Dealing Out Some Love For ESPN's Norman Chad

Shari GellerContributor IApril 3, 2009

If you’ve seen someone “Whamboozled”, or you watched as somebody pushed all in with “Squadoosh,” chances are you’ve been watching ESPN’s coverage of the World Series of Poker. 


For the last five years, writer-commentator-comedian Norman Chad has added some colorful words to the lexicon of poker, and made himself as big a name in the world of poker as the players he covers.


Looking like the lost Marx brother, “Ex-Wife-o,” Chad has a face for voice-over commentary.


He looks as if he not only dressed in the dark, but bought his clothes in the dark as well. He claims to be a terrible poker player and no one has yet come forward to dispute that claim.


He, however, brings some humor and fun to a game that can be frustrating and bewildering.


His failed romantic overtures to poker vixens Kara Scott and Vanessa Rousso, his perennial backing of Phil Ivey to go all the way, his repeated references to his alma mater (the University of Maryland) and his frequent claims that every other obscure college is known as the “Demon Deacons” give a comforting consistency to his color commentary.


Chad’s theory seems to be that, if a joke is marginally funny once, it’s hilarious the 50th time. This may not be a position held by others, but I find myself giggling every time he lets loose a familiar Chad-ism.  I say, the more, the merrier.


We could debate whether he’s there as a poker expert or as an announcer who knows poker, but it doesn’t matter. Howard Cossell couldn’t go ten rounds with a girl scout and yet he was as indispensable to boxing as Chad is to poker.


That’s a connection that Chad himself made during the WSOP when he called Phil Hellmuth his Ali.  And, like a true foil, he’s not a mouthpiece for the poker pros he covers. When they act badly, he calls them out.


And Hellmuth and others give him plenty of opportunities to rant. Though even his rants against Hellmuth’s childish tantrums usually takes a humorous tack. 


Last year when Internet pro Adam “Ruthless” Levy beat Hellmuth in a pot by committing the ultimate sin (according to the Book of Phil)—calling a raise with queen-ten—Hellmuth exploded.


As Hellmuth went off on the poor Mr. Levy after his straight beat Hellmuth’s set, Chad countered his every shot in perfect deadpan. 


My favorite part of the tirade-de-deux? 


Hellmuth: “And I had a set!” 

Chad:  “I know you had a set, puddin’.”


What does Chad bring to ESPN’s coverage of the WSOP?  He helps create stories, bringing the players to life and making the games more entertaining. 


Don’t believe me? Go to YouTube and search "the Professional Poker Tour" and watch the dullest poker show you’ve ever seen. 


Never heard of the PPT?  Exactly. 


Chad is such an integral part of the WSOP that his name is often invoked by the players at the table, whether it is last year’s WSOP Player of the Year Erick Lindgren, or, of course, Hellmuth.


His announcing partner Lon McEachern never gets a mention. 


It’s Chad who has a regular feature during the World Series broadcast called “The Nuts: Heads-Up with Norman Chad” in which he challenges various players to anything but poker.  Keeping up with his image as the lovable loser, Chad almost always loses...Lovably.


Chad has another job as a regular sportswriter for the Washington Post, writing the weekly Couch Slouch column. His "Ask the Slouch" feature pays a Chad-like $1.25 in cash to the reader whose question is selected. 


I’d ask him what he thought was his best quote during the years he’s covered the WSOP.  But I don’t think I’d win the buck-twenty-five, as it’s probably too easy a question. 


Back in 2003, when an unknown amateur captured the then-biggest prize in poker history, Chad uttered the now famous line, “This is beyond fairy tale...It's inconceivable."


Also inconceivable is watching the WSOP without Chad.  It’d be like getting whamboozled with squadoosh. 


And you know that’s not good.