TIME MARCHES ON ….
From my mind set, the once-elegant status of bridge is ebbing.
For the first fifty years of my bridge career, I attended the tournaments – missing perhaps three or four nationals – only because of illness or family crises. They were fabulous – relaxing, warm, friendly and with most of the top experts as cordial as possible. The same applied to the Sectionals and Regionals. People dressed more appropriately and popular events in local tournaments – like Mixed Pairs, Men’s and Women’s Pairs have disappeared. We even put on amateur entertainment, had quiz shows and panels or presented a musician to entertain the players after the game. The sociability has disappeared from the scene. It has become a business.
My tradition of attending the Nationals ended about five years ago and Bobby and I have not gone to one since Las Vegas. The reason – the continuing and increasing inconvenience and displeasure of air travel and airport red tape and the astronomical rise in the airline rates due to the economy as well as hotel and restaurant gouging and the general decline in the enjoyment of the two combined had a lot to do with it. But, there were other reasons.
We decided to downgrade our bridge playing to the sectionals and regionals in our immediate vicinity to eliminate the exhaustion and exorbitant total costs of the NABCs. Now, that is even changing. Perhaps Las Vegas is different than most other metropolitan areas and the great tourist trade adds to the enormity of the site. At last week’s Regional sometimes it was even impossible to make yourself understood in a dining place because of language barriers. And, how do you like paying three bucks for a glass of iced tea or cup of coffee? Don’t get me wrong. The LV volunteers and administrative staff couldn’t do better. Everyone was helpful and gracious and the prizes were terrific. That is not the issue. It is just the overall down-grading of the game.
Because of the time regiments (although twenty minutes from the site), we stayed at the hotel (The Riviera). I couldn’t tolerate the 7 a.m. wakeup calls for the 9 o’clock lift offs or the 8 a.m. jingle for the 10 o’clock games. What ever happened to the old fashioned one and seven-thirty starting times? I guess the idea is to cram in as many sessions to collect extra card fees and give away a plethora of masterpoints which draw the degenerates. Today. even in the duplicates they award those coveted points to people with forty percent games to have them keep coming back for more.
Another bone of contention is professionalism. Players who only play for masterpoints v. love of the game do not mix well with the real bridge lovers and I believe professionals who regard money more important than the game will eventually lead to its destruction.
Perhaps that is why the ACBL’s net worth went from two or thee million to maybe four or five million and the directors (even the inept ones) and administrators (a few of whom are not even bridge players) are well paid. It seems to be the objective to schedule as many sessions into a tournament as possible. Despite the horror and dissatisfaction of the players, the card fees have risen tremendously. (The Sunday Stratified Teams were $88) .. a far cry from the old days. With the advanced technology of the invention of the Bridge Mate, the directors’ burden of matchpointing (and even entering the names and numbers of the players at the start of the first round) have been relieved.
Lastly, I can think of nothing more disgraceful that in all these years with their many employees and resources, the ACBL has not made their main focus establishing a dynamic bridge system in the schools in America – unlike the European and Asian educational facilities which are light years ahead of us. It seems like we devote all our energy to the seniors and masterpoint giveaways and make little concerted effort toward a major junior bridge program here in the U. S. school system. Horn Lake needs dedicated and caring administrators and employees who love bridge like the old timers who ran the show back in Greenwich in the thirties, forties and fifties.
I guess I’m just an old fashioned lass who enjoyed the good old days of bridge when it retained an inordinate aura of class — and victories were more meaningful and prestigious!!!