27. Smiling, like Mona Lisa, is the antidote to rude bridge players

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I’m not sure when the American Contract Bridge League (ACBL) declared its “zero tolerance” policy for rudeness but the fact that it was seen as necessary is reason enough to blog about it as one of the impediments to the growth of bridge. 

Here’s how Adrienne describes her entry into playing bridge and the antidote she came up with. Her email was part of a longer email written to tell me about a 50s-style bridge lunch party she gave inspired by that Wall Street Journal about my efforts to bring back the 50s bridge lunch.

“I would never have played competitive bridge as a beginner . . . had I done so, I might have dropped the game altogether. . . . Some of the beginners I’ve encountered at tournaments are equally put off by the deliberately intimidating ploys of some of the experienced players. The studied, unsmiling dourness and the deliberate snappishness is merely comical to me now, but as someone new to the game I would have decided very quickly  that these people were just plain nasty, and I’d best focus my energies elsewhere.” [The bold emphasis is mine, her belief it’s all an act.]

Adrienne’s antidote?  Don’t be intimidated, be amused!  

How to express  amusement?  Adopt a permanent Mona Lisa half smile at the bridge table.  

Consider Charlie Goren playing bridge as described in this 1958 Time magazine who basically did the same thing as Adrienne.  

“He seemed strangely out of place among the fierce-eyed, quick-fingered, nerve-torn bridge experts competing. . . . In a game [that] can bring out the worst of man’s nature, he remained bland and smiling.” [When the match was over he’d won (with Helen Sobel) the Life Masters Pair Gold Cup.]

What’s YOUR solution for dealing with rude and nasty people when playing bridge?  The fact that a now-ardent bridge fan and player like Adrienne can say that if she’d tried competitive bridge as a beginner she might have dropped the game altogether because of player rudeness is indication of just how important it is to solve the problem.

It’s time for the ACBL  to call it what it is–nasty. Like chewing tobacco by baseball pitchers. A nasty habit.

Meanwhile – smile, smile, smile as Adrienne does, and Goren used to, if you come up against a rude bridge player.


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