Friday, July 29, 2011

Long, Long, Long

Long, Long, LongMany have noted how the structure for the World Series of Poker Main Event is utterly unique. Two-hour levels with gradually increasing blinds and antes, stretched out over ten long days of play, themselves scheduled over two weeks in July then two more days in November.

By most measures, it’s the longest tournament around. By far.

Speaking of, this week I began reading through Colson Whitehead’s account of his having played in this year’s World Series of Poker Main Event over on the new Grantland site that launched in early June.

I say I’ve only begun the account. Still a ways to go, though. Let me explain.

Grantland -- so-called in homage to early 20th-century sportswriter Grantland Rice -- is an ESPN-connected portal that features a lot of examples of that variety of sports writing well exemplified by its Editor-in-Chief, Bill Simmons. (I referred to another interesting piece on Grantland last month by Rounders co-scripter Brian Koppelman titled “The Beauty of Black Friday.”)

I imagine many readers of this blog are familiar with Simmons, although perhaps not all. He’s a sports columnist who has written for the ESPN Magazine and a few other outlets, though is best known for his regular columns at that address sports but also incorporate tons of personal and cultural allusions in a somewhat idiosyncratic way. Simmons also does a podcast for ESPN (“The B.S. Report”), and I believe he was also involved in coming up with the idea for the often-excellent “30 for 30” series of documentaries ESPN has been producing over the last few years and for which he’s the executive producer.

Bill SimmonsTo me, Simmons reads like some sort of superblogger, one of these endlessly passionate fans who will go on and on and on with little acknowledgment that it might seem self-indulgent or obsessive to do so. I don’t mean that as a criticism, actually. And as someone who himself writes a lot (and at length) on his blog, I’m fully aware of having been guilty of the same from time to time.

That said, I sometimes find Simmons a bit overwhelming. I remember once last fall getting bogged down in a 3,000-plus word piece of his in which he was defending his rooting for Michael Vick. I think I stumbled most noticeably when he began to pursue an analogy between O.J. Simpson and Vick, noting how the former had “unwittingly” raised awareness about domestic violence while the latter had done something similar with regard to animal abuse. Frivolous at best, tasteless at worst, and (most problematically) not much relevant to his thesis.

Not fair, really, to single out one misstep like that, though. I do find Simmons to be a bright guy who often has many good, even highly original ideas. But you have to be willing to edit yourself down once in a while -- to realize that not every thought that occurs to you necessarily deserves to make it to the final draft.

GrantlandSo when I say the writers at the new Grantland site are following the Editor-in-Chief’s lead in terms of their chosen style, I’m referring mainly to what seems to be an absence of editorial restraint being exerted upon them. Having made the cut to be chosen as contributors, they are subsequently forced to endure few if any further cuts. That is to say, I’m guessing they are being mostly encouraged to write as much as they like and about whatever they like in the features they are producing.

All of which is to say, I’ve begun Whitehead’s piece about his experience playing in the Main Event this year, but it will be a while before I finish. That’s because the four-part feature is nearly 20,000 words long. In fact, he doesn’t get to the first hand of his adventure until close to the 10,000-word mark.

Whitehead is a novelist, and indeed his story, titled “Occasional Dispatches from the Republic of Anhedonia,” seems to be more closely following the formal guidelines of a novel than a magazine-style feature. The idea -- i.e., for a writer with an interest in poker to go play the WSOP Main Event and tell his tale -- isn’t new, of course. James McManus was the most famous (and most successful) to do so back in 2000. Heck, even Simmons did it once for ESPN back in 2006.

Still, as a poker player who also likes to read (and write), I like the idea of the WSOP getting the literary treatment. Thus do I look forward to making my way through Whitehead’s lengthy piece.

Still a ways to go, though.

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Blogger PokerLawyer said...

This is interesting and I agree (I'm waiting to get home before I undertake to read his tale and I hope it will be worth it).

Mainly stopped in to say that I like the new backdrop on your blog. I admit I'm getting old and the black background was tough on my eyes. This is much easier reading.

Signed, your fan, Old Lady Blog Reader

7/29/2011 3:37 PM  
Blogger Aztec said...

I'm constantly amazed & impressed at your ability to sample so many sources of poker writing & broadcasting. Thanks for bringing them to our attention. Love the new background btw. Always used to have to get rid of the black background to make it readable.

7/29/2011 3:50 PM  

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