Some commentators say it is " an age thing ", in that the older we get the grumpier we seem to become. Bridge unfortunately happens to be a game which attracts and appeals to older players, and it is not surprising therefore to see grumpiness on an unprecedented scale inside bridge clubs the world over.
The theory is that by the age of 50, bridge players have already endured enough disappointments in their lives to last them a life-time. Their threshold limits have been reached. The next disappointment will the straw which breaks the camel's back. They allow subsequent disappointments, no matter how small or insignificant, to ignite explosive outbursts fuelled by irritation, frustration and anger. They become unable to handle the annoyances , absurdities, and bullshit that come their way when alleged misdemeanours are voiced at the table, or perhaps later on when the end-of-board post mortems get out of control. In truth they develop inability to cope with the bizarreness that defines the world of bridge .
Indeed, some researchers claim that grumpiness in bridge players is a clinical syndrome. They seem to possess a natural predisposition to be grumpy. This means that the constant exposure to others, who persistently moan about and berate everything and everybody, simply " triggers " this latent and dormant tendency into full blown whinging.
Another theory centres upon the idea that bridge players seem unable to suffer fools gladly. Fools who forget what's on their system card, fools who believe in magical thinking, fools to like to hand out gifts to undeserving opponents.........complete prats in fact, who have to be suffered but never with a smile. Moreover, when players have a burning desire to point out the nakedness of all those emperors , who parade around in large numbers in their bridge club sanctuaries, it is inevitable that grumpy, snide remarks come thick and fast, savage and sharp .
However my research has nailed the fundamental albeit underlying cause of grumpiness for once and for all. It is firmly based on the hypothesis that grumpiness in bridge players is in direct correlation with the degree of disappointment, despair and frustration they experience during play. These feelings are in turn based on the sense of " unmet expectations ". If any of their expectations are not met, the greater the need to express their negative feelings through biting criticism and verbal abuse......along side other acts of petulant and grumpy behaviour.
The sad fact is that bridge players, by and large, enter competitive arenas full of hope and expectation. They expect partners to play to their full potential. They expect of themselves to have an error free session and to play perfect bridge. They expect opponents to behave ethically , to be gracious in victory or defeat, to hand out a few gifts now and again, and not to benefit from crass mistakes they make in their bidding or play. They expect ( often foolishly ) the cards to be lying exactly where they want them , or need them, to be. Therefore, given there are so many unrealistic expectations, the likelihood of them all being met is zero. This in turn means that when 50% or more are unmet, the list of things to moan about becomes so overwhelming the recorded level of grumpiness goes completely off the Richter scale.
In extreme cases, hard-nosed grumpy bridge players fail to cope with even the smallest unfulfilled expectation. Each disappointment adds fuel to a fire already out of control. What others often see is the physical containment of a seething cauldron of irritation and frustration, which only requires just one more tiny bit of provocation to cause feelings to boil over into something very ugly indeed.
Can zero tolerance best behaviour policies suppress grumpiness , or even possibly eradicate it, from the bridge arenas, I just don't know ? But what I do know is that no one has ever been able to keep a lid on a boiling pot. The secret is to release the pressure that builds up in a careful and controlled manner. This is why I have always been a big advocate of supplying bridge players , especially those with grumpy dispositions, with muffle cushions. Players can be take them out into the corridors, and placed over their mouths the moment they need to scream out in pain.