The Magazine

Game Over

The rise and fall of televised cribbage.

Oct 20, 2008, Vol. 14, No. 06 • By JOE QUEENAN
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How, then, did a sport that seized the nation by the throat in January completely fade from view in a matter of months? Clearly, its association with Al Gore helped and hurt. In 2007, while developing a line of eco-friendly children's products under the rubric Green Games for a Grey Planet, Gore got his hands on scientific data indicating that cribbage playing left the smallest carbon footprint on the planet of any pastime known to man, including checkers, Parcheesi, Fish, Ultimate Stratego, and Clue.

"You just don't move around a whole lot when you're playing cribbage," Gore told Charlie Rose. "You don't eat, you don't talk, you don't sweat, you hardly need to breathe. It's a little bit like being John Kerry. If everybody on this planet would take up cribbage and stop driving their Hummers to tailgate parties, or playing World of Warcraft 24 hours a day, we could reduce carbon emissions 90 percent by the year 2010. If we could get the Chinese to play cribbage, we'd reduce emissions by half that amount by Flag Day. Cribbage may be the most powerful new idea since metrosexuality."

It soon turned out that Gore's data were all wrong: Because most cribbage boards are made of wood, the popularity of the game was causing devastating deforestation of the Amazon, inflicting even worse damage on the ozone layer. This grim news hit the papers the same day Celebrity Cribbage was slated to air, and just as the public was starting to tire of the craze. Today, televised poker is alive and well, while cribbage mania is scarcely a memory.

"Cribbage went the way of the meringue, communism, the pet rock, Wig Wag magazine, Judge Reinhold and Bill Richardson," laments Ferris. "I think the real killer was when Madonna started playing cribbage with Sting and Paris Hilton and Britney Spears and Lindsey Lohan after her kabbala classes. The public liked it when cribbage players were fat slobs from the Post Office with stupid hats and starter goatees and aviator glasses and nicknames like Odin, Bringer of Suburban Darkness.

"Once Brad and Angelina got interested, cribbage was doomed."

Joe Queenan is the author, most recently, of Queenan Country: A Reluctant Anglophile's Pilgrimage to the Mother Country.