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Is the Hall of Fame Broken?
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This year’s ACBL Hall of Fame (HoF) inductees were announced at the recent Spring NABC in St. Louis. Gail Greenberg and Max Hardy were selected by the HoF Committee to receive the von Zedtwitz and Blackwood awards, respectively, and will be honored on August 4th at the Summer NABC in Atlanta.

Greenberg and Hardy’s accomplishments are detailed in the Bulletin article, found here. Both inductees could not be more deserving of these (long overdue) honors, but several other nominees were conspicuous in their absence from the 2013 class -- namely, anyone from the ballot. This is the latest anomaly in what has become an upsetting trend. Since 2011 there has been just one player voted into the HoF by ballot. This is not due to a lack of worthy candidates on the ballot, as recent names have included legends such as Jill Meyers and Marty Bergen.

The résumé necessary to merit induction into the HoF has been debated previously on this site. Regardless of one’s stance on that issue, the fact is that a number of players on recent ballots deserve election into the HoF because they unquestionably are HoF players by any standard. So why have they repeatedly missed the cut? The most likely reason is that the men and women on the ballot are competing for voters, spreading the electorate so thin that no one player has been able to achieve the 50% vote necessary for induction. This is a big problem. Not only are deserving players left on the outside looking in but, as a result, the ballot is quickly becoming inundated with vote-worthy candidates, compounding the problem with each passing year.

The incongruity with having a jointHoFballot for men and women is that, by and large, they play in separate events. It is logical, therefore, for women and men to have separate ballots (keeping a singleHoF) based on their credentials in their respective fields. The fact that women could compete in Open events if they chose to do so does not alter the reality that, in general, they do not.

This concept of separate ballots is hardly a new idea. A phone call with formerHoFCommittee chair Mike Becker in preparation for this article revealed that theHoFCommittee asked theACBLBoard of Directors (BoD) to create separate ballots for men and women in 2002. This proposal was rejected by theBoD, perhaps influenced by the Women’s International Team Trial Committee (WITTC), an entity of theUSBFwhose duties include making “recommendations to theACBLBoDabout women’s events.” While we understand the desire of theWITTCto maintain aHoFwith equal treatment between sexes, the dearth of elected members over the past few years shows that this policy is actually harmful to women’s chances of being inducted.

The problem with the current policy can be demonstrated by looking at two of the many examples from the nominees of 2013. Jill Meyers has been listed on theHoFballot for several years. Her many accomplishments in bridge include:

  1. 5 gold medals in WBF Women's events
  2. 1 WBF Mixed Teams title
  3. 17 NABC titles including the 1999 Blue Ribbon Pairs and 2000&2005 Nail LMOpen Pairs
  4. Ranked #1 in all-time WBF women's rankings from 2004-2012 (except for 2005)

This is undeniably the picture of a 1st-ballot Hall-of-Famer. Yet, Jill has remained on the outside looking in because the single-ballot election system pits her against other deserving players such as Peter Boyd. Boyd’s list ofHoF-worthy achievements is also rather impressive:

  1. 1986 Rosenblum Cup
  2. 14 NABC open titles
  3. 2009 Sidney Lazard Jr. Sportsman of the Year
  4. Appointment to many committees including: NABC Appeals Committee, ACBL Competition and Conventions Committee, ACBL Ethical Oversight Committee, ACBL Laws Commission, National Goodwill Committee

It’s hard to fault voters for casting their ballots to reward Peter and other male nominees for their plethora of open wins ahead of the women included on the ballot. Likewise, who can argue against votes for the female nominees, all of whom have dominated women’s events for years? But voters were only allowed to vote for 3 of the 8 nominees, so they had to prioritize. In the process of choosing sides, however, both sides are injured, and players whose records compare favorably against otherHoFmembers are unfairly omitted.

In a recent conversation concerning the WITTC’s stance on theHoFissue, DavidSokolow, a current and long-standing member of theWITTC, said, “Given how few women have been admitted to theHoFin recent years, theHoFCommittee asked theWITTCto consider, among other things, whether women should have their ownHoF. There was no consensus on theWITTCabout what should be done. Some members felt that a separateHoFwould give the appearance that women were second-class bridge citizens. The issue never came to a vote.” The non-committal position of theWITTCand theHoFCommittee is detrimental to female and male players alike.

One simple solution appears to be a two-ballot, one-Hall system. If this proposal remains untenable to theACBLBoDdue to the formation of “second-class citizens”, perhaps the men concerned should lead the charge for change in order to protect both sexes’HoFinterests while allowing the women to save face. One way or the other, change appears to be necessary if members of theACBLwish to see any man or woman other than the occasional mega-superstar voted into theHoFin the future.

Bridge players aren’t baseball players. Our greatest coups aren’t recounted on national television and our Hall-of-Famersdon’t become household names. As such, it’s important to induct every player worthy ofHoFstatus so that they can celebrate a lifetime of achievements with their friends, family, and peers. The current state of affairs is needlessly robbing several all-time greats of this opportunity. We’ll be in Atlanta to honor Gail Greenberg’s many achievements, we only wish there were more inductees there to join her.

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