Baseball and Bridge: Two B’s on the Same Flower?
By Ray Adams
Baseball season has already begun this year. All Major League teams will play 162 games, then some of them will qualify for the playoffs, and eventually two will square off in the World Series. At the highest levels, bridge consists of team competition, just like baseball. It, too, has a long season ending with a World Championship: the open Bermuda Bowl and the Venice Cup for women’s teams.
A bridge team will have only four players competing at any one time, but like baseball, may have reserves. In lieu of a manager, a bridge team will usually have an NPC, or non-playing captain. The terms “grand slam,” “aces,” “doubles,” and “squeezes,” are common to both games. In baseball, a player can steal a base, while in bridge a player can steal a board. But in general, the two games do not have that much in common save that they are both very competitive with tension and psychology adding dimension to a built-in intensity found in both sports.
I wondered what it might be like if bridge received as much publicity on the sports page as baseball. Certainly, bridge has had some legendary teams, such as the Italian Blue Team and the Dallas Aces, whose competitions rivaled any of those World Series in which the Yankees and Dodgers were involved. So I visualized an imaginary interview between ace reporter Dan Daniels and Bob “Big Club” Boorman, the NPC of the Bay Bombers before an important match with the San Joaquin Bees:
DAN: Well, Big Club, what do you think of your chances against the Bees this year? They sort of pounded you into the ground last year, didn’t they?
B.C.: You could go a long time without reminding me of that fiasco, Dan. But this is a new year, and I think we have a really good team, a very competitive team, a team that could go a long way.
DAN: It seems to me it’s the same tired six you had last year.
B.C.: Well, Dan, we’ve mixed ’em up a bit this year. Changed the batteries, so to speak. We’re gonna throw Diamond Jack Tenace and A. Bord Fowler at their best pair. Then we’ll match Ruff Slougher and King Hartmann against their weaker pair. That means we can keep Major Knute Minor and Red Trump in reserve in case our regulars falter.
DAN: They did more than falter last year. They fell flat on their faces. Or was it aces?
B.C.: It’s true they had trouble finding doubleton queens and bidding the big ones, but all that is a thing of the past. We think Diamond Jack and A. Bord can produce a lot of grand slams between them, as well as stealing a few boards. We’ll have Ruff and King in there for those important squeezes, and the major and the redhead should produce a lot of good doubles.
DAN: Didn’t all your squeeze attempts last year turn into suicide squeezes, with your declarers squeezing themselves and the dummy instead of the opponents? And all your grand slam attempts, weren’t they just overbid minor suit games?
B.C.: As I said, Dan, that was last year. Diamond Jack and A. Bord haven’t had a penalty card or a revoke between them for at least seven months. As for Ruff and King, they’ve been squeezing oranges in the off season and appear to be ready for the big games now.
DAN: How do you plan to handle Johnny Goode Cardman, the star of the Bee Team?
B.C.: We plan to keep him in partials. He can’t harm us there. As long as we can steer him away from the games and slams, we should be able to hold him in check. If he does get to declare a high level contract, we plan to lead out of turn in the hope that he will spread his hand and become dummy.
DAN: That’s coming very close to being unethical, Big Club. Don’t you think that’s a terrible example to set for the youth of this great land of ours? Remember they’re looking up to players like Ruff, Red, Diamond Jack, and the Major.
B.C.: These punks nowadays are only looking up to immoral rock stars and non-stop tweeters. It’s like someone once said, “Winning isn’t important. What’s important is winning.”
DAN: I think you may have gotten that quote wrong, Big Club, but nevertheless, how do you rate your chances against the Bees this year?
B.C.: Well, in the final analysis, if we don’t squeeze ourselves out of too many games, if we come up with those big grand slams, produce those good doubles, don’t let them run any suits on us, stay away from the penalty cards and the revokes, we may have a chance to be competitive for a few boards.
DAN: A fair assessment. Thanks for the interview, Big Club. And good luck! You’re certainly going to nee a lot of that!