To be Forewarned is to be Forearmed!
Here in the States (as well as elsewhere), there is continual chatter about declining interest in our once majestic game .. particularly Contract Bridge, which came upon the scene in 1927. As with most issues, everyone can cite reasons for declining participation. The most popular explanations seem to be an aging population as people are dying off .. with not enough interest generated by the younger set. I have done some research that I would like to share with you though that is far from the whole story.
After checking reliable sources, it appears that life expectancy is longer NOW than ever before (excepting rare circumstances). Perhaps we can attribute it to incredible medical science, research, surgeries, procedures and therapy. Times are changing. Old age is not that much of a factor lessening bridge attendance than as in physical enterprises. However, with the advent of modern technology in countless spheres .. consider the following! The younger set has witnessed so much that has evolved in past decades. Consider the addiction to TV, Taped shows, Internet, Kindle, Cell Phones, DVD’s (buy/rent), Movies, Soap Operas, Theatres, Operas, Traveling Headliners and the beat goes on! In fact, why go to a duplicate, tournament or NABC when you can play on BBO in the comfort of your robe .. at your own home .. and at convenient times that suit your personal schedule. Besides, the price is right! I am not condemning BBO .. far from it! It is very popular .. and why not? Just pointing out the tacks in the road. The public wants to know why bridge attendance is faltering with less and less youth taking up the game. Perhaps the above is only a fraction of the realistic reasons.
I think you may be surprised at my major primary suspicion. Let me acquaint you with the introduction of bridge to the younger set which actually was considered (but delayed) about a decade later in Asia. My husband and Bob Hamman were invited to Beijing by the late James Ortiz-Patino (Founder of the World Bridge Federation) to play opposite himself and his obviously enthusiastic partner, Deng Xioaping, the then-reigning Leader of the People’s Republic of China. That was in 1985. In 1993 Bobby (who was then President of the WBF) returned with a specific goal in mind. He was accompanied by Jeff Polisner (then Legal Counsel for the WBF) and another WBF Representative, Patrick Choy, who had since relocated in Singapore. The WBF trio met with a hierarchy of Chinese officials regarding earlier discussions about the positive aspects of the game of bridge. Their historical conference was held at The Great Hall of the People located in the legendary Tian’anmen Square. The primary purpose of the WBF visit: Introducing bridge OFFICIALLY by sanctioning it to be taught in the schools of China. After addressing Bobby …. “Mr Wolff: Exactly what can we do to help promote bridge?” — Bobby responded “Introduce and authorize the teaching of bridge into your school system.” The Chinese dignitaries discussed all the promising possibilities, opportunities and eventual results, excused themselves briefly, returned, extended their hands to Bobby, Jeff and Patrick and agreed “DONE DEAL!” MISSION ACCOMPLISHED .. or so they thought.
When Bobby returned to Aspen a short time later to attend the WBF Management Meeting, he presided, and proudly explained arrangements had been made and mutually agreed upon .. so that Audrey Grant (and her husband, David Lindop) would sojourn to China to “teach the teachers” how to teach bridge to the students. That included bringing notes, books, lesson materials, etc. … leaving the proverbial “no stone (or no card) unturned.” Shockingly, there was much resistance because many in attendance chirped in and wanted to join the entourage. Thus, their great intentions were thwarted even longer; however, the project finally got off the ground turning it over to the Chinese teachers who must have done one helluva a job as TODAY there are over 200,000,000 children learning and playing bridge in China. That is NOT A MISPRINT … OVER 200,000,000 IN CHINA … in addition to the eleven other European nations who had already officially introduced it into their school curricula earlier.
Just bear in mind. The collective membership here is around 170,000 total members. Compare that 200,000,000 school children in China alone (and add that to the other eleven countries who proudly adopted the educational school programs before that time). Lack of official bridge school involvement here is very discouraging .. so let’s face the facts and work on a solution:
Instead of concentrating on special local events and games and, of course the lure of more masterpoints, perhaps the ACBL administration should dedicate their time, interest and financial support (via ultra-qualified bridge leaders) toward investigating and hiring experienced teaching professionals to organize the same type of educational program the two hundred million Chinese youngsters have enjoyed the benefit of .. and are enabling them to make their way into the beautiful realm of bridge .. and eventually some of our newbies may become the budding bridge stars of the future.
Forgive my bluntness .. but the TIME IS NOW for a major turnabout to prevent the most incredible mind game in the world from losing stature. China and Europe have striven to teach and preserve the game and hopefully are enroute to protecting its continuance and popularity for centuries to come. Not so in the Western Hemisphere where little has seriously been done on a major scale to indoctrinate bridge into our school systems .. to prevent it from continuing to fall from grace and eventually vanish.
Bridge in the States and neighboring areas needs immediate resuscitation (long overdue) and that is OUR responsibility! The foresight taken by China and Europe seems like a rational approach. Otherwise, just sit back, do nothing and watch bridge fade into its likely fate of extinction.