Should Poker Be An Olympic Sport?

Monday, June 28th, 2004, 2:13 pm

The Athens Games loom, and before every Olympiad there’s a push for new events to be added. Many of these sports aren’t sports, of course–how often do you see kids synchronized swimming for fun? And then you have these X-Games type sports, like mogul skiing. Who the hell got bribed to put this in? It’s hard for me to get too worked up about the sudden increase in medals the US has won in recent Winter Olympics when most of those medals were won in events that appear to have been created during the aftermath of some drunken fraternity ski party.

Don’t get me wrong–I like the X-Games. Some nut soaring 50 feet in the air on a motorcycle and doing a triple somersaut before landing is far more impressive to me than, say, a figure skater doing a sit-spin. But every year more and more weirdo games get introduced that maybe 140 people in the world actually play. And that’s just not interesting.

If I ran the International Olympic Committee…well, I’d probably be living in a chalet somewhere in Switzerland and be called “Excellency” a lot. But if I ran the IOC I would implement a few rules to keep the riff-raff games out of the Games. To wit:

— Any event that uses equipment you’d find in a 9-year-old girl’s toy chest is eliminated. This means that rhythmic gymnastics goes bye-bye. No way a gold medal should be awarded for twirling a ribbon, no matter how skillfully.

— Any event where French people get to judge the winners and loses is gone. This means all figure skating is deep-sixed. I don’t like watching skating because I don’t enjoy watching 14-year-olds compete knowing that one tiny, tiny mistake could destroy 4 years of hard work and end her career forever. I don’t need that kind of pathos on my screen, thank you.

— Any event where the best players in the world don’t bother showing up shouldn’t be an Olympic event. Bye-bye baseball. And tennis, though more and more top players are playing these days. Still, see ya. Soccer? Olympic soccer doesn’t even get much play in the countries where soccer is pretty much the only thing that hold the society together. And pretty soon basketball will be superfluous as well, now that the top foreign players play in the NBA and the top US players can’t be bothered to show up.

— Actually, pretty much any sport where the Olympics isn’t a huge deal, where winning a gold medal wouldn’t be the high point of your career, should be eliminated. Winning the gold in downhill skiing marks you as a legend. Winning a gold medal in baseball means you either aren’t good enough now or aren’t good enough anymore to play in the bigs.

And that’s why poker won’t, and shouldn’t, be an Olympic event. It wouldn’t be bigger than the World Series of Poker. Unless…unless every seat in Olympic poker cost, say, $1 million, and each nation could send as many players as they wanted. Top three places pay out. A billion dollar prize pool…hey, Denmark could send Gus Hansen and maybe come away with $500 million for their national treasury. Lots of good players from the Middle East and Asia, and for many of those nations half a billion bucks is actually some serious money.

But, no, I don’t think poker will be in the Beijing Olympics. There are some sports that should be in there, tho:

— Dodgeball. I believed this even before the Vince Vaughn-Ben Stiller movie, which I haven’t seen. I liked The Ben Stiller Show a lot, but there’s something about the guy now that makes me grit my teeth. I think it started with Zoolander, which I also didn’t see. The ads for it grated on me. Plus I read something that Stiller is considered one of the rudest celebrities when it comes to autograph seekers.

Anyway, you don’t think dodgeball wouldn’t be a HUGE draw on TV? Teams of predatory and rifle-armed dudes whipping balls at each other’s heads would be great stuff. And while I’d never buy a deoderant endorsed by Jim Breuer, it would be fun to see Randy Johnson pegging a gaggle of cowering Frenchies or Canadians or Japanese.

— Tug-of-War. This could be, and should be, one of the seminal Olympic events. Which nation has the most pull, literally. You’d have a few weight classes, and then the big event itself–no-limit T-O-W. Get 10 of your beefiest and strongest and pit them against the other side and make sure you have a strong rope.

Those are the big two. I had a few more ideas but I lost them. I just got a phone call and I might have another interview coming up for another job, so that’s some good news. Get working again, keep looking for that great job…tho it will cut into my sleeping, blogging, cat, and poker time. Oh well, at least I won’t have to worry about my wife suffocating me in my sleep for the insurance money. Or I won’t have to worry so much.

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6 Responses to “Should Poker Be An Olympic Sport?”

  1. CJ Says:

    Good luck on the interview…

    And add Kick Ball to the list. What a great sport. Oh, and what about 4 squares!?!?!?

  2. BG Says:

    Genius. You’re right about tug o war, that would be the crowning jewel of the Olympic competition. And dodgeball and 4square would be impressive on the Olympic level. Far more interesting than archery or water polo…

  3. Roberto Roundtree Rogelio Says:

    Hell yeah! Kickball!

    “Gimme a bouncer!”

    “No man, not THAT bouncy, just a little bit…”

    How about what we used to call “Combo Football”, this was played 1/2 in the street, 1/2 in the yard, sidewalks were out of bounds. If you were in the street, it was two hand touch, if you were in the swale (the grass between the road and the sidewalk) it was tackle. There always ended up being a few borderline tackles by people that “thought yu were in the grass”…

  4. LordGeznikor Says:

    Combo football would be interesting, but I’m more for Olympic Hot-Dog Eating Contests.

    The Americans would kick ass, too; only here is everyone so rich that people send pizzas to each other for jokes. And only here do we consider those slimy boiled dogs to be classic food.

  5. Anonymous Says:

    That’s a post that’ll get me riled up any day. I’ve been known to go on tirades about the subject. I’ve never considered your angle about the pros who are too busy to show up. Still, I feel very strongly about the following:

    Any game/sport that does not have an objective system of scoring should not only be barred from the Olympics, it should also be barred from being called a game/sport. Events which maintain a subjective scoring system based on the whims and breakfast cereals of judges should be deemed no more than they are: Performance art.

    Now, if they want to throw a Performance Art Olympics, that would be fine with me. We could have it in some urban coffee house and naked Piss Jesus artists could compete for the top prize of unlimited NEA funds.

    Sport does not require athletes, therefore, athletes do not equal sport.

    In college we played a game called “Peak” with a soccer ball and a highly-pitched duplex roof. Now, that is a sport.


  6. ToddCommish Says:

    I agree with Otis. Perhaps we can make Gymnastics and Figure Skating competitions into games of H-O-R-S-E (“OK, double somersault, two twists, land on one leg” or “Triple axel over the prone and crying Nancy Kerrigan, land on one leg”). The possibilities are endless…

    One of my other suggestions is that you have simultaneous full-contact performances. Think about it… “Michelle Kwan is going to do a Triple Lutz now, OH MY, she is checked from behind by Midori Ito who is doing a sitspin around the bleeding Kwan!”

    One sport with subjective judging that seems to get it right is diving. All of the scores are reasonably close, and they toss out the high and the low scores anyway (kinda like saying that extremist votes don’t count). You see scoreboards with reasonably close scores like (7.5, 7, 7, 6.5, 7.5) and NEVER with (10, 6.5, 7.5, 8.5, 8) because everyone can see if the person did a freakin’ belly flop or slid into the water with a Calista Flockhart-splash.

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