The first time I became aware of Norman Chad, I wanted to strangle him.
On Sunday mornings I used to open up his newspaper column and yell at the page. He’s been “MF-ed” by me more times than the quarterback of the Cleveland Browns.
Twenty years ago, he wrote a weekly football handicapping column for The Washington Post. Back then, Norman did what he still does now, which is take a popular sport, toss the players into a giant blender, then hit the puree button.
I couldn’t stand his article. I didn’t want laughs. I wanted winning football picks.
Norman was so irritating that I even complained to the newspaper. I filed letters of complaint against two other Washington Post sportswriters, as well. My persuasive letters of protest must have worked wonders. Whatever happened to Michael Wilbon and Tony Kornheiser, anyway?
Well, I did find out what would become of Norman Chad.
A few weeks ago, hours before most of us were waking up on Christmas morning, Jan Fisher was already dressed and out of the house.
By 6 am, she stood on the same abandoned parking lot pavement she’d been each of the last six years at that time. Her next three hours were spent out in the cold, with people she didn’t know.
Jan doesn’t tell this story to others. She doesn’t seek our praise nor want any publicity. In fact, I heard this story from someone else.
Oh — so where was Jan at 6 am on Christmas morning. not just this past year, but the year before that, and before that, and before that?
She was passing out donations to homeless people in downtown Las Vegas. But that’s not all. In the preceding weeks leading up to that morning, she spent considerable time volunteering — gathering clothes and blankets from people who no longer need them and then handing out them to those who desperately needed a very different kind of Christmas gift on a frosty morning.
That’s one of many Jan Fisher stories you probably don’t hear. There are more. Many, many more. Everyone I know seems to have a couple of these stories.
The totality of that selflessness, that giving spirit, that willingness to sacrifice, that obsession to always do what is right is the summation of the remarkable woman I’m proud to call my friend.
Some of you already know Peter Secor. Most of you don’t.
So, please allow me to introduce this wonderful man to you, and tell you more about him.
Peter is known to many readers from his long association with a recreational poker group called BARGE. The group of about 200 or so people meets every summer in Las Vegas. Attendees come from all over the country. In short, BARGE is a poker fraternity. Many lifelong friendships, even marriages (and eventually divorces) have developed because of BARGE.
For many years, Peter was the group’s organizer and leader. But he’s really much more than organize and lead. I think Peter was (and is) its soul.
Rachel Kranz is a novelist, journalist, and tournament poker player whose greatest literary achievement to date is her novel, Leaps of Faith (Farrar Straus 2000) and whose greatest poker achievement was finishing 14th in a $1k WSOP gold bracelet event last summer with more than 2,000 players.
She grew up in southern California and northern Minnesota, and lived for a time in Minneapolis and Boston. But when she went to live in New York City in 1982 for the first time, she felt like she had finally come home. She lives there to this day.
In Minnesota, Rachel was an award-winning reporter for Minnesota Public Radio, a producer of award-winning video documentaries, the founder of a radio production company, and a free-lance writer. In Boston, she wrote her first novel. In New York, she has been a rank-and-file union organizer, a graduate student in literature, and a ghostwriter, which is still how she earns her living. She also founded her own theater company, Theater of Necessity, whose mission, in the words of Bertolt Brecht, was to “make the strange familiar and the familiar strange.”
She’s been called the “Queen of Poker” and the “First Lady of Poker.” But far more people in the poker world simply know her as a beloved friend who is always there for everyone.
Linda’s biography is a remarkable success story in the powers of dedication and determination. Many years ago she did what was virtually unthinkable, quitting a secure job with the U.S. Postal Service in order to play poker professionally on a full-time basis. During a time when virtually no women played poker for a living and long before television exposure and sponsorship deals or any real potential of becoming independently wealthy, Linda was a true pioneer. She began playing poker on the graveyard shift in small-stakes games in Downtown Las Vegas.
Linda’s years during the early 1980s and the many events she personally witnessed instilled a deep desire to make significant changes and be a part of making the game bigger and better. One pot at a time, she gradually saved the money she had earned at the tables and formed a partnership which bought Card Player magazine. Linda served as the publication’s editor-in-chief for several years, in the process creating the game’s premier news source and leading voice for change. Through her writings and role as a traveling ambassador, she helped to clean the game up and make poker rooms a fun place for everyone, an arduous process which took tremendous courage to stand up to incessant chauvinism, player and dealer abuse, and other ills that had been commonplace for decades.