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Oops, never mind... you clarified later in the story. The lede confused me.
Nitpick correction: he bubbled the 2010 November Nine, not the Main Event itself.
Arrived late to this story and discussion (by way of the NBCHU story that linked to it). Cool article and interesting discussion. I guess I fall in between. I enjoy table talk and engaging personalities, but I DO care about three-bet ranges and ICM-based decisions. I do prefer to see players with some charisma and personality, yet a good number of the examples you cited (Bort's barking, Hevad Khan, Beth Shak, Luske's singing and Hellmuth berating players) make me want to choke a TV producer with Humberto Brenes' toy shark.
First of all, your reply to askjani with a scenario of asking random people "on a city street" to "name a poker player" is downright ludicrous. For one thing, the majority of people polled would not be able to name a single poker player. I work in an athletics department. If I were to ask that question of our coaches and student-athletes — not exactly a group that avoids ESPN — I think I'd get fewer than 10 percent giving me any answer, let alone Ivey, Hellmuth, Brunson and Negreanu. (Besides, if you walk up to even the most avid fans and asked them to name a poker player, you'd still get many replies of Ivey and Negreanu. It doesn't mean they don't know Antonius, Galfond, etc.)
But I admit I'm nitpicking on that one.
I also dispute your assertion that the "new generation" of players often admonishes bad players. If anything, the younger, mostly internet-borne player is BETTER at not tapping the glass. This is the very set you described as "20-somethings" who don't say a word and "barely move a muscle," or who lack personality. The very stoicism they exhibit at the table goes hand-in-hand with their tendency to NOT react to a poorly played hand.
More seriously, I'm wondering if your perception of poker is skewed by when you were "only a fan" versus when you were part of the game's media. Most of your examples of poker's halcyon days took place from 2004-2007. In order, you mentioned the Micon "Thriller" dance (2006 WSOP ME), Marcel Luske's singing (2004 WSOP ME), Steve Dannenmann's list of notes (2005 WSOP ME), the Hellmuth-Shak-Richey cooler (2007 WSOP $3K NLHE), Phil Laak (TV breakout during WPT Season 2, 2003-04), Bobby Bellande (TV breakout was the 2005 WSOPC Championship), Tony G vs. Ralph Perry (2006 Intercontinental Poker Championship), Antonio Esfandiari (TV breakout during WPT Season 2, 2003-04), Hellmuth's rants (the last two decades), Ted Bort (2010 WSOP ME), Hevad Khan's Red Bull-fueled antics (2007 WSOP ME) and Kenny Tran's sick calls (2007 WSOP ME).
From what I can tell, you became a tournament reporter in 2008. So your view of the good ol' days of poker as a circus is based solely on watching it on TV as a college student. (I'm relying on your account for that timeline, as you said yourself in the opening 'graph that you barely knew the game until a friend called you during those days.) On the other hand, your notion of poker as a game of studious types has been cultivated in your days of spending long hours in card rooms and convention centers. In other words, the "fun in poker" didn't go anywhere, you just saw more of it in 2004-07 because — due to television — it was the only part to which you were exposed. And you see proportionally less of it during the last five years because you've spent more time in the (gasp) boring trenches of real-time poker.