January 2017 District Direction

District Direction

What it’s like to be President of the ACBL ...

WWhat’s it like? Marvelous! The privilege of spending year 2016 as president of this great league was a life-altering experience. Other than the birth of my children, the highlight of 60+ bridge years, and will forever be something I am identified with ... at least within my own mind. I’ve enjoyed the last eight years on the national board of directors, but, as important as that has been, being president afforded me more insight and knowledge of the board, ACBL governance/management, and the feelings of the players.
Guess what! The players love the game, they like the league, and don’t really waste their time on all the negative riff-raff on social media. Players just want to play bridge – and they appreciate ACBL and all it has to offer.
One of my duties this past year was to travel to tournaments as our ambassador to meet and greet players – especially newcomers and the volunteers. In Heartland USA I was treated as royalty – not for who I am, but for what I represented: the American Contract Bridge League. It was amazing to be so accepted by total strangers who immediately extend open hands, thanking me for the work I, and our board, does. Like I said, they appreciate the league and just want to play the game. They gave my year a warm understanding of us I will never forget.
Scandals and the Hearings

As president I was also more privy to the inside workings of the 2016 hearings we held on the recent rash of cheating allegations amongst the elite – both foreign and homespun. It’s a sad truth that the enormous amount of money at stake for the big boys from their wealthy clients has created a competitive atmosphere resulting in some using collusive illegal cheat signals, taking unauthorized advantages to win. So I’ve now seen both sides in depth – true love of the game, and the love of the almighty buck it affords a few.
League Management

We’re blessed with an enormously talented and dedicated CEO in our Horn Lake, Mississippi headquarters: Robert Hartman. He has surrounded himself with execs and employees that have one thing in common: they truly care for the players, taking pride in helping any way they can. They’ve been occasionally abused or falsely accused, but I can tell you honestly, in my three terms on the board and now a year even more on the inside, perfection is not possible, but they try.
The Board & Governance

Theoretically the ACBL Board of Directors – 25 of us – makes the rules and Mr. Hartman’s employees and directors put them into play. “Theoretically” because with any board and management there’s a smidging of micro managing, getting in the other’s way. Checks and balances that can be healthy. Our board and management meet at the three NABCs to try to solve a plethora of issues, but we also work via email and conference as backup. Our game, unique and constantly changing as to numbers of events, points and  rankings, makes governance a 364 day dedication. Leading such a group of dedicated volunteers was truly an honor.    
Year 2017

This is the January 2017 Forum edition that arrives in very late December, so I have my annual Holiday wishes for you: I hope you enjoy this Christmas Season of love as much as I do. I enjoy extending you all a yuletime greeting, and hear one in return. The soothing seasonal music, shopping for the gifts, the family/friends reunions, the celebrations ... all take me back to a time more simple – and  maybe more meaningful.
League-wise, I will now serve 2017 as ACBL Chairman of the Board of Directors, and as chairman of the wonderful Fall NABC in San Diego. My job as president will be taken over January 1 by my friend and colleague Bob Heller of District 7, Knoxville, Tennessee. We share much in common so I expect to really enjoy his presidency. If you were in Palm Springs for the regional I hope you met him at the gavel passing event.
New Year Resolution: To never forget the warm feelings given by those who welcomed me, and from you who supported me. All confirming my belief in this, the greatest game – and way of life – in the world. Merry Christmas, and Happy New Year to you all. May there be many more together.

Peace, my friends.