March 2012 District Direction

By Ken Monzingo
National Board Representative

No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river, and he’s not the same man.”
– Plato’s Cratylus, 360 BC
   (Paraphrasing Heraclitus of Ephesus)

I'll  never get totally used to the idea that every time I look into the mirror I must realize that this is as good as it gets. I’ll never be yesterday’s person again. To incorporate that truth into the everyday and everyyear wonders of dealing with national bridge politics humbles me. The excitement of trying to keep up with the changing face of governing bridge – while understanding the game itself is always the same – and attempting to make the best decisions right now to better it is more than I deserve.
I wish all of you could be District Director for a day, just to enjoy the ride. And feel the bumps.

Term One

Now as I prepare for the first 2012 ACBL Board Meetings in Memphis this month, I’m entering my second 3-year term representing us. In the first year of my first term I was a true rookie, trying my best to look smart. Fortunately, I presented, and got passed, a couple of motions which gave me a lot of confidence.
In the second year I perceived what I felt was a glaring wrong, as I attempted to stem the tremendous flow of our members' money into an international bridge scene that I believe has little, or no, value to 99% of us. My short lived successes of year one quickly faded as I met with strong opposition from those who support and enjoy bridge on the world stage – at our expense. The half-million dollars we donated that year on the combination of the United States Bridge Federation and the World Bridge Federation was beyond my grasp, but when I filed a motion to ease just a portion of this annual spending, I was soundly defeated.

No more Golden Boy status. Since that day I’ve been under acrid criticism because my motion, if passed, was about to shake the foundation of very lucrative world travel and play for a select few involved. Forgiveness not being in the offing, I was branded as not being a team player for making others look bad in this column and also on my website, and taken before a board oversight committee for critical remarks I made in private regarding our international scene leadership.
Not too bad for a second year first-termer! At least they knew I was there.

The view from Table 5

The third year of term one ended in a much more rewarding groove with my success in stemming the giveaway of our regional sanctions to outside cruise travel agencies who were making whopping profits off them. Looking back, I would call my first term an exciting 36 month trip to the abyss and return – losing the international battle really hurt, but success in other areas keeps me cautiously hopeful. Although I haven’t yet succeeded in protecting our players’ money, one (friend) board member laughed and said my final legacy will be fighting the $400,000-$500,000 we annually spend on the very small handful of experts, clients and professionals. He seriously doubted I could win against such determined forces. I agree to disagree; I will continue – I have strong forces, too: District 22 and a few others! I’ll retain some hope that more level heads onboard now will eventually realize this extravagance, and redefine our league’s global involvement.

Term Two, Year One

Now it’s term two. With super new leadership in ACBL (classy president Sharon Anderson of District 14, Minnesota, and aggressive new CEO Robert Hartman taking control in Horn Lake) we have excellent possibilities of a brighter future. I believe these two will take us to professional levels we’ve never before achieved in results-producing marketing, improved public relations, and technical advancements. This year I’ve been assigned several great tasks including chairing the Conditions of Contest Committee, working with the codification of our regulations, and scribe of the ACBL board meetings. I’ll also be on the Finance Committee and the Masterpoint Committee – the latter should be most volitile with the expected tug of war over a proposed “Strength of Field” overhaul of our MP awards system. I strongly oppose this because I fear its possible damage to our lower strats, and the awkward confusion of starting something new when the current formula is working so well.

Mirror, Mirror on the wall ...

Just as I am certain I can never go backwards to yesterday’s person, nor again enter yesterday’s running rivers, the league faces that same certainty. When ACBL looks into its 75th year reflection my hope is that all this new leadership will see the misjudgements of the past, and dwell on the positive current successes we’re enjoying. That they, and we, talk truthfully to the person in the glass and make firm commitments to that image, and to ourselves, that although each new moment of each day will never be the same – each could, and maybe should, be better.

Peace my Friends ...