules Football, Ziss-Boom-Ba Cheerleading eliminations, Darts ‘R Us, Prime Time Wrestling, Doggie Obstacle Course, and Double-Dutch Skipping from New York. 

It wasn‘t just a lucky lockout that coincided with the proliferation of Texas Hold ‘Em programming. Poker filled a sinkhole. Even NHL players, the ones not in Europe playing for Euros, were participating in regularly scheduled poker tournaments. There were sessions devoted to inveterate, pro gamblers, who had reached star status in Las Vegas. 

Inevitably, after the lockout faded into history, poker remained on the sports networks. Why? Why not? It brought in money. 
Unfortunately, now it‘s considered regular sports programming. Which begs the question, if poker is in, what does sports television have for us in the future. 

This isn‘t the time to be concocting cute pastimes like Blackjack PHD, Five Card Studs or Three Card 333. But it may be time to draw a line in the sand for TV providers. 

Poker is not a sport. Poker, more often than not, is just a no-fault, buyer-beware way to lose your shirt, blow the grocery money, miss your rent, submarine the vacation and upset your family. 
There are those who will say hold on, the government thinks it‘s OK, as if what governments will do to keep afloat is any standard for propriety. Can you say PRO-LINE? Or Lotto? 

Sure, its understood we can vote with our remotes. And we‘d be better off with poker being private business between you and your service provider. But don‘t try to categorize poker as sport. 
To the television decision makers, if the poker business wants to advertise, not a problem, but don‘t try repainting the game, or the lifestyle, as a sport. It‘s hurt too many people, and in my time, I‘ve personally known a few. 

It‘s tough enough for young people and families to play close to the vest with a credit card, never mind fifty two. Promoting gambling on TV with the goal of increasing profits is nothing for sports networks to be proud of, because I‘ll say it again. Poker is not a sport. 

Don‘t pretend it is. 

Ross Brewitt is a hockey columnist and author from Guelph who appears Fridays. You can contact him at 

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Article downloaded from the World Wide Web on September 10th, 2010

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