Apple Pie, Hot dogs, and Poker?

Baseball, it’s the American Pastime. Nothing says down-home goodness and middle America quite like a baseball game. It’s place as an American icon is etched in granite. So as the country celebrates Independence Day and the birth of our country, what would be better than firing up the grill and turning on ESPN to watch a game?

This seemed like a natural. As a programming executive for a major sports network with ties to Major League Baseball, this was as close to a no-brainer as you could have. So I eagerly turned on the television to watch an afternoon game. Instead of seeing the Washington Nationals warming up at RFK Stadium to face the streaking Florida Marlins, I found World Cup Soccer where Germany was playing Italy. Ok, I get that soccer is a global game and that the World Cup only occurs every 4 years so I should not have been surprised that ESPN2 was showing this match. I watched as the ball went from one end to the other end then back to the first end and counted no less than five flops where guys laid on the ground rolling and screaming hoping to get a call. I have not see acting this bad since the Olsen twins left Full House. Five minutes of watching soccer on the Fourth of July was about 4 minutes too long.

I grabbed the remote and flipped over to ESPN expecting to see the National Anthem being played in front of a packed RFK Stadium adorned with red, white, and blue bunting. I thought there would be panning shots of the stands showing sunburned fans in the bleachers holding plastic cups of beer cheering wildly for cheap hot dogs and 96 mile per hour fastballs. I expected to see flags in the stands held by little kids happy to be at the ballpark with their family and hoping to catch a foul ball. All of these visions would have been perfect for television. But the programming director for ESPN had other ideas.

ESPN decided that instead of baseball, this would be the perfect opportunity to show the World Poker Tour. Grown men wearing sunglasses in darkly lit smoke filled backrooms of obscure casinos filled the television screen. Men looking as if they had not seen daylight since they became teen-agers were the images we had. I’m talking night of the living dead white. It was like seeing a family of zombies at Thanksgiving dinner sitting around a table. And as if its not bad enough that ESPN chose poker over baseball, they show old poker instead of baseball. The poker tournament was from 2005 so it happened a year ago. The majority of sports fans don’t think of poker as a sport to begin with and question whether it should be on ESPN but to show re-runs of old poker tournaments instead of baseball from the nation’s capital should be a crime punishable by death or for those who do not believe in capital punishment then the punishment should be just as severe such as requiring the criminal to have to watch a marathon of Tele-tubby re-runs.

Fortunately, the local station thought wiser and at least the Arizona Diamondbacks game was on. I just had to find something to do until the game started at 7 PM. What did I do with that package of fire crackers and the Derek Jeter bobblehead?

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