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Final reyflections on Florida (long)

Posted By: Coolrey
Date: Wednesday, 23 October 2013, at 4:00 p.m.

As a tenured giant of backgammon I have become accustomed to having access to more information about the backgammon community than most. Some of the things I learned during the Florida tournament I find troubling.

I got a ride from the airport from the Tournament Director Rick Wolfe. During the ride I was told about a conference call he had with Perry Gartner and Bill Riles. In it, Perry pleaded with Rick to break ties with Neal Weiner because he was "bad for backgammon". Looking at this from a quasi objective viewpoint it is hard to see where that conference call was good for the game... Wow.

It makes me wonder why new director, Riles, failed to mention it to me in our couple of phone calls prior to the Florida event? Maybe Perry wanted to keep it secret, who knows?

My impression of the Florida event was that the turnout was low but that we all had a blast. The usual suspects were there, including the top 5 in the ABT race who are all experiencing trophy fever near the end of the year. This showcases the absolute brilliance of ABT creator Bill Davis' dream. Everyone is dying to win one of those ABT end of the year trophies. I know every time I have won one it has moved me to tears...

Conspicuously absent from the proceedings in Florida were some notable backgammon celebrities such as: Mike Corbett and Danielle Bastarache, Perry himself, Riles, and Lee Genud to name a few. I guess I can understand Perry not showing up since he made the call. Lee has had a death in the family recently, but she showed up on Sunday to say hello and play in a JP event. Riles had previous commitments, but he sent along well wishes.

Notably present was the director of the last ABT event of the year, Dimitur. Sorry if I don't remember his last name. This man is a pure delight and he was very friendly and outgoing. Not a hint of professional jealousy there, just a great guy. I might fly across country to support his event this year, (even though I don't want to), because he is good for the game.

I hope as the new director of the USBGF, Riles was only a party to this phone call in the context of: These opinions do not reflect the feelings of the management of the USBGF, nor do they represent the feelings of the organization as a whole, yada yada yada...

I have to wonder if some OTHER calls were not made to discourage high profile players from attending Florida? (!)

Florida has a history of bickering and back stabbing, and I feel it is a terrible shame because it could be a wonderful source of new backgammon blood. I know that I will support it fully, and I greatly respect Rick Wolfe and his family oriented staff of Neal and Kathy. I think Florida can grow, but not if there is a cancer in the USBGF eating at it. Rick told me that he and the Weiners spent 1000 hours working on the tournament to make it the best it could be. Seems like that must be an exaggeration, but you get the picture. Rick was loyal to Neal, he told me, when he informed Perry that he had seen both of them in action and he much preferred Neal.

I was previously told that one day Rick and Perry had reached the finals of the local tournament and Rick naturally wanted to hedge. Perry demanded 3-2 odds, Rick declined, and Perry won. Not such a big deal when you think about it, until you factor in that soon thereafter Perry asked Rick to let him and the USBGF come speak at his new tournament, hawk their wares, and whatever else. If you want to get something in return, you usually have to give something along the way. That's how things work. Perry has never been willing to make such a sacrifice.

Typically, Perry asked the new director to do this stuff for free... As it was "good for backgammon". The USBGF has never so much as offered to pay for the coffee for TD's across the land citing this principle. I have always thought that they hindered the beleaguered directors and hampered their difficult task of making ends meet. The directors need help, across the board, for backgammon in the USA to survive. I have been assured by Bill Riles that some changes are forthcoming, and I applaud the USBGF for that. I might even rejoin the organization, if it charters a new course.

Just my opinion but I don't think Perry has ever really gotten the BIG picture, and he has treated the USBGF as a personal business venture. No wonder he has taken some flak, and recently stepped down. His final gift to backgammon was to back stab the infant tournament in his own back yard?

Not that he didn't have some justification because as I understand it from many more objective people that have reported to me... Neal has been pretty abrasive in his ongoing criticism of the USBGF and some of its premiere members. I told him a few times this may not have been the best idea prior to launching a new tournament.

So, anyway, there were not too many people there as we broke a bottle of champagne on the bow of the new tournament and launched it... But we did have some fun!

As for the hotel, it was not the taj mahal, but who cares? It was the perfect hotel for a backgammon event, the players never care, except when they are being charged $14 per day for parking. Even Ed O'Laughlin stayed there, so you know it was a good deal. The bar girls had interesting hair color and tattoos, if not particularly high IQ's. That's okay, I don't want large IQ's from someone serving me a beer or a hamburger.

The breakfast was free, if not impressive. I found that you could go order some eggs next door and do better. Maybe they want to let everyone know that next time... But many were satisfied with the waffles and cereal. I think more events should find a venue like this, it will help them make expenses and again I don't really think that the average backgammon player really cares. You only sleep in the room, you just want ample room to play and the basic necessities. Neil Kazaross agreed with me on this.

In conclusion Neal, tone down your rhetoric, and Perry, give it a rest!

USA Backgammon hangs in the balance.

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