Judy Kay-Wolff


I am not as avid a football fan as baseball and am anxiously awaiting my Phillies to take on their humongous assignment against the Yankees (almost surely) in the World Series.  However, I was overwhelmed reading the article below.   Perhaps bridge (at all levels) could garner some advice from the admission of those at the helm in taking strong steps to prevent recurrence of obviously erroneous official decisions and going all-out to make certain sub-standard rulings called to the attention of the public as well as the officials making an effort to restore equity to its game!  I am totally in awe that the Conference would succumb to the public announcement, embarrassment and displeasure of such below-par officiating.    Nobody’s perfect, but this decision goes a long way toward putting one’s best foot forward!


SEC suspends Florida-Arkansas crew

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP)—The Southeastern Conference has suspended officials from last weekend’s Arkansas-Florida game after the crew was involved in its second controversial call of the year.

Referee Marc Curles’ crew called a personal foul on Arkansas defensive lineman Malcolm Sheppard in the fourth quarter as the Gators were rallying for a 23-20 victory. The league said there was no video evidence to support the call.

The same group of officials called the LSU-Georgia game earlier this month, which included a late unsportsmanlike conduct penalty the league said shouldn’t have been called.

“A series of calls that have occurred during the last several weeks have not been to the standard that we expect from our officiating crews,” SEC commissioner Mike Slive said Wednesday. “I believe our officiating program is the best in the country. However, there are times when these actions must be taken.”

SEC associate commissioner Charles Bloom said this is the first time the league has publicly suspended a football crew like this.

The SEC says the crew will be removed from its next scheduled assignment Oct. 31 and will not be assigned to officiate as a crew until Nov. 14.

The league said the crew’s bowl assignments could also be impacted.

“The entire crew shoulders responsibility for each play. I have taken this action because there must be accountability in our officiating program,” Slive said. “Our institutions expect the highest level of officiating in all of our sports and it is the duty of the conference office to uphold that expectation.”


Riki TikiOctober 23rd, 2009 at 1:49 pm

Perhaps the ACBL should adopt a similiar policy of having the director calls randomly monitored. A very interesting concept.

JUDY KAY-WOLFFOctober 24th, 2009 at 2:17 pm

Riki Tiki:

Thanks for your appreciation and recognition of the guts of the football conference authorities to issue such statements and take punitive actions. It is obvious the bridge world wouldn’t touch this one with a ten foot pole. Whatever happens — happens! Who cares as long as no one is insulted and the games continue on in limbo. Hurting feeligs and egos and embarrassing those in command was not high on the SEC list of priorities — but rather they were spurred on by their determination to set the game on its proper course for the future.

I continue to be in awe of the Southeastern Conference for having the guts to wash their dirty laundry in public in an effort to portray the seriousness of the officiating errors. Obviously, they mean business and in the long run this admonition will be beneficial to the college players as well as their millions of devoted fans. A delightful ray of sunshine in this political and money hungry world!

Robb GordonOctober 27th, 2009 at 4:36 pm

One thing we will never agree on is which team to support in the upcoming World Series! As to this post, it lends itself to the suggestion that these rulings were more than incorrect, but somehow “tainted”. I don’t think anybody believes that with the umpires.

However, I have serious issues with the way umpires are selected for post-season. There is no merit involved. Furthermore, crews are broken up for the playoffs. I think there is a small degree (but more than zero) of teamwork in baseball umpiring.

All that notwithstanding, it would be nice if MLB could select post-season umpires on merit. It would also be nice if there was a sensible way to introduce replay.

BOBBY WOLFFOctober 28th, 2009 at 5:11 am

Robb, as usual, brings up a great deal of heady stuff! Let me pose some questions:

1. With the major team sports on TV, at least in the USA, has everyone noticed how much more time is taken away from the game itself and advertisers have much more priority during the broadcasts, making money the undisputed master, way ahead of whoever is the winner of the contest?

A. When Curt Flood, centerfielder for the St. Louis Cardinals, many years ago, gave up his career in order to create free agency, making many enemies among owners, but also creating the shell of what has happened since then, where sports stars have no limit to their ascendancy in both status and wealth? Has that led to more interest or what?

B. Can it be that umpires and referees need to cooperate with the instructions from their bosses concerning how to temper their judgment?

C. It is very doubtful that anyone really thinks a major league baseball umpire could be on the take, but what about pleasing his bosses in drawing out certain playoffs and doing the “little” things which could help it happen?

D. If Robb is right and the selection of playoff and beyond officials are selected in ways other than a strict meritocracy, it is the beginning of sleaze, even though the result will seldom change the winner.

E. The recent World financial meltdown was likely the result of basic American greed spinning out of control and taking millions of relatively innocent investors with them. And how about the self serving, almost bankrupt company big shots, still declaring the maximum bonuses using the charitable bailout money to satisfy their hard to fathom selfish interests?

F. Seeing all this happen with our eyes wide open, can anyone even begin to doubt the depths certain people can lower themselves to, especially those who consider themselves in desperate positions?

G. Wouldn’t it then follow that we as people must begin to doubt almost everything about people with power, including politicians, special interest groups, and almost everyone connected with trying to make far reaching decisions?

H. While I have purposely enlarged a relatively simple subject to all the way up to include national crises, wouldn’t it be nice and perhaps mandatory for our leadership, if any exists, to start setting role model examples for all of us to want to follow?

It is probably true that greed breeds more greed and corruption replicates geometrically. If so, good luck to the world! My guess is that we are going to need a lot of it.

JUDY KAY-WOLFFOctober 28th, 2009 at 5:15 pm

Obviously, my original blog was incited by the parallel need for the ACBL to open their eyes to their lack of accountability to the public (their dues paying members) for erroneous decisions in the fields that reach all the way up to the appeal level. I speak from personal experience.

Yet, no one other than Riki-Tiki (including my well-intended husband who is outraged at so many groups falling from grace) bothered to allude to our bridge organization which has many gaps to fill and cracks to patch. Laissez faire is not the answer. Accountability seems to be a dirty word. At least the football conference owned up to the egregious way-under-par (perhaps even suspicious) rulings of their officials and promised an all out effort to improve their past performances — exhibited by public printed reprimand, temporary suspension and implied impact on the selection of those to be honored by being chosen to referee the esteemed Bowl Games.

Robb GordonOctober 29th, 2009 at 1:27 pm

Judy, I was not unaware of your motives. I just happen to prefer discussing sports in October :).

I do not agree with Bobby that (if I understand his post) things are done or not done in baseball with regard to officiating that are motivated by maximizing revenue. I think discovery of such a thing would be a lethal blow to the sport.

I do agree that things are done in baseball policy planning to maximize revenue, without regard to the integrity of the game. For example, we used to have a 154 game season, followed by a 7 game World Series. Then the season went up to 162 games with the first expansion. Now, we have a 162 game season with a 19(!) game post-season, with the certainty that baseball extends to November. Now you will never find someone that loves the sport more than I, but it is not a November sport. Can’t be good for the game, the athletes, or the fans. Why have it? Because only 8 teams make it to the post-season, and 4 of them are gone quickly. The non-contenders place that 8 games worth of revenue above the sport. Having beaucoup commercials as Bobby pointed out, but no replay is not good for the game (I am not one of those who subscribe to the theory that the game should be played as it was when they were children). Many other examples exist.

JUDY KAY-WOLFFOctober 29th, 2009 at 5:39 pm

Robb: My reaction was that the ACBL are small potatoes compared to the major sports and specifically college football with millions of devotees. The football conference earned an enormous chunk of respect for assuming the responsibility for the inefficiency and indifference of their refs, publicly admitting that errors in judgment had been committee with an eye to correcting them and moving onward and upward. Their obvious view is: It’s broken. Let’s fix it. On the other hand, the ACBL just seems to glide along with no major move in the direction of equity. Whatever they say goes. It’s their way or the highway. Obviously, the MAJORITY OF THOSE in charge don’t really give a damn but enjoy their haughty titles and positions (excepting those few that do not have their hands tied and still speak up).

The perfect examples are: (1) You cannot appeal an appeal. That’s what higher courts are for in America but the ACBL rules supreme; AND (2) — worse yet, they immediately passed a new edict (after my ridiculously inappropriate Award Without Merit Award which after sixteen months of battle was overturned) that you can no longer appeal an AWMW. That option is now history. They didn’t want to face that embarrassment in the future. Their new ruling relegates one to wearing the Scarlet Letter –without recourse. IN OTHER WORDS — WHATEVER THEY SAY GOES. Isn’t that known as a dictatorship? How are injured parties supposed to receive redress? Obviously, THEY ARE NOT.

On another note — What has happened to the ACBL is disgusting. Professionalism has taken over. Money is in FIRST; Bridge is a bad SECOND. Everyone caters to the sponsors for fear of losing a possible pro date. When I read articles in the bulletin that says so-and-so was accorded some great honor or that a so-called “Expert” (and and I won’t name names) is holding a meeting or hosting this or that, it makes me ill. I don’t use the term “expert” loosely. Experts used to be people like Culbertson, Goren, Kaplan, Kay, Schenkin, Roth, Stone, Root, Crawford, Rapee, Gerber, Jacoby, Mathe, etc. How can we put these wealthy Johnny-come-latelys in the same category (and speak of them in the same breath) and not hang our heads in shame? Our bodies have been snatched — all by the almighty dollar. It is sad that bridge has come to this stage — with no relief in sight.

Robb — you confine your thoughts to sports. That is fine. But — I wanted (by comparison) to turn our attention to a subject which is of greater focus in the minds of the readers (BRIDGE bloggers) and it would serve our game well by paying heed to the action of the college football leadership in an effort to hoist their own standards.

BOBBY WOLFFOctober 29th, 2009 at 6:16 pm

Hi Robb,

In order to be more clear, while I agree with you that no one representing the home baseball office would ask any of their agents (certainly including umpires) to do anything specifically illegal or even on the fringe, to maximize revenue, the discussion by you, to which I agree 100%, is almost as harmful to the basic integrity of the game, at least in the form of lack of homage to the sport. And what about the basic fans of the sport like you and me, who have seen for too many years of our lives, especially me since I am much older, that when Philadelphia basically rents a player like Cliff Lee from Cleveland, or the Yankees use their incredible media advantage to earn enough money to always hire the best free agents like Sabbathia, and Teixeira as well as so many others in the past like AROD, originally having no connection to New York, how can the fans, although they appear to do, really embrace this phony attachment as if all of the three players mentioned have always called New York home. At least the fans and alumni of teams playing college football root for their home Universities or Cities or States and have some recognized reason to think of their team as one of their own.

With the above phoniness as a backdrop, is it any wonder that the aberrations which you allude to such as as an 8 game longer season and up to an additional 12 game playoff system forcing baseball to be played in November as well, of course as “beaucoup commercials, no replay, very long drawn out games (averaging close to 3 hours instead of 2 in the distant past), isn’t it time to mention that for many it is difficult to really admire someone’s talents when they make millions of dollars compared to years ago when they barely made an average worker’s wage and traveled home after the game on the same subways their fans used?

Is change always awful? Certainly, no it isn’t, but at some time perhaps the fans should be strictly considered and instead of the astronomical ticket price increase to see a game live, might it not follow that some of those millions paid to players be funneled back to the fans in the form of lower ticket prices, fewer commercials, better educated, higher quality umpires and more law abiding players who are, at least, somewhat schooled in public relations.

Has “Stop the World, I Want to Get Off” so enveloped everyone in society that we will eventually “Throw the baby out with the bath water”, a condition we appear headed toward.

Robb GordonOctober 30th, 2009 at 5:16 am

I had to laugh. As I was reading Bobby’s post, the 1st base umpire just ruled a line drive out double play where replay showed the ball bounced. Another case where replay could have changed the game. But this time the umpire was not at fault – you couldn’t see this play at normal speed.

Bridge and baseball have some things in common. Some of these were brought to the surface with your excellent analysis.

When I went to my first baseball game, we had infield field boxes at Tiger Stadium with a price of $3. Even with inflation, this does not come to the hundreds of dollars these would cost at many stadia today.

At that time players were lucky to earn more than their fans, and their careers often ended early, with no significant pension or outside training. Baseball’s unique anti-trust exemption helped owners maintain a “reserve clause” which basically indentured players to their teams until they retired or were traded. If you only have one bidder for your services it is hard to gain much leverage. The positive thing was that players became identified with a team as they spent their careers there, but there was no security for the players. In fact the Curt Flood case that Bobby mentioned earlier was based on Flood’s willingness to accept a trade to the Phillies, not a salary dispute.

Around the same time, the professionals playing bridge did not make a good living. Bridge Professionalism (outside of teaching, writing, and directing) was considered disreputable (see the Tony Manuto character in Richard Powell’s novel Tickets to the Devil), and took place sub-rosa. The usual clients were bad players trying to get enough red points to make LM – something they could never do on their own. There were also a few good clients with famous names, but these were the exceptions.

Most of the top players had jobs or businesses. They were mostly successful as you would expect top bridge players to be. They played together on “amateur” teams with no expectation of or desire for compensation. Nobody in their right mind would become a bridge pro unless their opportunities were limited, or their love of the game so great that they couldn’t imagine doing anything else.

All of this started to change in the US, I think, with the Aces. Bobby might laugh at me, considering the compensation they received, but I think the Aces made professionalism respectable. It was around the mid-1970’s after the Aces success that the ACBL looked into regulating pros, until it gave up.

It was also the mid-1970’s that gave us Baseball Free Agency. At the same time, there were more affluent Bridge players who, either to improve, or to succeed started hiring more pros.

In both cases, the pendulum swung from employer to employee.

It was a gradual process (more gradual in bridge) and now we have baseball players earning in the millions – not just the superstars but the journeymen. We have Bridge players earning hundreds of thousands of dollars per year. Look at the top 16 seeds in the major team events and tell me how many have NO sponsor.

In both cases, in my opinion, the pendulum has swung too far the other way, to the detriment of their respective games, albeit for different reasons. In baseball, it is the competitive imbalance (although it has given us some fantastic post-season baseball) and in bridge it is the constant spectre of players being motivated by other than pure competition, and risking a taint to the game.

In both cases, the powers that be are going to have to face the music and deal with it eventually or risk losing a critical mass of popularity.

I would love to address more here, but I fear that I have run on too long, so I will let y’all digest this.

JUDY KAY-WOLFFNovember 3rd, 2009 at 1:01 am

Dear Robb:

It is hard to recall enjoying a blog more than the above and reminiscing about things past. I have been a big baseball fan for over sixty-five years and well remember the days of Curt Flood, the events that followed and the change in MLB policies over many decades. I was very involved in all sports as I ran a wholesale sports card business during the week and attended local and out-of-town shows with Norman during its popularity on weekends for almost twenty years. It was great fun and being involved with the sale of celebrity photographs, we got to meet and socialize with many of the top superstars of the era. You brought back a host of priceless memories of Kays Baseball Cards, Inc.

I totally agree with your analogies of sports and bridge. You make a potent point where you talk about the “powers that be” and facing the music and eventually having to deal with it or risk losing a “critical mass of popularity.” I feel that the money involved in big time sports advertising — especially those horrendous three minute commercials are here to stay (but the zillions of dollars in salaries have to come from somewhere). If I see one more ad from Southwest Airlines about their free baggage, I’m gonna scream. Some ads are very clever, I must confess, but since we have a bank of TVs in Bobby’s den, sometimes I see the same ad on three different sets simultaneously — ad nauseum.

And yes, you bring up The Aces and the origin in the U. S. of professional bridge. However, once they canned Ira, the composition of the team was very credible without having to schlep a client along to the next stage. Unfortunately, “playing pro” beats having a real job (if you don’t mind bowing and curtseying every time the sponsor appears) and from all obvious present-day indications, professionalism is here to stay and continues to make a total farce of our once-great game. My biggest objection is not at the club levels or sectionals, regionals or nationals where pros are often hired for legitimate learning purposes and mentoring one’s game. But, when qualification seeding points (regardless of the number allocated) are awarded to teams that housed foreign experts help the U. S. players get through the stages to reach the Trials and then must drop off and go back to represent their own country, we have gone too far. I miss the bridge aura when I was introduced to the game back in the early sixties. The ideal team seeking to represent their country was composed of the three best pairs — not merely two excellent pairs playing with their sponsor and his or her partner (usually weakening the team by at least 16.67% and figuring to render that particular team a decided underdog to any of the best teams from around the world). It is no longer about putting one’s best foot forward and exhibiting the finest we can offer to represent Zone 2. As I’ve said before, Money is in 1st and Bridge is in 2nd! I find that very sad indeed!