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Bridge Burned

6 years ago
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The bridge world is aflame. No, this isn't a case of terrorism or insurgent mortar fire landing across Iraq or Afghanistan. We're talking the game of bridge, as in cards. During the awards ceremony at the world bridge championships in Shanghai this past October, a member of the victorious United States' women's team held up a hastily written sign that stated:

WE DID NOT VOTE FOR BUSH

An uproar has ensued. The team faces punishment, including a one-year ban from competition, and 200 hours of community service to further the advancement of the game of bridge.


As the New York Times explains, the episode has also spurred what it sees as a Dixie Chicks-like backlash from fans:
By e-mail, angry bridge players have accused the women of "treason" and "sedition."
For those who may not recall the Dixie Chicks dust-up, lead singer Natalie Maines faced similar charges from those who took offense to her London concert quip, "Just so you know, we're ashamed the president of the United States is from Texas."

For their part, the women involved in the bridge incident intended the sign as an explanatory gesture of solidarity with the other women of the competition. Gail Greenberg, who has won a total of 11 world championships, decided to display the sign:
"What we were trying to say, not to Americans but to our friends from other countries, was that we understand that they are questioning and critical of what our country is doing these days, and we want you to know that we, too, are critical."
Specifically, the champion Americans were peppered with questions as to their government's use of enhanced interrogation techniques, as well as the Iraq war, in general. Ms. Greenberg sensed a distinct cooling in the way her international competitors regarded the U.S. team.
"There was a lot of anti-Bush feeling, questioning of our Iraq policy and about torture," Ms. Greenberg said. "I can't tell you it was an overwhelming amount, but there were several specific comments, and there wasn't the same warmth you usually feel at these events."
Given the complex questions of the limitations of free speech when representing one's country at an international competition, this incident more closely mirrors the black power salute that U.S. sprinters Tommie Smith and John Carlos offered the world from the medal podium at the 1968 Mexico City Olympic Games.

One wonders what is next. Will we witness similar protests from the national horseshoe pitching team? Will the bridge team's declaration that they voted for the other guy on the ballot spell the end of their card playing careers? Tune into next week's episode of The Culture Wars.



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