13:35 9 Diciembre 2013 by GS Jade Barrett, USA CSBNews correspondent
“When I was a kid, my parents moved a lot, but I always found them” – Rodney Dangerfield
Over the last two days of competition in the Keohane North American Swiss Team Championships, our team won and lost against many of the great teams of the world.
These short matches of seven boards are the middle distance races of bridge, and it is my favorite form.
There is constant drama in the event as each match is vital. Conducted over the last three days of the Fall North American Bridge Championships, the athletes’ stamina has already been tested, confirmed by the sheer ability to even register for this last event. The first day of qualifying cut the enormous field of 184 teams in half. Many great teams failed to advance; some falling to ill fortune and others to exhaustion. The 92 that remain face another eight grueling matches against an even stronger field.
Those who survive the second day find only temporary relief as their rest time is abbreviated by the earlier start time of the final. Looking around the room as the later pairings compete in the ultimate session on Sunday, even the most casual observer cannot miss the yawning athletes, struggling with the problems placed before them. One factor also looms apparent: those who are hungriest for their victories are more likely to acquire them.
Our own team fights through the fog until the bitter end, unsuccessful more than not on this last day, but we play with the hearts of lions – though very tired ones.
After the completion of play, we have to force ourselves to pack, load up the caravan and drive the four hours to the next event which begins fourteen hours later at 15:00 the next day. Fortunately for us, we are well trained in the art of recovery.
11:10 6 Diciembre 2013 by GS Jade Barrett, USA CSBNews correspondent
“Success is that ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm” – Winston Churchill
I have been losing for years. The only people I have not lost to are those who have not faced off against me yet. And with any luck at all, I will continue to lose.
I have a love/hate relationship with losing. While I hate losing any competition, I do not fear it. I do recognize that losing is an impetus to growth. I study myself, looking to myself first when something goes wrong.
Since there are so many variables involved, it is easy to screw up a hand in so many different ways. The hardest part for me is to recognize that we played flawlessly and still failed. Playing well has to be its own reward.
Owning my errors is the investment I make in my future; my responsibility to myself is to assure the quality of these lessons are not diminished over time. Hence, my vigilance cannot waver. Simply put, I must never let myself grow complacent.
Over these last three decades I have had my share of successes to go along with what must be 38,000 or so losses, each victory a result of a previous failure.
Gain and loss are part of the same coin. Spend your share wisely.
01:24 5 December 2013 by GS Jade Barrett, USA CSBNews correspondent
“I still enjoy traveling a lot. I mean it amazes me that I still get excited in hotel rooms just to see what kind of shampoo they’ve left me” – Bill Bryson
The life of the full time traveling bridge athlete is one of rushing from the hotel room to breakfast to the playing area to lunch to playing area to dinner to playing area to the bar to hotel room – repeat for six days or so and then move to the next city to do it all again.
The Great American Bridge Tour
teams usually play three sessions a day, as we are typically contracted by the week. We are accustomed to the schedule, but we still wear out. We occasionally take an evening off after an afternoon loss, selecting a well reviewed restaurant to emotionally and mentally reset ourselves in preparation for the next day, revelling in each other’s company and testing the menu and a few good glasses of wine and other spirits. These dinners help reduce the stress of the week as they serve to remind us of how we are all in this together – win, lose or draw.
These breaks keep us sane, for the intensity of the competitions take a toll on the best of teams – sometimes permanently. It can be exceptionally difficult to keep your sense of humor when things just are not going well – every human has a limit to the sympathy they can provide.
If the events are going poorly enough, other drastic actions may be necessary – such as miniature golf or darts. If the situation is particularly desperate, even bowling might be called for. For those of you unacquainted with such unusual measures, this team building activity is also known by the word “fun”.
What is this “fun” I speak of? To quote Wikipedia:
Fun is the enjoyment of pleasure, particularly in leisure activities. Fun is an experience – short-term, often unexpected, informal, not cerebral and generally purposeless. It is an enjoyable distraction, diverting the mind and body from any serious task or contributing an extra dimension to it. Although particularly associated with recreation and play, fun may be encountered during work, social functions, and even seemingly mundane activities of daily living. It may often have little to no logical basis, and opinions on whether or not an activity is fun may differ. The distinction between enjoyment and fun is difficult to articulate but real, fun being a more spontaneous, playful, or active event. There are psychological and physiological implications to the experience of fun.
It sure trumps another frustrating session.
22:46 3 December 2013 by GS Jade Barrett, USA CSBNews correspondent
“Pick a melody
Then count from one to ten
I make a rhyme up
Then we will try again
To laugh or cry or give a sigh
To past that might have been
And how much I really love my baby sister” – from Little Sister by Lou Reed
Dr Constance E Barrett
The outpouring of love and support shown to my family after the loss of my beloved sister, Dr Constance E Barrett, over the last thirty six hours has been well beyond amazing. Hundreds of notes, hugs and conversations with the giant family that is the bridge community has allowed me to cope with my personal anguish far better than I ever imagined I could.
You people have been simply astounding, and I cannot adequately express my gratitude. As has happened in the past, the rallying of the members of the community is something to behold. I have grown up in this world, and with every major occurrence of loss or gain, my fellow athletes have been there for me.
It never ceases to amaze me how thoughtful this world of competitors actually is. I tire of the petty complaints that a few people make about how rude, nasty or selfish most players are, for in reality they are nothing like that. Everyone has their moments during the heat of battle – some mistake deep concentration for arrogance or impolite behavior, while others presume that two players continuing a discussion when their opposition arrives at the table do not respect them.
My most troublesome opponents are also among my best friends. We might battle at the table, but we still live in the same community. Might as well have dinner together tonight, for tomorrow we will make every effort to triumph over one another again.
Dr Constance E Barrett, famous cellist, teacher and speaker lived with breast cancer for seventeen years, continuing to perform and work throughout the entire time. A lifelong bridge player, Connie was a frequent partner of Jade’s on BBO.
13:49 1 December 2013 by GS Jade Barrett, USA CSBNews correspondent
Harry S Truman
“In reading the lives of great men, I found that the first victory they won was over themselves…self-discipline came with all of them first” – Harry S Truman
Attention, focus, commitment. The true competitors face down challenges to their mental state every minute of every event.
Crowded rooms always generate a low level murmur on the quietest of occasions, and at times the noise reaches seventy or more decibels as teams compare results, move to their new assignments and visit with their opponents. Since not all athletes play at the same pace, there frequently are a few tables finishing a deal as the environmental sound level rises. Slower paced teams have become accustomed to this additional pressure, and perhaps have gained an advantage over faster playing opponents who are less experienced at coping with shifting conditions.
It definitely behooves individual competitors to recognize the potential impact of every possible distraction – from noise to temperature to variations in light, as well as many other minor, yet present issues.
Less experienced athletes are more likely to allow these annoyances to affect their personal performance, and a few players will use the occurrence to excuse a poor result. While I can appreciate the irritations that exist daily, the responsible competitor must ignore them, focusing on the problem at hand and wait to complain about the conditions later. Playing well overcomes most of the environmental frustrations typically, and your partners will always appreciate your strong efforts.
The Great American Bridge Tour celebrates their overtime win in the Finals of the Saturday -Sunday Knock Out at the Phoenix NABC 1 December 2013
08:06 30 November 2013 by GS Jade Barrett, USA CSBNews correspondent
“The bottom line is to be in control of your own destiny” – James Wood
Losing is hard. Everyone hates it, but few actually do all they can to avoid it. Nobody likes to practice.
The stamina required to finish every session strong is lacking in the vast majority of players; developing your overall mental and physical condition will immediately improve your results in the later stages of events. As a group in total, however, we all have some level of laziness, often finding ways to distract us from performing our exercises- both mental and physical – required to maximize our ability to withstand our time in the pressure cooker of these major championships.
The amount of effort put into practice is directly proportional to the true desire of success. Many great teams of every different sport have been upset, but rarely due to some nearly unbelievable happenstance or spectacular misfortune – in fact, their demise most frequently results from arrogance, conceit or lack of effort. They expected to win just by showing up, except that their opponents did not adopt the same attitude. Fatigue plays a huge part in these unusual circumstances, but typically the will to win is the deciding factor among nearly evenly matched teams, with those who are prepared to negotiate their way through the increasing fog of intense pressure while staving off the effects of exhaustion in every way they can. The greatest competitors simply refuse to surrender, challenging themselves to utilize every ounce of energy they can muster for the entire match, leaving nothing in the tank.
Until the next session where they bring all their heart, game and soul to do it all again.
15:20 28 November 2013 by GS Jade Barrett, USA CSBNews correspondent
“There is a lot of work in terms of traveling and logistics and people and gear and all that kind of stuff. But I never really have problems playing music. That never seems like work” – James Iha
With a team fielding players from four countries, and eleven states the coordination of rooms, luggage, travel and general organization takes up the good part of a day. The goal for me to is to reduce the amount of aggravation of the athletes as much as possible, hoping allowing them the best opportunity to mentally and emotionally prepare for their respective competitions.
One of my well-honed skills is the art of car packing, letting no bag be left behind even when hauling six full grown adults, their luggage and an enormous dog. I am especially proud of the fact that not once have I needed to secure one of the crew to the roof of the minivan. With that practice comes the ability to load a hotel trolley until its wheels go flat. I have noticed bellmen nod appreciatively when I roll past
There is team shopping to do, dry cleaning to drop off, pharmacy runs (for some reason, I have never had a full complement of six players ever arrive without some ailment) and the like. In depth research of local restaurants and drinking establishments is another occupier of my time, as it behooves the competitors to know in advance where to find their sustenance. Finding an appropriate walk for Team Dog Anna is another mission critical function.
With careful planning, I can accommodate my charges, mitigate team expenses, perform effectively as a competitor, and still find time to write.
Sleep, on the other hand is scheduled for six months or so in the future.