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Everyone is Wrong – 'Cept Me and a Few
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Last count, in Dale's poll on the Olympics 84% were against. Not only numerous, the 'no' votes include some illustrious bridge names. But all the 'no' votes are wrong.

Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong. 

This IOC issue has nothing to do with bridge itself. The issue is about sales and marketing. (My forte).

The reason the no votes are all wrong is because “the customer is always right”. If you spent any time at all in sales – or run a bridge club - the first thing you learn from experience is that the customer is usually some pain-in-the-ass lunatic. What “the customer is always right” means is that what you think does not matter. (Really, it doesn't.) But what they believe is key.

Therefore, there are only two things that matter in sales:

  • What the customer or prospect believes
  • What you can make the customer or prospect believe.

 Perception is reality.

 

Pop quiz:

A horde of bloodthirsty guys in armor with battle axes and swords are riding your way. You need to conquer them or be beheaded . But all you have is a small shovel and some knickknacks.

Plan the play. . .

 

History's Greatest Sales Pitches (#23)

Medieval Europe had a problem. To counter Viking raids, a warrior class of knights had been created. But after the Viking “problem” went away, the knights remained. This was the same sort of problem faced by the old lady who swallowed a spider to catch the fly. Now the knights have nothing to do and no way to earn a living – except plunder and pillage other towns.

To control the problem, the church would round up the local relics of the saints. And if you didn't actually have the bones of John The Baptist, you could dig up some John The Doe ribs at the local graveyard. The priests and monks would round up the knights, show them the bones and relics of the great saints and make these knights swear allegiance to these saints. If they did not, the saints would strike at them from their graves and send them to eternal hell and damnation.

Here is the deal. My guess is none of that would REALLY happen. And probably none of the relics where real either. But what I think doesn't matter. The point is that the knights believed it. In fact, many believed it so fervently that some would pass out from fear of the saints at these ceremonies.

It truly was one of history's greatest sales pitches. I would rank it higher except the Church would later send these knights to the Mideast on The Crusades, and all this other stuff happened.

The moral is that if you know how to pen a story, that is mightier than the sword.  Because perception is reality.

As Things Stand Now

Bridge was an exhibition sport one year. Right now bridge is one of the sports recognized by the Association of the IOC Recognized International Sports Federation (ARISF). Therefore, bridge is recognized by the IOC as an international sport. Other sports with this distinction include karate, polo, chess, racquetball, surfing and water skiing. Like bridge, these other officially recognized sports are not included in the games.

It would be nice if bridge was both recognized by the IOC and included every four years in the games. But I am going to contend that just the ability to call bridge a recognized international sport by the Olympic Committee, is by itself, a potentially wonderful marketing tool.

Archimedes was translated-quoted as saying: “Give me a lever long enough and a fulcrum on which to place it, and I shall move the world. ”

The IOC designation of bridge can be the fulcrum to leverage the marketing of bridge to new generations. Just because our RAs are not smart enough to build a long lever and use it properly does not change this fact.

 

Marketing Challenges

In the USA – and probably other countries – one of the greatest problems that bridge has is an image problem. The image of bridge as a card game that old people play while they sit around waiting to die. While that might be what is, it is not what it has to be. It is certainly not what we should be selling. In fact, for most of the history of the bridge, most players were much, much younger. In the “Match of the Century”, Oswald Jacoby was a couple years younger than Michael Phelps is today.

Nothing can provide better leverage to change this perception of 'old person's game' than the IOC designation of bridge as a sport. So if one is trying to get a bridge class in at the local school, and some nay-saying parent complains: “why are we wasting time teaching our children GAMES?”, there is an easy response.

“Because we build strong minds and bodies. Bridge is an internationally recognized SPORT by the International Olympic Committee. We also offer gymnastic programs, soccer and volleyball. While these are all great, children still need to know that their self-worth is not defined by being able to do a back flip on a beam or score a goal in soccer. They need to know that there are mind sports. And that these sports are every bit as challenging and rewarding. Children need to know that being a sportsman is always first and foremost about the mind and the spirit.”

Monopoly is a game. Bridge is a sport.

The Essence of Sports

If you view “sports” only as a physical activity, you know nothing about the nature of sports. Many sports do require a high degree of physical effort along with the skill. Boxing and gymnastics for example. But archery is an Olympic Sport. What does it take to draw a bow? Maybe 60-65 lbs of force. Easy.

And they use compound bows. These bow have pulleys so you can generate more force with less draw. It is physics at work to reduce the work load.

Shooting is an Olympic event. How much force does it take to pull a trigger? The right answer is “as little as possible”. That is why learning to squeeze the trigger ran than to pull it is so important.

How much physical effort is required in dressage? For the human, not the horse. Hiroshi Hoketsu was competing in his 70s.

Ultimately, sports is about heart and soul. If you think physical skill alone is what separates Katie Ledecky from other swimmers, you would be wrong. (A small ocean of water is what separates Katie from 2nd place counts as partial credit). What makes a difference at the level she competes is technique. Her technique is much better. You see her swim for 8 minutes. She only got that good by perfecting her stroke over countless hours, every day for many years. That does not happen without heart and soul.

If you go to the 'Y' and spend a hour shooting free throws, you will have exerted more effort than a few hours of bridge. But shooting baskets isn't a sport. Sport is 1.4 left on the clock, you are at the line and down by two. NOW can you do it?

Probably the dictionary has “sport” wrong, too. I won't bother to look it up, I will simply give you the proper definition:

spôrt Noun  A competitive event played individually or with team members that requires skillful execution of technique while under pressure.

 

How is that not bridge?

The Master Speaks

Hamman says bridge is a sport. Hamman understands sports. And that is why his book was titled: “At The Table”. This is a great title. Three words to some up his achievements and explain what this game is all about, can you do it at the table?

I know all sorts of players (including myself, sometimes) who can provide the finest hand analysis. Who would never miss the strip squeeze or the killing lead at the bar when the hand is presented on a cocktail napkin. I know all sorts of players who would never fail to find the right defense in a bridge column hand.

Can you do it at the table? Can you really forget about flooring the previous board and focus fully on the next hand? Really? Archery and shooting is about focus and concentration under pressure. Because ultimately all sports come down to your ability to execute under pressure.

I don't give a rat's behind what you or any stick up the butt English judge with a goofy wig on his head says about bridge being a sport.

First, if you understand it properly, it is.

Secondly, isn't that the message that we want to promote to youngsters?

Or would you rather tell some kid that he is too slow and uncoordinated to ever be a sportsman?

Me, I would rather tells kids the real truth. That sports ultimately are about building up what is on the inside. That some sports are are physically exclusionary, but not all sports need to be. A sport like archery or bridge can be played at high levels long after a football career is over. I want to tell kids that what we want to achieve and find out about ourselves through sports can be found on either a football field or at the bridge table if you know how to look.  And if it isn't the truth, it is certainly what we would like to be the truth. It never will be unless you tell this to others.

My nephews all played football. They were game changers in pee-wee and Jr HS. Pretty good in High School and not big enough for college. Some kids are still fast and strong enough for college but not the pros.

Sports that have a high physical requirement become necessary limiting. But the mental component, the heart and the soul of competition is where we find value. If you are 92 yards to go in the SuperBowl, with only minutes left, who do you want under center? I want Joe Cool. That skinny by QB standards guy. Montana could not even throw the ball as far as half the QBs in the league. But he is the man.

Same as I want Jeter at the plate or Marino closing the game. I want the guy (or gal) who can perform under pressure. That is what sports is all about.

It need not be physical. And if it is physical, that is only the starting point. Physical means NOTHING in competition because in the NFL, everyone is fast and strong. How smart are you? How good is your technique? When the game is on the line, can you come down with the ball?

No one over the age (or mental age) of twelve gives a crap about winning or losing a game. Winning matters in sports because we want to learn to perform gracefully under pressure. Results matter in sports because our skill matters.

If you strive to win and to try to keep improving at bridge, then your actions say that bridge is a sport.

There really isn't that much skill at Monopoly.

The Greatest

Ali was, during his career, a lot of things to a lot of people. He was a draft-dodger. A big-mouth. He was a cocky braggart. In the end, we all came to realize that he really was the greatest.

George Foreman was bigger. Foreman hit harder. Probably harder than any heavyweight in history, except perhaps Ernie Shavers. In “When We We Kings”, Foreman said: “Everyone thinks that Ali went to Zaire to fight me. Ali went to Zaire to die. How can you defeat such a man?”

George left boxing one fight later. He found out what we would learn later. Ali's heart and soul. Ali found that through sports. In the middle of the most violent place in civilized society - on the ropes inside a boxing ring - Ali found his inner spirit and soul. Foreman knew that boxing was just a paycheck to him. He would leave it to look for his inner self in the ministry.

This represents the extreme of what sports offer people. The ability to find grace under pressure in a civilized (or in the case of boxing, governed by rules) contest. Boxing is the most extreme example of sportsmanship. Fighters punch each other round after round. Then they shake hands or hug each other in camaraderie afterward.

(The boxers aren't crazy. It is the rest of the people who wont shake hands or want to keep fighting after the war is over, those people are crazy.)

Sports are about, as they used to say in ABC's Wild World of Sports: “The Thrill of Victory and the Agony of Defeat”.

We have that in bridge too. Who hasn't been thrilled by a win or agonized over a loss? We have sports without me even hitting you over the head with the boards while you do your best chair-a-dope.

If it means something to you, it isn't just a game. If you can find value in the activity – not just diversion – then it isn't just a game.

The IOC certainly isn't perfect. (IOC Motto: “Better than FIFA”). But we all love the spirit symbolized by the torch. Why not use these symbols and ideals to promote our sport?

By the way, sorry for the boxing comparisons if you do not follow the sport. But if you don't know anything about boxing or perhaps are blind, you can be an Olympic boxing judge.

Message to Roy Welland:

You need to return your award for re-engraving. We are changing the name because some people don't think bridge is a sport. So retroactively, we are renaming it as:

The Sidney H. Lazard Jr. Gamesmanship Award

Now, this might not have the same connotation as “Sportsmanship”. But some misinformed people think that bridge is just a game - and not a way of life. Anyway, if there is no sports, there can obviously be no sportsmanship.

The reason we value sportsmanship is because our goal is grace and performance under pressure. If there is no pressure, if this is a meaningless game, why not be gracious? How hard could that be? Who cares about performance, then? The reason we despise cheats is because they cracked. Instead of executing technique they took short cuts. Instead of facing risk, they sold out. Instead of heart and soul they showed no honor.

Someone who loses at a sport and faces defeat, faces the challenge of dealing with an adverse result in a upstanding manor. A person who cheats to avoid that fate is a coward.

When we raise children, we first introduce them to games. Games generally require little skill. They are fun. For a while anyway. But then abandoned. The primary benefit is amusement and to introduce children to competition. Because life is a competition. And if it is to be a civilized competition, we need to train children in the art of sportsmanship. As children become older, we can introduce them to sports.

Olympic Side Issues

I admit I have no idea what it costs each year to support the IOC designation. I am guessing it is way, way less than not acquiring scoring software that does not work or maybe does, but it does not matter because we do not have it anyway.  If it does save us “substantial” money, that works out probably to a whole dollar a year for each of us. I would just slip that into some dancer's garter anyway. So no big deal.

I think some people might be thinking we could not punish the cheats sufficiently because of the silly sports court thing. My message regarding that is GET OVER IT.

First of all, the real – and still – problem is mechanisms for identifying and prosecuting cheating. The only reason anything happened is Boye stuck his neck out, others joined in and helped. Eventually the powers that be had to do something because of all the peasants with pitchforks. I am still not convinced that TPTB are any better placed to handle cheating allegations than before.

But if you think for one minute that the RAs would or could enforce a lifetime ban absent IOC and sport court considerations, you are living in delusionalville. Yes, the ACBL banned F/S and F/N. The fact is, that was really easy because these players are foreign nationals. If they want to challenge the ACBL in a US court, they would have to travel here back and forth for every stupid stage of a typically long and drawn out US court proceeding. We already know that isn't happening as it is not financially plausible.

If you try to oust Americans for cheating, they will be banned until you reinstate them and hand them $75,000.00 to pay off their attorneys. Just in case you know nothing of history:

https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1946&dat=19820306&id=4mUxAAAAIBAJ&sjid=8aQFAAAAIBAJ&pg=4674,1806864&hl=en

I, for one, am happy if in the future the ACBL can point any future American cheats to a court in Switzerland. In any event, put your pitchfork away.

Summary

Bridge is a sport.

The IOC designation is very useful from a marketing standpoint.

It will be useful regardless of whether we get into to the games.

Bridge is still a sport even if some Toad in a Wig Says Nay.

(If we cared for rulings by English judges, we would not have shot your

great-great-great-grandfather judge who made similar stupid rulings in the colonies).

Presenting bridge as a sport makes it more prestigious.

Presenting bridge as a sport makes it more accurate.

If you voted no in Dale's poll go back and change it.

You might also need to change your answer in this poll:

http://bridgewinners.com/article/view/honesty-after-answering-a-poll/

(because I gave you the correct answer)

Sabine, you need to change your vote, too. And when you

have the next printing run of your book, change the title to: “I Love This Sport!”

 (I know you will be a good sport about thisWink)

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