It’s family TV viewing night at the Schwem household. Let’s see if we can find a show that the ENTIRE clan can watch.
Hmmm, that could be difficult. For starters our selection must be void of profanity and even bleeped out words, which means every reality show is off limits. This includes American Idol now that Steven Tyler has joined the cast.
It must teach my children something. For awhile I thought Biggest Loser would fit the bill, but that show fails miserably in the profanity department since most contestants curse like rappers as they roll truck tires up hills while wearing ankle weights in 90-degree heat. Strangely, the trainers also have potty mouths, even though they appear to do nothing more than stand idly by and yell, “LAST CHANCE WORKOUT!”
Sitcoms are also out since it is now mandatory that at least one character in every scripted humor show be gay. To quote Seinfeld, “not that there’s anything wrong with that,” but I don’t feel like explaining the concept of same sex love to my nine year old. I mean, the kid still believes in Santa. The gay discussion can wait.
Sports? Try getting two girls to watch a complete baseball game without texting. Not gonna happen. Furthermore, Dad does not believe that balancing an Oreo on your nose and then trying to eat it before it hits the floor is a sport, even though my daughters and the producers of Minute to Win It might argue otherwise.
So what’s left if you’re scanning the cable menu for a show that features bland characters, is void of offensive dialogue, is educational and competitive?
Wait a minute. Poker is about to start!
I’m not much of a poker player myself. Maybe it’s because I’m unlucky by nature. Maybe it’s because it only takes other players a few minutes to determine that I always fold unless I have at least a pair of tens or higher, in which case I yell, “RAISE” before it’s even my turn to bet. But televised poker fascinates me simply because it’s televised. Poker tournaments feature nothing more than a group of contestants sitting around a table and saying nothing while trying to figure out what the others are thinking. And yet it seems there is a World Series of Poker event taking place somewhere in the world every night. Poker players have become rock stars, with endorsements, fan clubs, and Facebook pages. Websites such as pokerstars.tv allow fans to watch videos with titles like “Phil Ivey protects his blind.”
Why hasn’t chess taken off like this? Doesn’t that also feature players sitting at a table, saying nothing and trying to figure out what their opponent is thinking? I’ve scoured the Internet and have yet to find a video entitled “Vugar Gashimov uses the Monticelli Trap to perfection!”
My guess is that, even though poker glorifies gambling to some extent, it teaches lessons as well. Poker allows my children to see that non-verbal communication sometimes must be done without a cell phone. They can see that it takes more than luck to accumulate financial success. They know that being stupid means you can lose everything in an instant. Finally, they learn that actions have consequences, something my wife Sue and I are trying to teach them before they establish Facebook accounts.
So parents, make a bowl of microwave popcorn, fire up the flat screen and navigate to whatever channel happens to be showing the ONCE AND FOR ALL MILLION DOLLAR CHALLENGE WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP OF THE ENTIRE GALAXY Poker tournament. (Again, there’s one of these going on somewhere every week).
I’m “all in,” whatever the &#$@! that means.
Greg Schwem is a professional stand-up comedian and author of “TEXT ME IF YOU’RE BREATHING: Observations, Frustrations and Life Lessons From a Low-Tech Dad.”