12. Sociable Bridge: Switch-hitters play in both bridge worlds

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In his analysis of serious vs social bridge players, Professor David Scott didn’t call them switch-hitters. That’s my term for those who play in and enjoy both bridge worlds. I only came across switchhitters when I moved to Florida in 2004–bridge addicts who are part of my sociable bridge group, but also working on Masters Points playing duplicate.

And I’ve  met some of them selling books at a bridge tournament, one of whom explained that she was totally hooked on tournament bridge, but still played with her old neighborhood bridge group, saying, “This is playing bridge; that’s therapy.”  [I also met some who bought my book out of nostalgia, but indicated once into duplicate bridge they couldn’t stand to play anymore with their sociable bridge club.]

Then there are the refugees from serious bridge–voluntary and involuntary.

Some I’ve met–one man at the senior center for instance–who just don’t feel like playing duplicate anymore. They could play (a club near by), they have done so, but increasing number of conventions, rigid rules, have taken the joy out of it. 

And some, sadly, I discovered reading a New York Times article, “At the Bridge Table, Clues to a Lucid Old Age” in which author Benjamin Carey describes how  nonagenarian serious bridge players whose bridge skills are faltering are eased out of duplicate by their competitive companions.

Carey quotes one such California  super-ager nonagenarian (as she sips Red Bull!) who eases out her friends whose bridge skills are slipping– “We play for blood.”  Some will break up a foursome for a time, and return later with another partner or suggest to a player that she drop down to a more casual game. You don’t play with them, period,” says a Ms Cummins, “You’re not cruel. You’re just busy.”

These involuntary refugees from competitive ACBL bridge clubs have no choice–if they want to continue to play bridge–but to join senior centers or fill in at sociable bridge clubs.

I’m sure that dropping friends (as aging takes its toll) goes on in sociable bridge groups as well, but not in my experience. Even at senior centers, most of us think, “There but for the Grace of God go I”–and are more tolerant of failing bridge skills. Perhaps because we’re hoping someone will be forgiving of us when we reach that point.

Conclusion? I’m beginning to believe that it is just these “switchhitters” along with refugees from the ACBL world of competitive bridge who may be the key to survival of sociable bridge–bridge as part of the popular culture–after I’m dead and gone.  They can provide an added decade of sociable bridge giving time to boomers to take up bridge thereby no longer be the lost generation of social bridge players.




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