Bobby Wolff


Sports headlines were made when Referee Ed Hochuli flubbed a game-changing call during the final minute of last Sunday’s San Diego-Denver Football Game, no doubt changing the winner from San Diego to Denver. Today’s newspaper reports that Hochuli is still very much DEVASTATED from it.

That attitude, though in itself does not right the wrong that has been perpetrated, is the approach that all referees, umpires, directors, appeals chairmen or whomever else is in charge of competitions should assume.  Its effect is very positive and quite refreshing! His position makes everyone aware of the importance of the sport and it then helps persuade the decision makers to be more dedicated to both their pre-competition preparation and their attention-direction during the contest.  Furthermore, it ‘connects’ those involved — the competitors who are giving 100% of their hearts, bodies and souls with all the interested spectators, aware of the importance of what is going on – and of course, the ultimate deciders of their fates. 

Today’s newspaper coverage sensitively wreaks from both sympathy and respect for Hochuli who realized and publicly accepted his responsibility of erroneous judgment by taking full blame for causing embarrassment to the declared winners (who didn’t really deserve the victory) and, of course, the losers (who rightfully felt betrayed).

The ACBL and its Tournament Division should use this unfortunate episode as a mighty beacon about what is expected of them and how similar wrong calls in our own sport should be handled.  Anything less by the ACBL should be thought of as a total failure by our governing organization.

If one wants examples in bridge, he need not go very far.

I suggest you check out any of the following: Fairly recent Appeals Cases which allow significant hesitation actions to be improperly taken advantage of by partner; "Losing Team Wins" in Chapter XIV of The Lone Wolff (the description of the 1990 Geneva World Championship wherein the losing team was credited with winning in the semifinal of the Rosenblum championship despite a reported ‘mis-scoring’ acknowledged by both teams which would have rightfully changed the victor – crucially reported before the start of the match the following day, but to no avail); the Judy Kay Wolff/Jane Segal debacle from the 2005 Pittsburgh Spring Nationals wherein the Director/s (and subsequently the Appeals Committee) could not possibly have done their homework, never objectively examining the hands involved to help determine whether appellants’ spontaneous remarks and accusations had any merit); and too many more to detail.

On a grander and much more far reaching scale, let us consider what has happened in our grandiose Olympic events.

The first impropriety occurred in Shanghai during the 2007 WBF Awards Ceremony, when (in direct violation of specific WBF regulations) political issues were raised with the display of a sign from the podium disclaiming the team’s responsibility for the election of President Bush. Yet, despite the absence of personal apologies from the participants for such disruptive and humiliating brashness, and due to interference of sympathetic, influential outside forces who waved the green flag — the offenders got off scot-free.  Incidentally, it is frightening that one individual serving on the decision making group originally recused himself (because of a conflict of interest due to spousal involvement) and then when the discussions got thorny, magically unrecused himself and stood up to be counted!

Then on to the Beijing ‘Real’ Olympics, in the summer of 2008, where important issues such as underage participation and other related aberrations which almost certainly occurred also went the way of all flesh – to avoid scandalous negative publicity.

Let us not forget the shamelessness of the O. J. Simpson jury where justice went out the window in favor of  catering to public opinion and making amends for terrible bigoted times in the distant past.

From there, but on a geometrically important scale of perhaps infinity to one, is it so surprising that at the outset of the Holocaust in Nazi Germany –the legal profession, including most, if not all, of the judges became totally unmindful of their lifelong training and made a travesty out of what they stood for in the interest of their personal safety and allegiance to a human monster.  We, the people, should be made of "STERNER STUFF!"

It is good to see Football is assuming responsibility and recognizing embarrassing moments with an eye to avoiding repeat performances. Perhaps our bridge administrators should follow suit!

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