Just a reminder that I'm writing in two places nowaday - for theatre and other life updates, visit johnhartness.com.
So now that the final table of the World Series of Poker is set, the future of poker is in the hands of ESPN and how they can build hype, momentum and interest in a group of people that at first blush, aren't terribly interesting. Unless you're Julius Goat, and a close personal friend of each and every member of the November Nine, that is. Brilliant, Goat, just brilliant.
So what we have at first look is six PokerStars qualifiers, no incredibly young kids, no incredibly old dudes, no hot chicks, no big names and no one that has career cashes totaling more than 9th-place money. This is gonna take some work to build interest. ESPN has its work cut out for them making an audience care about these nine players. Maybe they can drag out a sick parent, handicapped child, retarded brother locked in a basement or penchant for killing cats in the backyard.
Really, the best thing that could happen for ESPN is for one of them to trot out a terminally ill kid between now and the Final Table. You know, a Tiny Tim type that braveley hangs on to watch Daddy win $9 million to pay for an experiment spine transplant, but just as his dad buts the last bad beat on the villian of the story, the little buggers' rectum ruptures explosively, taking out a whole wing of the hospital, killing two dozen nurses and seventeen Nobel Prize winning research physicians.
That would drum up some viewer interest.
Now it'll be interesting to watch the casting of this final table drama. You can't have all heroes. Somebody's gotta be the bad guy, and ESPN has 4 months to figure out who that will be. It can't be the short stack - because the bad guy has to have an edge. Maybe the guy in the hat who has the chip lead? He has the big stack, so he could be portrayed as a steely-eyed bully. Maybe David Rheem, the lone "pro" left in the field? He theoretically has the experience edge, with more lifetime cashes than anyone else. Not that anyone knew him before this, so it'll be tough to make a David if he's your Goliath. Maybe the producers just pick someone to make look stupid. And you know they can and will edit footage to create their heroes and villians. They won't have too much time to do so between the final table and the air dates, but let's hope they choose wisely in their selections before the final table hits the air and their chosen one doesn't get bounced in the first few orbits.
Although that would be funny enough to be worth it.