Friday, January 04, 2013

Hand for Hand, Play by Play, Frame by Frame

Have been spending the morning reading tweets from folks heading south to the Bahamas for the 10th annual PokerStars Caribbean Adventure that gets underway tomorrow. Have never made that trip myself, but would like to do so at least once some day. I know the Atlantis is insanely expensive, but I imagine it wouldn’t be so bad to spend part of the winter in such a place.

Lots of players are tweeting, but so are a number of my poker-reporting colleagues as the PCA will be getting extensive coverage. I was thinking this week again a little about how poker reporting has changed over recent years, as well as how all kinds of other reporting and/or analysis of other cultural events/products has evolved of late.

Back in October I wrote a post about reporting from the World Series of Poker Main Event in which I made reference to the stark contrast between the way tourneys were reported on a few decades ago and what we now experience. The big difference, of course, concerns the amount of detail provided by the coverage today.

Indeed, between the nearly instantaneous tweets from a variety of sources, the hand-for-hand reporting on PokerNews, and ESPN’s “almost live” start-to-finish coverage, the amount of information available from the 2012 WSOP ME final table was nearly overwhelming. Incidentally, as I mentioned in the last of my recaps earlier in the week, I went through and compiled all of the hole cards from that final table that were shown on ESPN, then posted them here. That’s obviously another added dimension to poker tourney coverage that wasn’t part of the equation back in the day.

Like I say, I was thinking about how the growth of various forms of media and technology have changed our level of access to just about everything in our culture, both in terms of how we experience, say, a poker tournament or sporting event (or just about anything) as well as how the greater level of detail invites closer, more precise scrutiny when it comes to subsequent analysis. Those wishing to study and interpret players’ decisions at that most recent WSOP ME final table, for example, have a lot more information available to them than was the case even just a few years ago.

This week I caught the better part of a replay of the 1973 Sugar Bowl on one of the ESPN networks, shown as kind of a preview of the upcoming Alabama-Notre Dame BCS Championship. The game from three decades ago also saw the Crimson Tide and the Irish playing what was essentially a national championship game, ultimately won by Notre Dame 24-23.

The replay was of ABC’s original broadcast of the game, and of course featured very few onscreen graphics and only a small fraction of the copious statistical information we are accustomed to today. Only a few cameras were employed, and I can’t even remember if any replays were shown (perhaps there were a few). In fact, rather than show the score or time on screen there were frequent shots of the scoreboard (especially near the end) to let us know how much time was left as well as the down and distance. (Here is a video compiling some highlights from the game in which you can see what I am talking about with regard to the way the broadcast went.)

As those of us old enough to remember watching sports on TV a few decades ago remember, the experience was really much more akin to watching a game live than what we get today. And of course no one was recording the sucker to watch again later, either. Today everyone is DVR-ing everything, with all plays documented in precise detail and available for close study later to those who make it their business to analyze and interpret statistical data from sporting events. The same goes for other types of research and study, too.

I sometimes write about film, and over the years I have managed to place a few articles in academic journals that included detailed analyses of films. These articles all were written within the last decade, and so I obviously benefited from having personal copies of the films about which I was writing, enabling me to look at them repeatedly and examine them closely for potentially relevant details.

Speaking of, I have a film article coming out in the new issue Paracinema, a print publication that features in-depth studies of all sorts of off-the-beaten-path films and cinema-related subjects.

My article actually looks at five different films, all produced by Universal in the early 1970s as part of a “youth division” within the big studio designed to make low-budgeted, quasi-“indie” films. The movies I discuss are Taking Off (1971, dir. Milos Forman), The Hired Hand (1971, dir. Peter Fonda), The Last Movie (1971, dir. Dennis Hopper), Silent Running (1972, dir. Donald Trumbull), and American Graffiti (1973, dir. George Lucas). Mine is just one of a dozen essays in the issue (No. 18), which you can order for just $7 over at the Paracinema website, if you’re interested. (Shipping is free!)

(As it happens, poker is played in four of the five films I discuss -- not that I focus on that in my article. Only in Graffiti is there no poker. Then again, only in Graffiti is there the awesome Wolfman Jack!)

In writing about those films made 40 or so years ago, I read a number of contemporary reviews and was reminded of how those who wrote about film in the early 1970s generally didn’t have personal copies to consult, and instead had to watch the films in the theaters. Indeed, if you spend any time at all reading film reviews or criticism written during that era or before, you frequently encounter all sorts of inaccuracies regarding plots, dialogue, and other specifics, errors which readers often weren’t able to notice or challenge as they, too, were limited as far as their access to the films was concerned.

But today we live in an age of “total access” (relatively speaking), with technology enabling us to control and manage our reception of a poker tourney or sporting event or film or just about any other cultural product with incredible precision, the difference affecting both our initial experiences of those products as well as later reflections.

There’s more to say along these lines, but instead I’ll leave it there and let you reread, parse, scrutinize, dissect, evaluate, and reflect as much or as little as you wish.

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