Sunday, January 11, 2009

Chess and Other Boring Things on TV

Poker is boring. Golf is boring. Billiards is boring. They are all so boring that each of them is usually accompanied by massive amounts of drinking. But they are also all on TV. Take a gander on ESPN2 on a Sunday afternoon and you will see nothing but boring sports. Billiards, golf, poker, spelling bees, scrabble and sandcastle building. Seriously? Sandcastle building? And did I mention that cooking has an entire channel?

Now I'm not here to pick on anyone, (well, maybe the scrabble people, I mean they're just so smug with their big vocabularies) but instead I want to spotlight what these other "boring" sports are doing right and what chess can learn from it.

When we're watching golf and the camera just happens to cut away to some guy in 19th place, we know he is going to make a spectacular shot. Go spend some time in a poker room and tell me that's not one of the most boring places on the planet. But when we watch on TV, every hand is pure excitement.

We're not talking about rocket science here...with chess you would film hours of play, do massive post-editing to just show the critical moves and put in some decent commentary. With the help of computer analysis, you can explain to the casual player or layperson what the best move is and illustrate it on-screen with some snazzy computer graphics. Flesh out the players with some filmed interviews and narratives with compelling back-stories. And, of course, some hot chick to conduct post game interviews.

People don't watch TV to see games, they watch to see human drama and joy. By itself, does it really matter if someone sinks a 20 foot putt or catches a spade on the river? No! But what I find engrossing is the passion and dedication it took to be able to sink a 20 foot putt. And I love to see the child-like excitement when someone catches a spade on the river to complete a flush. I want to see the victory and defeat, the journey, the competition, the stakes and the winnings!!

Do I really give a shit if a kid knows how to spell "alopecoid?" Hell, no! I just want to see something like this:

Good stuff. Human stuff. Ridiculous stuff. And is there anything more ridiculously human than sitting for hours, deciding which little piece to move on a board?

Play well,



Polly said...

LOL!!! How right you are. I don't understand what is so appealing about watching poker on TV. It's a bunch of guys sitting around a table picking up cards, exchanging some of them, and pushing chips towards the middle. Blitz chess at least is fast moving and exciting.

Maybe you could have chess show with people playing blitz wearing one of your shirts. BTW, awesome graphics. :-)

BlunderProne said...

I like the video.

Chess gets a bad rap. No endorsements, no sponsorships, and definitely no respect in this country ( USA). Billiards? they can market that with all kinds of pool related commercials. The same thing can be seen with Poker. These non-sports covered on ESPN 2 all have a certain level of "respect" and more importantly, sponsorship. Hell, even the spelling bee had a sponsorship backdrop… but who doesn’t want there logo behind some kid passing out? At least the parents could be a potential market.

What chess in the USA needs is a good swift kick in some sponsor's ass. For instance, I am currently looking at demographics of chess players. In this day and age, the average adult amateur player has a median income of over 75K annually and most likely a technically savvy individual. I’ve been talking to several players and local chess authors on how they use their systems. It’s quite revealing. The database is an integral part of any serious amateur and the ability to do quick and accurate analysis is a strong requirement. I know the pain myself as I do my historical studies.

We need to get Dell, Intel, and other tech companies to take notice of this demographic. One way may be in an idea I’ve been kicking around ( like I have copious amounts of free time with a full time job, wife and kids… and a crippling addiction to chess)

I want to start (another) chess blog related to analyzing chess tech only. For instance, benchmarking motherboards running various chess engines and reporting the results. (Kind of like a "tom's hardware guide" webiste for chess techy geeks). I want to attract the tech vendors to contribute and offer advertisement rights and space ( so this becomes more than a blog) I can use my years of experience and contacts ( I used to work for Intel and set up and ran compliance labs to do similar benchmarking) to encourage mother board vendors to send me their latest boards so I can do a side by side comparison. But it takes money to get started. So I am still in the “business plan” phase of this idea.

Blunderprone likes to have fun but wants to see US Chess re-invigorated with the natural capitalism our countrymen are so prone to exhibit. The time has come to break out the gimmicks because USCF is stale.

John aka Endgame Clothing said...

Polly & Blunder - I completely agree! Something has to change. Call me crazy but I believe in my heart that things will be changing shortly. Things appear to be so bad with the USCF right now, that a change WILL happen. The organization simply cannot exist like this for much longer. It will either improve or be destroyed and have to start over.

Either way, I think chess will see a nice spike in popularity in the next few years.

Thanks for stopping by!