Perhaps my reading comprehension is on the wane as I could not fathom the article in Sunday’s NABC Bulletin entitled “Screen Surcharge Approved” beginning in the Spring of 2015 (unanimously passed by the Board of Directors). It applies to all NABC+ Events that use screens. Thus, each player who participates in a session that uses screens pays a $20 entry fee plus $10 surcharge per session. Where is the money going? Salaries of personnel? Perks? Expenses? Pensions? Bonuses? I should think that having a treasury of over six million dollars should suffice. I do believe the dues paying members are entitled to know. I would love to see the difference in salaries over the years of management, office personnel, directors and travel allowances.
Bobby and I were discussing the cascading effects of bridge on its enthusiasts when he offered, “Bridge has governed your life.” My initial reaction was one of offense — especially since he, of all people, should be the last person in the world to point a finger on that subject. However, after a few seconds’ reflection, I thought to myself: He is so right .. and in my case, it has been a super positive influence (although there is no denying how frustrating, depressing and aggravating it has been at times).
Bridge has affected just about every facet of my own existence. I might have chosen a more “normal” way of life .. especially after college but that was not to be. Instead, I sought social activities far from the norm of girls my age and traveled with individuals of all ages (and backgrounds) who shared with me exciting goals and pleasures. As my mother often apologetically described my way of life to her friends: “Judy is obsessed with ‘that travelling circus’ — running to a different locale each week — expounding upon her remorse with ‘How’s she gonna meet a nice man’?” Of course, when she met Norman, she did a total about face (and would have exhibited the same reaction if she had the pleasure of meeting Bobby). In my case, learning bridge forced me to overwork and challenge my brain as I was not blessed with (as Bobby labels it) ‘numeracy.’ I had to strive harder to improve my chosen hobby but marital guidance served as a big ‘upper.’ I have made cherished lifetime friends all over the world on a course that encompassed over fifty years. Bridge has introduced me to different cultures and afforded me the opportunity of seeing (up close and personal) important historic landmarks which I had only heard of, or read about, in college. As much as I love my hometown, I have enjoyed my past eleven years with Bobby after leaving Philadelphia ( with a brief stay in historic Dallas and over nine years in Las Vegas). I suppose bedding down here makes me aware that cards (in this instance .. blackjack) are more a part of my life than I realized and it is a great venue of relaxation as long as you don’t check your brains (and lucre) at the casino door.
Bridge and its many disciples blessed Bobby with a unique existence. I can confidently predict his life’s experiences and travels (plus his incredible disposition to remember names, places, dates, bridge hands and numbers) could provide sequels to The Lone Wolff (ala Parts II and III). However, been there — done that. Time marches on.
I’d love to hear how you feel that the game has affected your own existence (for better or for worse) and where you project you might be today .. without it?
The introduction of the Internet to the universe probably tops the list of “the best things since… sliced bread, chopped liver, hula hoops …. whatever.” Feel free to name your own poison. No doubt cyberspace has changed our difficult, tedious, time consuming process of communication and has brought the world so much closer together. However, as I see it concerning our once-incredible game, quite a few users have haphazardly overstepped their bounds.
An old adage attributed to Oliver Wendell Homes, Jr. states: “Your right to swing your arms ends just where the other man’s nose begins.” It is applicable in bridge (both at the table, in elected or appointed high level positions and as adjudicators of what is essential to keep our game at the top of the sphere). It is one thing to express one’s thoughts (pro or contra) privately and politely to a friend (or foe) but to have the gall to unleash unfounded, sarcastic, ugly public comments when some of the accusers are far from versed to do so is reprehensible and insulting to the erudite, well informed and long-time experienced volunteers who understand what is best for the game and equitable to all players. (In Bobby’s case, he is not swayed or influenced, and rarely does he know which individuals allegedly did what to whom. His only concern is to uphold the standards of the game as best as humanly possible).
Sometimes, though not often enough, one is privy to the opportunity of hearing from a respected individual who has definitely earned the distinction of being consulted with, having been there, done that, and is qualified (by anyone’s objective standards) to be closely listened to in an effort to determine correct answers to an important subject. When that happens (and the individual does not necessarily agree), it may be classified as pure, unadulterated foolishness and more importantly, a wasted opportunity, to not even try to understand. Unfortunately this happens all too often within the bridge world, where people from the four corners of the earth (usually via the Internet) are concerned with the same subject, but, at least at this point, have different ideologies, as to which direction the specific facts lead. When that occurs, it is certainly acceptable to disagree as to the overall result in a polite manner, but then to condemn and insult the well known messenger is downright rude and completely out of line. Those are the surroundings in which a supposedly learning neophyte sometimes finds himself. However, instead he should feel gratitude for the learning experience and understand the lack of knowledge background from which he, himself, is coming. To not accept that fact wreaks from lack of humility and no understanding of the magnitude of his or her indiscretion. It is a major violation of social intercourse with which today’s world is damned.
Bridge has changed immensely since I came upon the scene in the mid fifties. I was a newbie and the only icon whose name I recognized was Charles Goren. He put our game on the map (thank heavens!) but I later learned that although he was beloved by the public, he was far from a top ’expert’ though a celebrated and respected PR person. His accomplishment of introducing bridge to our hemisphere was unrivaled. In fact, he was a good friend of my late husband, Norman Kay, and when he made his grand appearance at our wedding in 1963, our other guests (especially my mother’s Thursday Night neighborhood bridge clique) froze up in disbelief that it was Mr. Bridge in the flesh! He certainly earned his distinguished reputation before that star struck audience!
Another difference was the composition of the Board of Directors. I am not casting any aspersions on our present representatives as I know most by name only, and I have no doubt they are hard working, devoted players who are totally dedicated to our game. However, I envision an earlier cast (listed strictly in alphabetical order) who were knowledgeable, experienced world class experts with an enormous number of scalps on the wall as well as administrative and judicial prowess which favorably shaped the progress of bridge. You may recognize some of these revered old timers .. Johnny Gerber, Edgar Kaplan, Lew Mathe, Eric Murray, Tommy Sanders, Sidney Silodor, Margaret Wagar and Bobby Wolff… with apologies to those I overlooked.
The old standards seem to have changed since personal alliances, biases, prejudices and politics have taken over and the honor and best interest of the game are no longer priorities. Everyone adheres to his or her own agenda and, IMO, professionalism has affected the thinking of many where money plays such an overwhelming role.
Nowadays, respect for the justifiably informed opinions of others (based on performance and administration) appears to have been scrapped. Everyone is an expert. Just ask them. I yearn for the ’good old days’ where the focal point was the beauty and majesty of the game. Outside influences and personal motivation have caused them to fall from grace! Hopefully, it is not too late to pick up the pieces… or is it?
Unbeknownst to Bobby, with permission from with the gracious owners of the LVBW and the engagement of an independent catering duo (who had performed sensationally on several occasions prior to yesterday) — an unbelievable luncheon feast was awaiting the Tuesday Game in honor of his 82nd!! Announcement of the event was made at the club on the days we were not in attendance and a sign-up sheet was available to get some idea of how many mouths were eager to be fed. Our estimate for the number of attendees was pretty much on target with sixteen tables in play and several others whom I had invited for lunch whether or not they were able to stay for the game. About seventy bridge lovers were on hand to scream “Surprise” as he staggered through the door in disbelief. We usually arrive a minute or two before game time (having eaten at a nearby Wendy’s beforehand). However, I had to find a way to coax him to the party by 11:50 without eating first (as the guests were already there waiting to attack the spread) and the game was starting at 12:30. I trumped up a story that it was our friend Carol Pincus’s birthday (which was actually three days prior to his) and insisted we be there early not to spoil the surprise. He quizzically asked the day before .. “Are you sure this party is not for me?” I assured him that knowing how much he hated to be the center of attention and do a lot of socializing in light of his steadily failing hearing, that I would NEVER violate his strong feelings of privacy and he was convinced his hunch was wrong. When he entered the door to shouts of “SURPRISE,” he looked at me but before he could utter a word, I said “So, I lied!!!” Although he would never admit it, I could see he was enjoying everyone coming over to his table with beaming smiles.
This was no easy task as Bobby despises (and is embarrassed by being the center of attention) and is basically very shy and modest despite a huge laundry list of achievements for over six decades. Had I asked his permission, it would have been a flat “NO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” so as a loving wife, I took matters into my own hands (no pun intended) and went undercover for about three weeks. However, I enlisted help of our supreme caterer (Barbara Lotief) and her able assistant, Evelyn Dahl, who doubles as the President of Unit 373. I gave them the number of guests expected and left most of the decisions as to menu up to them .. as I had seen their handy work on many prior celebrations and sadly some memorial tributes as well. One of the owners, Dixie Perkinson, worked tirelessly with me sanding down the rough edges, and my daughter Robin (who commutes between Scottsdale and Las Vegas) did a lot of scut work, including ordering, picking up and delivering some scrumptious bakery goodies to round off the catered array which adorned a mammoth table in the middle of the room. Of course, there was no better or more appropriate site to host a bridge event than the lovely, huge facility of the LVBW and Dixie’s two other partners (Joanne Euler and Jane Rubin) were very happy to provide the site for Bobby’s shindig.
Both before and after the duplicate, it was very gratifying to see a steady stream of visitors either kissing Bobby’s cheek or shaking his hand (you can figure out which sex did what) .. and thanking me for the delicious lunch. Regardless of his protests, it was so obvious how much he was savoring the love-in in his honor. Thanks to all who made Tuesday, October 14th such a special day for The Wolves!!
I am reminded of the excitement associated with the ACBL, the organization to which I was first introduced in the mid fifties. Discovering the game of bridge to me was like dying and going to heaven. I will be forever grateful as it has enriched my life with love, friendships, fun, challenges and joy … more than anyone could imagine! Read the rest of this entry »
or more descriptively “………. the Wolff’s Mouth.”
Both Bobby (via Aces on Bridge) and I (on judy.bridgeblogging.com) have always enjoyed the refreshing inference of the words .. freedom of the press (as long as certain boundaries are observed and honored). The owners of this site have afforded us the privilege of blogging to the bridge playing public. For the most part, civility has reigned supreme with the exception of the owner stepping in on one occasion in the last seven years when outside comments became offensive, insulting and ugly. The dignity of this site speaks for itself and has been maintained ever since (and no doubt long before) Bobby and I began contributing. A few years ago, when Bridge Winners came to the fore, we both became actively involved, but early on I felt that insulting remarks and jabs were out of place and issues could have been presented without ill-favor and sarcasm. At that point I personally bowed out and, for the most part, (upon my urging) Bobby followed suit (with a recent exception or two when he felt he might be able to clarify a factual misconception of which others were unaware).
In any event, a recent discussion on BW has evoked dozens of comments (some innocent and well intended but many dogmatically made without full knowledge and understanding of the actual background and wrongful adaptations of passages from “The Lone Wolff”). References were made to Bobby’s role (mostly inaccurate remarks with a hodgepodge of fallacious views, statements and criticism). For that reason, I have decided (against my better judgment) to educate the readers as to what really happened in the age-old Allan Cokin/Steve Sion cheating incident from 1979. Let me further clarify that my only participation in this discussion is in the unsolicited role as Bobby’s Boswell, elaborating on his involvement in this distorted saga and its ongoing rants based on a plethora of hearsay and misinformation. I have imposed upon Bobby to set the records straight and he has agreed to relate what actually happened from his first hand experience, being on the scene and very much involved in the resolution of the matter. I think the public is entitled to have the documented facts .. to which few were privy though many blather about!
“A bit of personal background .. before detailing the Cokin issue:”
“I have had the dubious challenge of serving as the messenger in ridding the ACBL of dishonest players which led up to my creating the position of Recorder back in Montreal in 1985. The Cokin/Sion issue manifested itself during my ACBL presidency when Cokin confessed his role of cheating with Steve Sion in front of the entire ACBL BOD in the Spring of 1987 in St. Louis. Then, after signing his confession (drafted by me), it forced his partner to do the same. Both documents were turned over to Jeff Polisner, ACBL Attorney at the time, and were held in his office in San Francisco.”
“In the late 1980’s the ACBL In-House Committee had selected a celebrated expert to be chosen Honorary Member of the Year. The Committee was unaware (though I was) that this individual had been convicted of employing stealthy cheating signals (with the code being indelibly broken) and was immediately barred from playing and collaborating further with said partner. Upon learning of this, said Committee withdrew the candidate’s name and substituted another for this august position.”
“I was also instrumental in processing a number of cheats out of the League. Some were married couples; others were simply individuals who had various cheating partnerships with pre-arranged signals. Lesser offenses (though still unacceptable) were copping boards by peeking at the opponents’ scorecards and/or hands; others were known to waltz up and down the aisles while other tables were still in play. They all plied their ugly trades but nothing was as criminal as pre-arranged signals. Another incident in which I interceded was preventing a convicted cheat from serving as captain of one of NABC Teams who was favored for the position. A meeting was arranged wherein the Dean of the proposed captain’s Law School was asked to appear on his behalf, but after a meeting which included the accused culprit, the Dean, ACBL Attorney Jeff Polisner and myself, the captaincy was denied.”
“And now, turning to the world bridge scene, it is commonly known (and the accompanying reasons) why deliberate unethical behavior permeated the international tournaments starting back in the Fifties. Both I and several sets of teammates (as well as Judy’s late husband Norman and his groups) were subjected to similar deliberate ‘indiscretions’ (for lack of a more pungent word). There is no going back. The only comforting aspect of these heartbreaking experiences was a teary confession offered to me privately a few years ago that my suspicions were well conceived and on target. It didn’t justify the undeserved victories (and painful losses), but it did soothe the pain and disappointment of losing and finally having the satisfaction of confirmation and admission of guilt (albeit privately).”
“I am not an advocate of second place finishers ascending to the throne when the winners of record have been proven to be cheating. The reason: since no one can be certain which team or pair would have played whom earlier in the contest and, especially in the knockout events, who would have fallen by the wayside .. leaving an entirely different cast of characters vying as they ascend (or fall from) the ladder. It is only my opinion, but whatever is eventually done should serve as a future precedent for what should follow and to not consider that crucial is a delusional fantasy of the worst order.”
“These are merely my personal thoughts gleaned from six decades of experience in both national and international competition. However, before agendas are discussed, the ones doing the talking should try and research the issues prior to declaring evil intent since every case is different and that is why I believe an ironclad rule should be in force. Also, I proposed a WBF rule (which was passed) that if a pair (or even one person) has been convicted of stealthy cheating, then all of his/her past victories should be thrown out along with partner’s and his/her teammate’s. This would result in the winner/s vacating their title/s, but NOT moving anyone up. Such a policy would amount to my teams (1972-1975) being prevented from moving up .. regardless of what (if anything) the WBF plans to do with the current issues. Personal wins and losses are of little consequence here. It is the broader picture and the betterment of our game that should be the focal point of this discussion!”
“And finally .. to the actual subject at hand from an eye witness:”
“Allan Cokin was not a particularly good friend of mine and the following is a factual (and I feel objective and sincere) appraisal of our relationship. Our liaison was more representative of a hoped-to-be reformed criminal and his parole officer who were allied to further his possible rehabilitation. Allan graciously hosted a very expensive catered dinner (at his own expense) for the three North American Junior Teams (2 USA, 1 Canadian) in 1999 in Ft. Lauderdale. It was held at his nearby home where he spent time with the Juniors (along with me as Coach and Bob Rosen as Captain). Much time was devoted to trying to teach them to learn and concentrate on their systems in order to be fully prepared to play at that particular world championship. One of those teams finished second, but the event was dominated by Italy and Europe, finishing 1st, 3rd, 4th and 5th. Cokin at other times always (at least to me) was deeply regretful of his past behavior unlike his seemingly non-repenting partner. Allan then volunteered to give his copious bridge notes to whomever I suggested .. all as an obvious attempt at trying to make amends and repay his debt to bridge. Whenever our paths crossed (mostly at the three NABCs), he was willing to do whatever it took to repent for his behavior, in no uncertain terms acknowledging how terrible it was! incidentally, Willenken, Greco, Woolridge and Carmichael were all present and will bear witness to Allan’s actions. Bob Rosen performed sensationally as usual and handled the many thorny problems that always seem to arise at WCs .. Junior or otherwise.”
“While Bridgewinners is a marvelous concept and an everyday vehicle for constructive, lively bridge discussions which lead to great accomplishments, some of those participating should realize that sometimes their lack of experience and knowledge should serve to tone down their misplaced zeal and strong stances until they ascertain the actual factual background necessary to be accurate in their descriptions and opinions. I have had some frustrating times trying to separate the wheat from the chaff after having to listen to several unknowledgeable (but very vocal) players blurt pretty radical and incorrect happenings — resulting in far out, improper assumptions. However, BW has enormous potential, but until management requires even more grace and goodwill for which they strive .. it (at least IMO) will not rise to the heights it deserves. Discipline, courtesy and respect are a better means to an end!”
Sunday was the seventeenth anniversary of the death of Edgar Kaplan and I question whether the law of coincidence, his numerate side or just plain fate put him to rest on 9/7/97. A rhetorical question, of course, but when I looked at the calendar today, I was mesmerized by the numbers. Read the rest of this entry »
One of the most beloved bridge enthusiasts I have met since relocating in Nevada was the gentleman who was so warmly remembered yesterday at The Henderson Bridge Club overseen by Dixie Sue Allsbrook and Carol Warren, with Rick Price officiating. Proctor, who passed away on June 22nd after a lingering illness, was a legend among us and was recalled warmly by several close friends. Loveable Proctor was like Peck’s bad boy and always sported a devilish smile and halting laugh. About three dozen friends and admirers attended a special duplicate in memory of a very unique individual with a sense of humor second to none. Bobby Hayes, Proctor’s lifelong companion for close to half a decade, welcomed and thanked everyone and was moved by the beautiful remembrances of days gone by. Laughs, chuckles and smiles were the order of the day. Tears were put on the back burner. His close friend and oft times partner, George Kovarik, opened the informal ceremony with some delightful tales of Proctor in action. My Bobby (a good friend and occasional teammate for over forty years) followed and others piped in with funny stores which created a happy aura .. not one of sadness which usually dictates the mood of the audience. Before the duplicate began, the tribute was completed by a close old friend who oozed with charm and sported a fantastic voice and, accompanied by a musical background via a computer, sang a touching rendition of one of Proctor’s favorites .. On Route 66. He really stole the show. Another outpouring of love surfaced in the mouthwatering hand prepared luncheon goodies brought by many of Proctor’s friends which adorned the table in the back room. A beautiful afternoon I will long remember!!
Allow me to preface my title and introduction with a disclaimer as I am in no way qualified to make the judgment alluded to as what constitutes these so-called world class players, whose names today are bandied about as if they are cast in stone. However, being married to two gentlemen whose uncontested records and reputations for a combined total of close to fifty years affords me the privilege of sharing their thoughts and up-close-and-personal eyewitness accounts and I seriously doubt if anyone can challenge their individual entitlements to make that call.
For those of you very old timers who knew Norman, he was very soft spoken and never made waves and one of the most beloved individuals to compete for Zone 2. He played with and against the best of his era and had great respect for those whom he considered the legends of his day… beginning with his dear friend and partner of short duration who passed on in 1963… Sidney Silodor (the predecessor to his multi-talented partner of forty-some years, Edgar Kaplan), Alvin Roth and Tobias Stone (often teammates), Helen Sobel, Lew Mathe, Eddie Kantar, Harry Harkavy, Howard Schenken, George Rapee, B. J. Becker, Bill Root, and Canadian superstars… Eric Murray and Sammy Kehela. Those were just a few off the top of my head (and definitely in no particular order and certainly with some omissions). You know from past performance, I do not pull any punches and I must admit not all named enjoyed sterling reputations, and I zero in on their bridge talents only.
Although Norman and Bobby fell into the abyss and became addicted somewhere around the same time (in the mid fifties), Norman became entrenched in another field he adored .. starting out as a printing clerk (ink-blotched apron and all) for Merrill-Lynch and retiring some forty years later as an Executive Vice President. Bobby, on the other hand, became totally immersed in the game and though he held down some jobs working for Michigan General (via Ira Corn, of Dallas Aces fame) has devoted his entire being to the game for over sixty years in more capacities than you can shake a stick at. He started out at the tender age of twelve, as you may remember from The Lone Wolff, catching a glimpse of a friendly bridge encounter, kibitzing his parents and friends on a round trip train excursion from his hometown of San Antonio to Chicago where his father had a business appointment. That did it… never to return to normalcy again. It is of particular interest that both Norman and Bobby were the youngest of their playing peers, but talent overcame youth.
Bobby’s bridge involvement actually encompasses seventy years as he approaches his 82nd birthday in October (and fit as a fiddle I might add). He co-owned a bridge club, played as a pro at his club at five bucks a session, was instrumental in the formation of The legendary Dallas Aces, was adopted by some of the greats of his day who began grooming him for stardom, served as a substitute on the ACBL BOD, then elected as a full fledged member, and onto the presidency of the ACBL and World Bridge Federation (WBF) and held dozens of positions that made earth-shattering decisions to affect the improvement of the game. However, despite his record breaking victories in world championships, he considers himself a failure as he was not able to light a fire under those in power here to get bridge into the schools in America to rival the 200,000,000 kids in China who are learning and playing every day. Incidentally, it was Bobby who back in the nineties proposed and had the curriculum approved by the Chinese Ministry for teaching in their schools; however, ugly American politics at a WBF meeting in Aspen (fighting over who would help get it off the ground and present it) put a damper on his efforts and the confrontation sent it to the back burner until a few years ago).
Back in San Antonio, Bobby was fortunate to be discovered and taken under the collective wings of such luminaries as Johnny Gerber, Curtis Smith, Oswald Jacoby and especially George Heath (who Bobby considers as great as ANYONE although he was disadvantaged by the absence of sophisticated modern day bidding). On a personal note, Bobby served as a whipping boy to his first three named mentors, but the end justified the humiliating and embarrassing means that were part of the process. Also prominent and considered at the top of the heap were Sidney Lazard, Dave Carter, Edith Kemp, Billy Rosen (belatedly inducted into the 2014 HOF) and Meyer Schleiffer. I repeat once more: These lists are in no special order, not proclaimed to be all-inclusive and off the top of his head. However, the point being made in the case of both Norman and Bobby is all of the above named have one characteristic in common: Consistent World Class Players
O.K. Down from my soap box and onto the crux of this blog: No doubt there are oversights above and I do apologize for some unintentional omissions. Very few of those saluted above are alive today to enjoy their recognition. However, their mind boggling longstanding successes adorn the record books and cannot be challenged. They are not what is commonly referred to as “a flash in the pan.” It is consistency over decades in the Winners Circle that entitles someone to be classified and celebrated as a bridge icon. That is why I take strong objection and exception when I read matter-of-fact references to ‘world class players’ or “one of the top players in the world” from people who are hardly qualified to make that call. To witness persons rave and rant off the top of their head based on what others might say is gibberish. It is fine to consider a rather new performer as upcoming, potentially great, talented, sensational, unbelievable and all the other glowing deserving tributes. But “world class”? You’ve got to have bruises, scars and crowded shelves of premier championship trophies to accept the title in good conscience.