Friday, February 12, 2010

Blasts from the Past

Blasts from the PastOne of the neat things about keeping a blog is the feedback one sometimes receives. Particularly fun are those times when I have written about a particular person and gotten a comment or email from the subject of my post. Sometimes those responses come right away, while other times many months might pass before the response arrives, the sender perhaps not seeing the post until much later.

For example, earlier this week I received some nice feedback from Kyle Siler on that post from last month in which I discussed his study “Social and Psychological Challenges of Poker” (appearing in The Journal of Gambling Studies). Siler responded both to my summary of his study as well as to observations made by poker pro Andy Bloch there in the comments section. For those who were following that discussion, you might check that out.

Of course, sometimes comments or responses come much later. In July 2008, I had just gotten home after a summer of reporting on the World Series of Poker. While in Vegas I had visited the Gamblers Bookshop and picked up some old magazines, including some issues of Gambling Times.

Gambling Times, October 1979 issueI ended up writing a post titled “Reporting on the 1979 WSOP” in which I shared a lot from one particular article in that magazine chronicling the ’79 Series, one written by John Hill. I got a kick out of comparing how the WSOP was covered in 2008 and how it was covered some three decades earlier.

Anyhow, it was about six months later that John Hill himself came around and left a comment on that post. “Glad to see a reprise of my coverage,” he began, noting that “those were heady days of the game and provided grist for many a mill.” He shared a few more memories of those days in his comment -- take a look if you’re curious.

I also had some feedback just recently to another post I had written some time ago. In August 2008, I spent a little time going through the first 40 years’ worth of Rolling Stone magazine (a task made easier by my having gotten them on DVDs), searching for references to poker. I thought it would be interesting to see how poker had been covered -- or not covered -- in this non-poker, mainstream publication.

Rolling Stone magazineI ended up writing two posts, focusing in particular on a few articles that had appeared along the way. Here are those posts: “Poker & Pop Culture: Rolling Stone (1967-2007) (1 of 2)” and “Poker & Pop Culture: Rolling Stone (1967-2007) (2 of 2).”

In the second of those posts, I gave some attention to a particular article that appeared in 1981 amid a series of pieces about college life. Actually it was two articles -- companion pieces that dealt with students and professors interacting in social settings: “On Drinking with Professors” by Grif Fariello and “On Drinking with Students” by William Kittredge.

Both of the writers -- the student (Fariello) and teacher (Kittredge) -- make reference to poker games, and finding all of that very interesting I summarized it in great detail in my post, noting both how the students were routinely beating the profs and also what the game seemed to signify to each.

Anyhow, just last week I received a nice email from Grif Fariello offering some background on how the articles were put together. I asked him if it would be okay to share some of what he told me here on the blog, and he said it would be fine.

“I should fill you in on that piece I wrote for Rolling Stone,” he began. Apparently William Kittredge (“Bill”) had gotten a last-minute, panicky request from the editor at Rolling Stone. “They’d come up short for the next issue and could Bill fill in with X amount of words in 24 hours,” came the appeal. The editor had come up with the student-teacher “gimmick,” and Kittredge asked Fariello, then a grad student in the writing program, if he could write the student half. “I said sure,” responded Fariello.

“We blasted the stuff out overnight,” Fariello told me. “Some of the anecdotes in my half are true, but the poker aspect is not.” Indeed, it turns out that while the articles are somewhat based in reality, there are several embellishments in there, some likely resulting from the necessity of the quick turn-around. Fariello said that while he’d “shared plenty of drinks with Bill... I've never played poker with him or any other Prof. If I had I would've lost my shirt. I'm a lousy poker player and never really enjoyed playing cards much beyond cribbage and not even that anymore.”

The fact is, the articles weren’t really meant to be taken as on-the-scene, documentary-like reports (as I did in my post). “Both articles were intended as amusing blather in the heroic mode, quick filler, not reportage,” explained Fariello. He added a few more comments about how other details of the interactions between the students and teachers were further enhanced for added drama.

I thought it very interesting to learn that the poker angle had been introduced into the articles as a way of helping flesh out the student-teacher dynamic a bit more, even though no poker had actually been played. Kind of says something about the symbolic value of the game, really, as a way to bring together different groups and have them interact in ways they might not otherwise.

As I said, I asked Fariello if it would be okay to share his postscript here, as I know some readers might remember those Rolling Stone posts and thus might find it as interesting as I did. Big thanks to him for letting me do so, as well as to John Hill and Kyle Siler for their feedback, too.

For another example of a story I thought once to be true but later found out otherwise, check out my Betfair article from today, “The Nuts, the Wheel, and the Hammer.” And, as always, feedback is welcome!

Have a good weekend, all.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, I'll be sure to return and say something if you ever make a post about me. lol

2/15/2010 11:02 AM  

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