Friday, August 25, 2006

The Tribe Has Spoken....

The word is out. In the latest edition of Survivor, the tribes are going to be separated according to race. This is causing quite an uproar. Those involved with the show have been asked if this is simply a publicity stunt.

Of course it's a publicity stunt. The whole point of reality t.v. is that it is one giant publicity stunt. But as with most things, this one isn't going to live up to the hype. Here's why.

1. They're all American.

While of course race distinctions exist in the United States, these people are still all Americans, with a common language and a common culture. If you really want some fireworks, get a tribe of Communist Chinese, a tribe of Iraqi Shiites, a tribe of Taliban, and a tribe of Bush supporters, none of whom speak the same language. Then you'll see some serious action.

2. It won't last.

The way this game works these days is that tribes are mixed up and merged at a moment's notice. Tribes that have been separated according to age or gender have only remained segregated for a few episodes at least. These tribes may last a bit longer but by the time it gets really good, the tribes will probably not be recognizable as "racial tribes."

3. Survivor is racist already.

If you've ever seen Survivor, black contestants are inevitably portrayed as lazy, petulant, non team players who can't swim. Throw in an occasional Zen master or female participant who can't stop using sex to get what she wants, and you've got all the elements for a nice stereotype stew. With tribes evenly divided according to race, every group should have a lazy player, an overachiever, a sexpot, etc. and race should be much LESS of a factor than in earlier games.

So although I'm hoping for an exciting season, I'm not too worried about this new element. After all, when you're a native insect at a reward challenge, one human mouth is as unpleasant as any other.

Friday, August 11, 2006

All That Glitters Is Gold

Jamie Gold is the 2006 World Series of Poker Champion. This fact continues a somewhat eerie 21st Century tradition, as the last four WSOP champions have now been named Gold, Moneymaker, Hachem (a Hebrew word for The Almighty), and Raymer (German for "clearer" or "cleaner" as in, "cleaning you out"). If your name is not Joe Silver or Tommy Cash, you probably should not even consider entering next year.

Gold took a massive chip lead to the final table, making for what I suspect will have been a typical Pay Per View event, that is to say, massively overhyped, ultimately disappointing and of only marginal interest. My personal rooting interest was for David Einhorn, who pledged if he won to give the 12 million dollar first prize to charity. This is a good way for any poker player to get me on their side. If I can't get that 12 million, I would much rather have Parkinson's researchers get it than some smart-assed 23 year old kid with a good Internet connection on a lucky streak, or some loud mouthed egomaniac who overrates his own talent and/or bad luck by leaps and bounds. Still, I have no reason to hate Jamie Gold just yet, he seems to be a self made success with little pretention. Then again, I reserve judgment until I see him in the flesh on ESPN.

The biggest surprise for me was the appearance of Allen Cunningham at the final table. Not because I think he lacks talent, he is an enormously gifted tournament player, but because he clearly has it. I was so sure that with the stacks of weak players willing to put their tournament lives on the line the first time they get a nine high flush draw going crashing into each other, the donkeys would generate such enormous chip counts that pros playing proper strategy would not be able to keep up. For the most part, I was right, however, Cunningham could easily have proven me wrong. I guess pros can get lucky too.

What will be interesting now will be to see what is next. Gold seems to be a rising star in Hollywood. Will he put this victory on the shelf as a treasured but tangential moment, or will he toss aside his Hollywood aspirations for the poker tour? Will he go the other way, using his WSOP victory as fuel for his Hollywood cache? And what will his legacy be? Chris Moneymaker seems to have fulfilled his promise as an amateur who got lucky, financing his poker career with his PokerStars sponsorship, but Greg Raymer and Joe Hachem have already proven worthy to be among the ranks of professionals. Will Gold shine as WSOP champ, or will he be a flash in the pan? Time will tell.