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A Congratulatory Letter from the ACBL,
Plus A Translation

(The ACBL is the American Contract Bridge League, a national tournament bridge organization. The term "Life Master" below is meaningless.)

Quotation from the letterTranslation and remarks
"Re: Life Master #63, 645

Dear Michael Arnowitt:

Congratulations on attaining the rank of ACBL Life Master!

First we tell you a mere 63, 644 other people have reached this supposedly exalted level, then we offer our congratulations!? Sure makes it feel special!
"As a result of your achievement, your name is being submitted to the ACBL Board of Governors for formal designation as a Life Member. The Membership Secretary of your Unit has been advised that you are now a Life Master.
Hopefully your unit official will send out our handy enclosed sample press release to your local newspapers (hey, it only mentions the name of the ACBL five times in five paragraphs). This release also curiously -- and quite honestly -- qualifies the accomplishment when it says, "To earn the requisite masterpoints, some of the prospective Life Master's success must be at relatively high levels of competition."
"Your new player number, indicating Life Master status, is Q278148.
We do realize that these long 7-digit ID numbers are a bit impersonal, so guess what -- now that you're a Life Master, you get a letter instead of the first number! (Thrills.)
"Your Life Master Certificate, suitable for framing, and your permanent Life Master Gold Card are enclosed.Can't help but reflect on what the great Charles Ives said upon receiving the Pulitzer Prize -- "Prizes are for little boys. I'm grown up now."
"Life Masters add quality and a higher level of play to our events. Therefore, we sincerely hope that you will increase your play in club and tournament games. Lower ranking players will appreciate the good competition made possible by your continued participation in duplicate contests.
Flattery will get you nowhere. The ACBL, having created the Life Master goal as the Promised Land, now faces the problem that all these pilgrims, once having achieved the rank, are dropping out or greatly lowering their participation in tournament bridge. Seems a little greedy to ask them to increase their playing frequency -- a more modest request would be to try to get these folks just to keep coming at the same rate. But why should they, if their motivation to play was fueled in large part by the desire, heavily marketed by the ACBL, to load up masterpoints and attain a title?
"The ACBL Bylaws provide for an annual service charge for a Life Master which provides The BULLETIN and monthly masterpoint cards. This charge partially defrays the cost of providing these services.
You'll get a few bucks off your annual dues (I think).
"Best wishes for many more years of enjoyable bridge competition."
In case you weren't paying attention to our subtle entreaties above, don't drop out of duplicate bridge! We really need your money!

Postscript: while it is laudatory that the ACBL -- and most bridge organizations -- have organized bridge tournaments where there is no money at stake, it is also sad that the prime motivational tool they use in marketing and getting people to continue to show up is the pursuit of these empty masterpoints and a progression of various titles, much in the style of the ranks in a military organization. Surely we can come up with something a little more meaningful and more appropriate for the atmosphere our great game tries to establish, than this ongoing joke.

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