March 2014 District Direction

By Ken Monzingo
National Board Representative

“Where there is no vision, the people will perish.” –Biblical Prophesy

The U.S. Army ran a 20-year advertising program (1980-2000) with the hook phrase: Be all that you can be, created by Nelson VanSant. I’m unaware how effective it was in recruiting soldiers, but it’s a great slogan; one I wish I had penned when such was once my career. Shouldn’t we all strive to be the best we can be? Me included. Me defined as a single cog in the governing forces of the American Contract Bridge League.
Our local and league leaders could lean on this one as their mantra to effect a more perfect (bridge) society now, and ensure our future to be the best it can be. Those who are content, or want a return to “the good old days,” are reactionaries; those who will go forward to be the best that they can be are visionaries.

Bridge Yesterday, Today & Tomorrow

A little nostalgia is great, but we hear far too often of how ... “it was much harder when I was making Life Master” ... or, “well, we didn’t have the huge masterpoint giveaways” ... or, “well, that’s the way we’ve always done it.” Sigh, let’s let the past be passed. Had the league refused to go forward, and stayed with the status quo of those days, I shudder to think what bridge in the 21st Century would be like. Not so good, I would guess.

Nothing survives staying stagnant; nothing is to be gained going backwards. Time to move on.

Look around you. Our bridge society in 2014 is filled with so many exciting tournaments with challenging events never available “in the past.” We’re stratified, bracketed and segmented to allow all players of all levels to move up the Master ladders competing just within groups of their peers. What’s wrong with that? Nothing. It is what it is, and it’s working quite well. Masterpoints are our product, and the customer always loves a bargain.

Also today, the teaching and learning opportunities are mind-boggling compared to what few text books and tools we had in the sixties (thank you, S. J. Simon, Why You Lose at Bridge and Alfred Sheinwold, Five Weeks to Winning Bridge – you really got my generation going). Ever hear of Autobridge?

Responsibilities: Ownership or Caretakers?

Who are we now, and where are we going? I believe our responsibilities are to embrace the bridge world of today as is, but more so to enhance it to be the best it can be for future generations. We can accomplish that by understanding we are guardians first, governors second. Our charge today is the same as it was in the early ‘30s for their successors of the ‘60s ... try to leave the game of tomorrow better than the environment inherited.

Again, those content are reactionaries; those who will go forward are visionaries. Our forefathers were the latter; they saved the best for us truly the best that they could be.

District 22 – Back to the Future

I can’t go back and drive my beloved ‘50 Ford with its fender skirts and dual pipes. (I now lease a shiny new Benz with loads of whistles and bells, but, like my cell phone, I cannot work half the tricks and toys it contains.) I also cannot go back to 1965 bridge. It is what it is, and it was what it was.
Fast forward. As President David Lodge reported, our district took a major step of responsibility last year when we cut the umbilical cord of depending on outside vendors, and invested in our present and future with huge buys of tournament tables, cards, boards, stanchions, and place cards. Everything new. True courage on our board’s part to be all we can be. I am so proud of them.

Being all that you can be

Bridge is so much more than pretty new cards, it is our society ... a way of senior life unique only to us. One of exhilarating bliss, and punishing defeats. An addictive, obsessive culture to some, a life of pure pleasure to others. It’s also a test of character when watching your partner destroy the great defense you have started, and yet smile and say, “no problem” (I hope you’re much better at that than I am). It’s our society to cherish and preserve.

I ask myself, my board comrades, and you all, to find ways to be the best that you can be now, and the best you can leave for the next generation. Your predecessors did that for you, can you do less for the next Table 5? If we care enough to leave a better bridge world for our newbies, that is surely what it’s all about.

Being all you resolve to be

It’s a new year; resolutions are in vogue. Let’s write (and keep) some we can achieve – not just to be nice, which we all know. Here’s my half-dozen checklist of being the best we can be:

1. Think past the past, enjoy bridge in the now.
2. The future is in our hands, let the past be in theirs.
3. Be aware: we are guardians, not owners, of bridge.
4. Assume yours is the best game in town ... then help make it so.
5. Leave the game a better place than you found.
6. Better yet, just be all that you can be.

Peace, my friends.