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District Direction

By Ken Monzingo
National Board Representative

“Never believe that a few caring people cannot change the world. For indeed, that’s all who ever have.” –Margaret Mead (1901-1978)

ules can change. Rules mature. We don’t allow 4-year-olds to play with matches, but by age 12 they can light the dinner candles. Can such change – maturing – exist in our bridge world rules? For us on the dark edge of the age spectrum, do we seek comfort in the status quo that we have enjoyed, or can we still grow? I really don’t know. Two unpopular board motions to effect change I’ve sponsored or co-sponsored were:
1. Redefine, or eliminate, excessive international spending on less than one half of 1% of ACBL members – the international players – to the tune of $400,000+ a year in donations and league money.
2. Institue term limits for those, like me, who sit on the board making such decisions. With turnovers in governance comes new ideas and younger thinking. The downside is losing the valuable experience of decades of ACBL policy making.
These two positions, both solidly rejected, do not make me the bad guy and them the good guys ... or vice versa. But understanding who we are, and who really supports the league, suggests a closer look at each. I’ve seen some softening of the old guard, and maybe I’ll see change before my sun sets in the beautiful Pacific.

Who Plays Bridge – and Where.

I see our bridge in the now – in this century – as threefold: club players, tournament attendees, and the experts and professionals who compete in our NABC+ events and in world competition.
1. Club Players: The Heart & Soul of ACBL. Herein lies the masses, the devoted ones who keep our clubs alive, ergo, keep our league alive. Former league CEO Jay Baum once told me he could run a very successful ACBL with just the clubs – without the tournaments. I believe he could, although I love our tournaments.
2. Sectionals, Regionals, NABCs. We open the doors to 1200+ tournaments a year: 1100+ regionals, 100+ sectionals, 3 NABCs. About 14,500 players attend our three nationals each year, with the Summer NABC being most popular. Those 14.5K (approx: 4000 Spring, 6250 Summer, 4200 Fall) represent less than 8.5% of ACBL (5% with heavy overlap), yet the lion’s share of what we deal with in governance is regarding tournaments.
3. The Experts & Pros. Everybody loves a hero. And it’s nice to be one – in somebody’s eyes. But here we’re dealing with that less than one-half of 1% of us. We probably need some heros, some real experts who win national championships, and who travel about the globe playing on our nickel. We had some once in the Charles Goren-Oswald Jacoby era – remember the entertaining black & white 1960s TV show, Championship Bridge? But   heros are now in short supply, and their nationality is changing.
As the World Turns
We no longer expect to see the crowning of our ACBL experts/pros as national champions. The Chinese, Poles, Russians, Egyptians and others are quite often winning our major NABC events, or are included as economical additions to our professional teams. I find no hero worship here. We own a few who are fun to watch, but no Tiger Woods, Tom Brady or Michael Jordan to admire.

So What’s the Beef?

Just as tournament attendees consist of a very small percentage of the league, the experts/pros and their clients who enjoy the fruits of the World Bridge Federation’s (WBF) international competition represent even less. Yet we donate $225,000 annually in International Fund (IF) games, and in tack-on charges to NABC+ events, along with optional add-on dollars to ACBL memberships to fund their team selections and global trips. I don’t support it because of the minute population base it serves, and the nonexistent return on our money. But it’s your choice if you choose to donate.
What I resent is that in addition to our IF donations, ACBL, with board approval, sends, $150,000 from our general account annually to WBF for “membership” dues. Hmm, what membership? I believe that if we choose to do so, it should come from the IF donations: from the International Fund. I once filed a motion to do this, but was soundly defeated. We’ve matured some – I’ll try again.
ACBL is under attack for cancelling a contract that went sour – the one for a new ACBLScore+, a one time loss we have moved on from. Lynch squads smelled blood in the Mississippi for that one, yet our international spending waste goes unquestioned.
Where is the anger there?

Rules – even Laws – can Mature.

Hopefully we (our league rules and board procedures) understand more as we mature. I’m optimistic new eyes may take a harder look at our global spending with no return, and seasoned ones can clean their lenses for a moment to do the math. I believe my stance on these two issues has labeled me a troublemaker.
Not a bad moniker to wear.

“Be the change that you wish to see in the world.”
–Mohandas Gandhi (1869-1948)

Peace, my friends.