38. Sociable Bridge: What’s so great about sociable bridge?

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For those who are primarily serious duplicate players, this question may occur to you as you read my blogs. What’s all the fuss about for this old lady? Why does she spend so much time and effort on her curious cause to keep sociable bridge alive?

And you know, I think that’s what may have intrigued Lucette Lagnado, the Wall Street Journal reporter who wrote that article about me and ladies bridge lunch. I don’t think she cared a bit about bridge, just that I was over 90 and doing this odd thing, setting up a website, trying to bring back an out-of-date way of entertaining–lunch with four or eight people and playing bridge. A game no one under 50 seemed to play anymore. And nobody was asking me to do it.

In addition to what I’ve already said in 38-Bridge about the game as a classic, I’d like to quote from my book’s chapter that closes the Third Hand, the Goren Era:

“When sociologists write about popular culture they differentiate between organic trends that come about spontaneously or naturally and fads created by corporate public relations and advertising.

“Certainly Ely Culbertson in the 30s, and Charles Goren in the 50s, were examples of corporate public relations and advertising deliberately creating the fad for bridge. That was what Ely Culbertson was all about, Goren less so but building on the fad for bridge Culbertson had begun.

“By the close of the 60s, however, the ladies-only-at-home-bridge-lunch (or evening bridge group) survived without any promotion or advertising. Sociable ladies-only bridge survived and became, in my view, an organic part of  America’s popular culture.

“Unaware that the seeds for the decline of contract bridge were already planted by the mid-60s, we kept on playing. There was perceived peer pressure, I imagine, on young women from the women’s liberation movement launched by Betty Friedan against taking  up your mom’s bridge game at college.  But we, who already played, did not feel peer pressure to stop playing bridge.

“David Scott [who wrote his doctoral dissertation on the difference between sociable and serious players] would say [in sociologist’s language] we kept on playing because of  ‘affective attachment’–the side benefits from participation we’d lose if we stopped. That affective attachment grows with age. . . . As a bumper sticker says,”Old Bridge Players Never Die, They Just Shuffle Away.”

That passage explains me. The survival of thousands of informal sociable bridge clubs–does any town in the country not have at least one?–fifty years after bridge was declared politically incorrect on campus by the 60s social changes, is proof that bridge (as its forbear whist was way back) is an intrinsic element of popular culture. Sociable, non-ACBL bridge, deserved a book and blog even if I had to do it myself.

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