If the rudeness of experienced bridge players toward newcomers is impediment #1 to the growth of bridge, then the narrow mandate of the ACBL–to promote only duplicate and tournament bridge–is #2. The potential market for bridge players who will never play duplicate or in tournaments is far larger than the potential market for duplicate and tournament players.
How clueless is it then, that ever since the fad for playing bridge ended with the 1960s, there’s seemingly no effort to include potential sociable players in the target market for promotion?
Before the 70s, it didn’t matter that no one promoted sociable bridge because there was a link between one generation and the next–bridge was transmitted from mothers to daughters as part of the pop culture. Boomers broke that link. And if somebody doesn’t restore that link soon, sociable bridge will be gone forever as all the old old players, like me, who learned to play in the 50s and 60s, die off.
Do I hear some expert players yelling “Hooray! Good riddance?”
Shortsighted! Because history tells us that it was just these rather despised sociable players (mostly women) who created the buzz and turned bridge into a major fad. That’s how come that master of publicity, Ely Culbertson, targeted the auction-playing women’s bridge clubs for conversion to contract bridge. He understood these women would be the key to explosive growth in both serious and sociable bridge–make their husbands play, teach their children.
Given its mandate to develop tournament bridge players, I’m not saying the ACBL should take on PR to the potential sociable bridge market as well. I do say it ought to give such an effort its official blessing, assist/coordinate with an affiliated or unaffiliated organization to take up that separate mandate. Perhaps an ASBL–American Sociable Bridge League?
If I were 20 years younger that’s what I’d do–create an ASBL on Facebook, affiliate it with Meet-Up. Use the awesome social networking capabilities of the internet already in place to reach and teach sociable players rubber bridge, as well as create local face-to-face meet-ups of bridge foursomes and clubs.
Ever hear that quote, war is too important to be left to the generals? I say the future of bridge is too important to be left to the ACBL and the Bridge Teachers Association–unless they broaden their outreach to the potential sociable bridge market.