Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Jesus on the River (and I Don't Mean Chris Ferguson)

I may not be a Christian, but I just saw a stomach-turning spectacle of blasphemy and hypocrisy on ESPN's first night of coverage of the 2007 World Series of Poker that really offended me.

The hand featured seasoned professional Lee Watkinson's A-7 off-suit against poker neophyte and chipleader Jerry Yang's A-9 off-suit. Lee went all in and was called, putting his tournament (and a shot at more than eight million dollars) on the line.

Whereupon both parties proceeded to spit on the teachings of Jesus.

Watkinson, to his credit, handled it like a pro and was silent throughout the hand, but you can't say the same thing for his fiancée, Timmi deRosa, who jumped up and shouted "No weapon formed against him shall prosper!" If that sounds like a Bible verse, you're right -- it's Isaiah 54:17, which is all about God telling Israel how great they're going to have it from there on out. She then followed that up with "Come on, Father! In Jesus' name, No weapon formed against thee shall prosper!" With arms raised above her head, this woman was shouting for God, in Jesus' name, to let her husband win a gambling confrontation so he could bring home millions of dollars.

In Jesus' name. Yes, that Jesus, the one who said "If thou wilt be perfect, go sell what thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven." The one who said, "And it came to pass that the beggar died and was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom. And the rich man also died: and he was buried in Hell." Sounds like a guy anxious to get all his money in pre-flop with the best hand, right?

I thought that was fairly appalling, but then Jerry Yang got his turn. "Come on Lord," he said, "you know your purpose for me. Have a purpose for me."

Apparently God's purpose for Jerry was to have his opponent dominated with a better kicker for his ace. I didn't know the Almighty went in for bad all-in raises with a Ace-rags, but apparently He does.

Not to be outdone, the fiancée again cried out. "Make him a believer! Make Lee a believer, Father!" So apparently Lee's not "of the faith" and this woman thinks that giving him a cash reward will get him to become a Christian. Sort of like a "Bonus Miles" program, I suppose.

The irony of having the soul of a non-believer hanging in the balance over a poker game for eight million dollars was lost on all concerned. Apparently poverty is only for those loser Christians who actually, you know, bother reading what Jesus said. Why do I have the feeling this lady is a follower of one or another of the "Prosperity Gospel" cults?

Jerry got the last word, though. "Father, in the name of Jesus," he said quietly, voice almost vibrating with intensity, "LET ME WIN!"

I'm sure both Jerry and Ms. deRosa are wonderfully nice people. I'm sure they feel quite devoted to their faith, and do what they can to follow the teachings of Christ. But they're both exhibiting the most crass kind of hypocrisy and -- yes, I'll say it -- blasphemy I can imagine.

This was the perfect example of that uniquely American abomination that weds greedy materialism with the teachings of Christ. I've seldom seen a case where Las Vegas' nickname of "Sin City" was more appropriate.

Look, I don't believe Christ is the Son of God, but I do think he had some incredibly wise teachings. To hear someone, much less two someones, completely distort those teachings to mean their exact opposite really made me angry. It would be like someone invoking Martin Luther King's speeches to justify the shooting of Black people, or Thomas Jefferson's letters to explain why we need to form a theocracy. It's just wrong, and it made me sick.

That was a disgraceful display, and both Jerry Yang and Timmi deRosa should be ashamed.


John said...

Nice post. I see stuff like this and look around and think "did anyone else just see how absurd and foolish that was?" I guess that's what blogs are for.

Do you know if there is video of this anywhere?

BhodiTree said...

In response to "Religion in Poker" I have a few comments:

While watching the WSOP 2007 table I was appalled at the antics at the final table for 2 reasons.

1. Of the ~14 hours of action - they wasted time on a religious outburst. Made me question the editing. Although I am sure it made "Good TV" it is arguably unacceptable, in that it demeans the very activity they are broadcasting.

2. Although I do not begrudge others their beliefs. To throw those beliefs in the face of others in a public settings shows callous disregard for the activity in which you are engaged. Poker is a game of skill and probability, to bring superstition, super-powers, or anything other than your skills to bear is insulting and emphasises luck over skill in such a critical situation.

Jeff Hebert said...

I didn't mind them showing that hand, after all it's the one that busted one of the top remaining pros out of the tournament. A lot of people had been picking him to win it all, so that was a significant moment.

Poker is a game of skill and probability, to bring superstition, super-powers, or anything other than your skills to bear is insulting and emphasises luck over skill in such a critical situation.

I dunno, as long as they allow lucky card protectors in, I have a hard time giving this argument a lot of credence :-) On the other hand, such a thing might lead to a rule banning Humberto Brenes' stupid flashing sharks, which is something so awesomely good that it might be worth doing just for that.