Tuesday, August 04, 2015

Backstory: Norman Chad on the Remko Report

Listening today to the latest “Remko Report” over on PokerNews in which Remko Rinkema has an entertaining and interesting conversation with Norman Chad, the longtime co-host of ESPN’s World Series of Poker broadcasts.

I’m a big fan of both of these guys. I’ve written here before (not too long ago) about how infectious Remko’s enthusiasm can be -- especially when it comes to poker. And Chad, too, has added a great deal to my enjoyment of the game, dating back of course to those first WSOP shows he and Lon McEachern hosted back in 2003 -- shows I vividly remember watching when they first aired and which get discussed at length on the podcast.

The pair cover a lot over the course of the show, including going back to his pre-poker days and start as a sports columnist at The Washington Post in 1984, a move to L.A. and Sports Illustrated in the early 1990s, then a fortuitous first trip to the poker rooms there in 1999.

They eventually come to Chad’s getting recruited by ESPN for that first seven-show series back in 2003, though before that is some interesting talk about Twitch and Twitter, creativity and writing/creating for an audience (and for oneself), different approaches to poker television (e.g., the “reality show” approach vs. the “poker as a sport” one), and the extent to which poker strategy and poker entertainment overlap (and are distinct).

I like hearing Chad’s discussion of the contributions of 441 Productions -- the group who produced ESPN’s WSOP broadcasts from 2003 through 2010 -- and his praise for how smartly they pulled together the shows, creating all of those many compelling stories and characters that hooked us all.

Chad also talks insightfully (and honestly) about the “creative curve” that exists with any endeavor, in his case referring to the challenge of finding ways to remain engaged and productive after 12-plus years of doing the same thing. (As someone who has kept a poker blog as long as I have, that discussion certainly resonated with me.)

There are a lot of interesting behind-the-scenes details shared regarding those early years at ESPN, and it’s funny to hear Chad confess to some initial (and, as it turned out, inaccurate) ideas about what they were up to, in particular his doubts about whether or not the shows would succeed. For example, his reasoning for why he thought Sam Farha would be a better winner than Moneymaker for poker in ’03 is both humorous and entirely understandable.

I’m kind of a sucker for this stuff -- heck, I was writing about looking back at these old WSOPs just last week. If you’re the same way or at all a fan of televised poker, check out the show.

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Blogger Memphis MOJO said...

I played in the Main Event in 2014. On Day 4, here came Chad. He walked around with a notepad taking notes and preparing for what would come later. I was impressed that he was willing to do grunt work on the chance (albeit a small one) that it might make for a better broadcast later. I jumped up and asked for a photo of the two of us, and he was quite obliging. I'm a fan.

8/05/2015 1:51 PM  

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