mm462: Impervious to the Olympics

August 8, 2008

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© Claudio Negri | Dreamstime.com

MUDGE’s Musings

Long ago, yr (justifiably) humble svt was quite the sports fan. Some of this was genetic; my long-deceased father was a baseball fan, first and foremost; during his prime he was pleased to have season’s tickets for both Chicago ball clubs.

His oldest son is more of a fair weather fan. And the weather thus far this season has been quite fair, thank you very much, on both the North and South sides of town, although all such observations are via television or Internet; stadium tickets, parking, refreshments are luxury goods.

Professional and college football I find more compelling; even though I never have been at all athletic, the large size of football players fits my self image better, I think. Those seasons are just about to begin; it’s been a long several months football-free drought. But, interest is vicarious; the past two seasons, courtesy of my Naval Academy children, I have actually attended a couple of live college games, but it’s been 30 years or more since I’ve attended a professional contest.

For many years, I was a happy subscriber to Sports Illustrated, and a voracious consumer of televised sports of all kinds, although until the past few years penury deprived me of many years of ESPN.

And, every four years, and lately, since the Winter and Summer games have been split, every two years, I was a consumer of televised Olympics.

A fellow denizen of BlogExplosion.com, michiganrafter, much more into things athletic (and commercial) than am I, had a listing the other day of the Top Ten Olympic Moments, and I could recall and concur with all of his choices.

That was then. It’s no accident, I think, that most of his top 10 occurred at least 20, and some more than 30, years ago.

Sport has changed.

Read the rest of this entry »

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mm234: Poker — International Pastime

December 27, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

Among the long-form year-end articles in this week’s edition of the best magazine on the planet, The Economist was a truly unexpected one.

Not the one by the intrepid reporter (an old-school publication, authors of Economist stories are anonymous) who spent a week in a squalid slum in Mumbai squalid is far too tame a description.

Not the short, but compelling in its implications, observation of the looming shortages and price increases for that major food group for so many Americans, beer, as highlighted in our previous post.

No, the eye-opener was a lengthy view of tournament poker, pegged to the recent £1million win in the first World Series of Poker (WSOP) competition held outside of the U.S., in London, Economist’s home town, by a 19-year-old Norwegian woman, Annette Obrestad.

The contrast is with the ultimate symbol of poker’s old guard, the giant Doyle Texas Dolly” Brunson, still playing and occasionally winning tournaments in his 70s, and the man whose books have taught two generations of players.

Poker is a very big deal these days, and the emergence of youngsters such as Annette Obrestad is startling (19 years old! a woman!) only if you haven’t been following the trend, as you can see:

pokerdollyannette

economist

A big deal

Dec 19th 2007 | Poker is getting younger, cleverer, duller and much, much richer

DOYLE BRUNSON (above, left) is a poker legend. Twice winner of the game’s most prestigious annual tournament, the World Series of Poker (WSOP), held in Las Vegas, the cowboy-hat-clad southerner affectionately known as Texas Dolly also wrote what many consider to be the bible of poker theory, “Super System: A Course in Power Poker”. His reputation among card-shufflers borders on the superhuman. Indeed, after fighting off supposedly terminal cancer in the 1960s, he celebrated his return to the cardrooms with 53 straight wins. Adding to the mystique, both of his World Series titles were won with exactly the same cards: a full house of tens over twos.

Now in his mid-70s, Mr Brunson is still going strong. But not strong enough for Annette Obrestad (above, right), who beat the old master and 361 other entrants in September to win the first ever WSOP event held outside America. Miss Obrestad’s victory, which netted her £1m ($2m), shows how much poker has changed since the days when Texas Dolly, Amarillo Slim Preston and Jack “Treetops” Straus held sway. She is only 19 (making her the youngest ever winner of a World Series bracelet) and she is, of course, a woman. She hails from Norway, not Nevada. And though she had previously won over $800,000 in internet tournaments, the event at London’s Empire Casino was the first time she had encountered serious opposition in the flesh. The poker press refers to her by her online moniker, annette_15.

Two factors have produced the wave of amateur players and winners such as annette_15: on-line poker gaming sites such as Full Tilt Poker and PokerStars; and television, through its broadcasts of such programming as the WSOP on ESPN, and the made for television World Poker Tour on the Travel channel, which The Economist says have made poker

… the third most watched sport on cable television in the United States, after car racing and American football, trumping even NBA basketball. In America, it is regularly aired on ESPN and the Travel Channel, while Britain has its own poker channel. ESPN’s World Series shows regularly get more than 1m viewers, and numbers hold up well even during the busiest sports periods, such as during the major-league baseball play-offs and the NASCAR motorsports season.

So, now we can understand why the poker phenomenon has left the back alley and penetrated the main stream: it’s the money. And the kids, learning on-line, have followed the money.

Poker professionals are fond of describing Texas Hold ’Em, the tournament game of choice, as taking five minutes to learn to play, and a lifetime to master. Television, and especially the on-line sites, have compressed that equation.

The story is pursued into academia (which also has a talent for following the money) and spends time illuminating the debate: luck, or skill?

This of course leads to the hot discussion in the U.S. regarding on-line gambling sites, chased off-shore and still under attack by anti-gambling forces, who somehow have managed to grandfather in horse racing, fantasy sports and lotteries.

This last is right-wing hypocrisy at its typical best. Your pastime is a vice which we will endeavor to prohibit unto the last righteous breath in our body; mine is good, clean, re-election campaign contributing fun.

Altogether a fascinating story.

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

Poker | A big deal | Economist.com

MUDGE has played the game with family and friends for over 40 years, mainly poorly. I’ve read some books; have a primitive Texas Hold ’Em PC game where I waste some time; even for a while dared to venture on line, but always for play money, not real.

The one and only time I found myself in Las Vegas I was attending a computer conference on my employer’s dime, thank you very much.

It was more than seven years ago, before the game’s recent explosive glamorization, and while I had no difficulty avoiding Venetian’s slot machines, the dice and blackjack tables, but its and Bellagio’s poker rooms were a magnet I couldn’t resist.

Should have. Gambling with strangers, even at the $3/$6 table, is dangerous for this particular player, and figuring odds and especially the whole psychology thing (especially trying to read the craggy locals who I’m guessing make nice unreported supplements to social security off of fish like me) is apparently way over my head.

All told, it was about a $300 lesson, that included one winning session that somehow has remained clear while the other stuff has faded into obscurity in my memory.

So I’ve never been tempted to return to Vegas, even in this age of big money and cheap entries to tournaments for amateurs via the on-line qualifiers.

But, like so many of life’s experiences, I like to watch.

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE

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mm184: Navy 46 — Notre Dame 44!

November 3, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

Military weekend part two:

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) — It’s over. After 44 years and three overtimes.

Navy finally beat Notre Dame 46-44 in triple overtime on Saturday, ending the Fighting Irish’s NCAA-record winning streak against the Midshipmen at 43 games.

We were there! Former Lieutenant MUDGElet No. 2, USNA ’96; former Lieutenant (now Mrs.) MUDGElet No. 2a, USNA ’97, and proud dad.

What a scene! What an exciting game! The true, classic college football fall afternoon, sunny, 55° at kickoff, a blue sky only full of Goodyear, the 80,000 seat stadium only a bit changed from the 20s, the fans, the bands, the leprechaun, the cheerleaders, and two football teams. Notre Dame, 120 proud years of football history, a winner over Navy for 43 straight years (a record), since the storied days of Roger Staubach. Navy, equally proud, but not often in ND’s league, though always their equal, or better, in heart and fight.

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

ESPN – Notre Dame’s NCAA-record 43-game win streak over Navy ends – NCAA College Football Recap

For 43 years, that Navy pride hasn’t been enough. Today, catching an Irish team nosediving through a one-win season, the heart, the fight, and the chops were all there, and five-thousand visiting Navy fans were privileged to see it happen, all 60 minutes of regulation and three, count ’em, three overtime periods worth.

footballhero

A classic day for this lifelong football, and near-lifelong Navy football fan.

Kaipo-Noa Kaheaku-Enhada, the ecstatic individual pictured at the right, is Navy’s quarterback, so in addition to his athletic prowess, he’s a student at one of the most demanding institutions of higher education in the U.S., Unlike most highly qualified college football players, he knows that even if he dreams of an after-college future playing on the professional level, he knows that, like Roger Staubach and David Robinson and many other standouts before him, any professional athletic career will only begin after he concludes his career as an officer in the United States Navy.

College student, accomplished athlete, dedicated patriot. What’s not to love about an institution filled with them?

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE