Cam French


                                                        Marvin Gay – Mercy 


              Collateral Damage Secrets Volume I



I guess one thing that just puzzles me is the lack of bitterness from Zeke in particular and most of his team. I confess, had I been cheated out of a National title I would be embittered, angry, irate, OK, plain pissed. And just how would you feel? I think we, the perpetrators and the League have lost sight of that. There were real victims here; of that there is no doubt.

Everyone I have talked to from Bobby to Grant holds Zeke in the highest esteem. He seems to be one that rises above. That takes a certain strength of character, not one that I have at this point, but maybe I can learn from that. Maybe we all can.

So for the first time, I am going to share some of our private correspondence. Of course we are always more candid in private than in public. These are private, and although initially I wanted to edit out some remarks, I did not.  So you see every word, warts, venom and all. Do I wish I had said some things differently? YES! If I ever imagined it was going to appear in print. Some will take offence, and if I were in their shoes I would feel the same. However I know I would do the right thing and not be subject to a public forum showcasing my ethical shortcomings. I have no doubt that the vast majority of experts and certainly Zeke and team would do the same. And let’s call a spade a spade, that is exactly what they suffer from – an ethical deficit. How do you justify unlawfully winning let alone retaining the fruits accrued therein? When you can tell us, we’ll all know.

When I was researching the story, I reached out to many, trying to fit the pieces together, to understand the dynamic of the time, the rules of engagement and this was just sent to me from Zeke inviting me to publish it. To tell the truth, I had forgotten all about this chat. I think you will find his remarks enlightening, I know I did. If Zeke invites me to share this, then I accept his offer. Thanks Zeke.

I loved the part about young men (I guess that might be me) seeking justice, and older men (that would be their team) seeking mercy. Thus the song title.

Hi Guys,

Thanks for the emails.

If you happen to have seen the Fab Five film you will have noted that basically one guy broke the rules by accepting significant amounts of money and favors from a booster–which he promised to pay back when he reached the NBA (which he was ‘certain’ to do).  He never cheated or shaved points; he just accepted the unacceptable.  It set back one of the best programs in the country for at least two decades.  The university voluntarily stripped the team of its championships, fired a good coach, dismantled the  pennants in the field house and waited for the NCAA to inflict even greater damage–which they did. Talk about collateral damage!

I won’t belabor the obvious analogy.–Z

—– Original Message —–

From: Zeke Jabbour

To: Cameron French

Cc: Ron Feldman ; david sacks ; Mike Cappalletti

Sent: Sunday, March 13, 2011 6:21 PM

Subject: Nobility has little to do with it.doc

Hi Cam,

If you want to include this interview or exchange we had in September ’09, you’re welcome to.  It provides some explanation of my reasons for not extending as much energy as I might have.  It is said that young men seek justice and old men seek mercy.  I was as disappointed as anybody but I don’t have enough time to remain bitter.  Besides, I’m  having trouble typing these days.

Tonight they are showing a film about the fab five.  I’m sure that it  will show what happens to a team in other sports, even with innocents involved.  All parties, regardless of involvement, absorb major punishment.  The entire university community suffered.

Anyway, here’s  our exchange. 

Oh, one more thing, have you  thought about submitting your monograph to  Wikes pedia encyclopedia?  May not make any difference but they publish some unexpected material.

(If one of you readers can help me explore this I might be interested. When Zeke talks, I listen. )


Nobility has little to do with it.  Perhaps serenity in my declining years; perhaps surviving a vicissitude with some dignity. But few could have surpassed the job you are doing.

—– Original Message —–

From: Cameron French

To: ‘Jabbour’ ; ; ‘david sacks’ ;

Sent: Monday, September 28, 2009 6:10 PM

Subject: RE: One year anniversary, Victims


Thanks Zeke for sharing your insight. You MUST be the only guy who won and lost 2 National Titles in the same year! Wow.

I confess, your lack of anger is nobler than I could be. No doubt you moved on a long time ago. Me, a newcomer to this saga, and I find myself livid with Sontag/Weichsel, Jim “Flash” Gordon, and Rose Meltzer – who called me “sick”  (and their ilk) and I wasn’t the one swindled! Easy to shoot the messenger I guess. I hope to sit down at the table against them one of these days, just to “feel the love” at the table.

The fact that Sontag and Weichsel are angrier than you says something – not sure what it says but obviously you have taken the high road. As for them, well their actions speak for themselves, then and now. I guess leopards don’t change their spots. I guess I won’t see my name as NPC atop any of your titles soon. Pity. BTW that means that I remain uncompensated for the story. Capp told me that Bobby Wolff asked him how much you were paying me. My answer – “not enough”. My bill is “in the mail”…….. 

Wishing you well, and as you wish your remarks will remain off the record.

Chip Martel told me that the previous fall National (Denver) he became suspicious of them. But to my knowledge no effort was undertaken by anyone to monitor them prior to Martel, Woolsey at Norfolk.

From: Jabbour []

Sent: Monday, September 28, 2009 4:58 PM

To: Cameron French;; david sacks;

Subject: Re: One year anniversary, Victims


Scroll down to answers.

—– Original Message —–

From: Cameron French

To: Jabbour ; ; david sacks ;

Sent: Tuesday, September 15, 2009 5:25 PM

Subject: One year anniversary, Victims


Hi gentlemen,

I guess I am agitated because precious little has been accomplished (in terms of 3/79) and to my mind “in the blogosphere” is nice, but insufficient. The fact that Sontag and others have their knickers in a knot is telling. It tells me that they are pissed at their names in print in a less than flattering format. My spies (and his actions) suggest Sontag is next to apoplectic while Weichsel is trying to be low key and fly under the radar, let it all blow over. Cokin is pissed. 

I managed to piss off Compton when I asked him to put me in touch with him. (I did have Cokin’s email, but of course, he never answered.) Apparently Compton allowed Cokin to be a eulogist at Grant Baze’s funeral and that sent many running for the barf bags. Have not heard much from the general or expert public. So I thought it was time to stir the pot and talk about it once more. Shine the spotlight again, and see what happens. Specifically I was thinking of talking about it from your point of view.

Sorry.  I always seem to be behind and I’m about to leave town for 3 weeks. 1979 was the first year I attended nationals after a long hiatus from bridge and I was pretty much unaware of what was going on.

What did it mean to you to learn the League know in Norfolk and did nothing?

I don’t know when I learned.  I’m sure that I was outraged.  I won two national events that year and am listed as second in both.  The other one was a simple undetected (in time) scoring error.  I was told that they had monitored S/C in the nationals previous to Norfolk and the one subsequent to it, and I felt that that had knowingly left us unprotected. (if that is true, just think about it. CF)

How about learning that friends knew, and never told you?

I don’t think they did.  Many suspected it. But nobody knew for sure. I had played against S/C once previously in a regional swiss.  We beat them 77-0.  My partner, Larry Mori told me that people think they cheat and I replied that, if they do, they’re not very good at it.

Do you feel the result would have been the same if the cheated team had a Hamman/Wolff; Edgar/Norman or a like high profile team?

Yes.  Those people were cheated, as well.  They just didn’t finish second in that event.  The problem lay in the general atmosphere following the heavy-handed treatment of Katz-Cohen with expensive legal and insurance consequences. The ACBL establishment was terrified of the financial consequences. It’s a tricky business proving that a single unusual action was an act of organized cheating. A team with greater gravitas might have gotten more of a hearing, but I believe, in the absence of a smoking gun, their result would have been similar.

What made you (as a team) easy to dismiss in spite of Gary Hann’s efforts?

Money. The ACBL legal counsel, the courts, the threat of cancelled insurance and a general, albeit incorrect, feeling among some members that it hadn’t been their ox that had been gored. But money was the principal driving force.

What do you thing the League might do NOW?

They will probably pay sincere lip service to stopping cheating, and maybe beef up the mechanics of prevention, but I don’t expect them to look back.  Too complicated–even though the Norfolk case is unique.  Kaplan understood that.  But like health care reform, it’s too complicated to explain.

What would you like to say Alan Sontag, Peter Weichsel, Dr. James Sternberg and Alan Cokin?

Nothing.  They are adults. Except for Cokin (who also happens to be the only one who has said that the championships should be stripped) It is up them to decide what to do. Once again, the real impediment is financial.  These guys are professionals–two of them hall of famers as a result of their bridge successes.  They are not anxious to do anything that will damage their careers.  They have already been punished, not by the ACBL, but by an unanticipated source: Cam.

What would you like to say about the whole affair?

Not much. It’s disgraceful, but In my eighties, I have a limited horizon and I prefer to expend my energies toward the future rather than dwelling on the past. (emphasis added)

I do not expect anyone–the league, the team–anyone, to do anything that is inimical to their own interests. I expect no profiles in courage and I am not sitting in judgment.  I am satisfied that Cam has exposed the truth, and that is significant, perhaps even sufficient, unto itself.

With your consent I would include your thoughts in an “anniversary” essay.  If you don’t want your thoughts on print, that is of course your prerogative.

Actually I prefer not–unless you feel a need for them. I prefer to look ahead.

I think that maybe this story got off track. Somehow (by some twisted means) it has become about Sontag/Weichsel. It is not about them. It reminds me of Karl Rove somehow turning John Kerry’s Swift Boat service and two tours in Vietnam into a liability. Maybe S/W hired Karl to do some PR polishing. I hate the bastard but respect him as a formidable campaigner. I want him on my team. I hope that revealing the cheated team’s feelings will put a more human face on this. Let’s remember who the “victims” really are. I am not sure the general public sees it that way. 

Anyway – if you think you would like to participate, drive up. If not, I am afraid this is destined to blow over, remain an orphan cheating case, denied lineage and the scrutiny it deserves.





 I think the reader will agree it took some courage to publish that. None of us like sharing our skeletons. Do you have the courage to post a comment? On va voir. I predict precious and few but I hope I am wrong. Step up, like Zeke and speak your piece, should you have the cajones to do to.

Teacher, writer, bridge player,lover of language. See Collateral Damage, Barry and Me  and other bridge essays at:

1 Comment

Bobby WolffMarch 22nd, 2011 at 2:44 pm

Somehow my personality prevents me from remaining quiet when I hear untruths (a euphemistic term) about history, particularly bridge history so here goes.

In 1973 or possibly 1974, while playing at the Bal Harbour Spring Regionals in a KO match against a team with Sion-Cokin (SC) on it (and losing) I brought their cheating to light in the form of an appeal to an outrageous lead by one of them to a sequence which went 1NT P 3NT at the other table against my teammates Jimmy Cayne and partner while playing with Charlie Weed as my partner. At the time Jim Sternberg (who at that time was sponsoring SC) and who, no doubt to me thought they were innocent, and other than that association has always been before and since a credit to our game, was, of course non-plussed and a staunch defender of them. The ACBL District Director from Florida, Bob Saron, also came to their defense and instead of at least creating suspicion of their actions, I was criticized publicly for bringing what I thought (at least to a sophisticated audience) a slam dunk to at least start the official monitoring.

As a sidelight, years later, 1981, I started serving my 2nd term on the ACBL BOD’s (having served briefly in 1963). Bob Saron (who together with his lovely wife Sally were both truly wonderful people) decided to run for ACBL President against Doug Drew (Toronto) and, this being my first election it became clear that Bob was the favorite since he had groomed himself by waiting his turn and was, of course, very well-liked. It turned out that his support of SC, by this time their cheating scandal was old hat, raised its head and he lost the election to Doug ignominiously, never after that to be elected even dogcatcher in spite of being pro-bridge, very bright, a hard worker and together with Sally among the most liked pairs on the BOD’s.

Incidentally, earlier, at the Spring Nationals in Houston my Vanderbilt team played against SC in an early match (this time winning) when Bob Hamman and I became convinced beyond any doubt that they were cheating, but at that time we did not have the material evidence available to prosecute a case.

By the time Robinson-Woolsey (probably with some help) did the deed at the GNT regional finals (sometime after Norfolk) and while it was news to many, it was ho-hum to Bob and me. Later the ACBL, with their known legal wimpiness took over and we are now where we are.

Only as a sidelight can I relate how since then, Alan Cokin has done everything he can to help bridge (especially with Junior team training) and, at least in his relationship with me, has been a model reformer while Sion continued his sociopathic behavior and has now been barred permanently from the ACBL. If anyone wants to check the truth of my story or my recollections please consult any of the above parties mentioned. Incidentally I NEVER told CAPP (whoever he is) or anyone else “I wonder how much Zeke is paying to galvanize someone else?” That is not anywhere close to my style, especially when it concerns Zeke, a person I know and revere (as well as Sharon) as absolutely tops in as many different ways as any of us can count.

History (even bridge history) is vital to recount, but truth in reporting is even more important and describing an incident or incidents requires a usually difficult investigation, but without which, almost always causes ruffled feathers and hurt feelings.

To be sure, and for a relatively long period of time I have maintained what I have always thought. What happened in Norfolk was indescribedly ridiculous:

1. That SC had not previously been caught.

2. That cheaters and all their possible partners and teammates should be officially erased from any and all tournaments won with the guilty player(s) on their team or pair.

3. That no one should be moved up, because of the several reasons I have listed before, some of which have to do with the uncertainty of who would have won and also the undoubtedly unfair result of “How about all the other tournaments where the cheating pair won and nothing at all was ever done to correct those abominations”. I am not, in any way, trying to be vindictive against anyone who thinks he would have won and is entitled to be named the winner, I am just trying to respect my own view which is to try and be fair and just. (Please keep in mind that my team finished 2d in 4 straight World Championships 1972-1975 to a team which perhaps one day, at least I am hoping, will be part of an official announcement of, at least, prior irregularities). If it does happen, I DO NOT think that my team should be moved up.

4. The WBF current rule (unless unbenounced to me it has been removed) which I suggested and was unanimously approved, if ever a player or pair is convicted of cheating all of the previous tournaments that guilty player, pair or team, participated in and won, all players on that team will be stripped of their victory(s). My principle reason for suggesting this statute is to basically deputize all possible honest partners and/or teammates to not trivialize the possibility of playing with as partner or teaming up with miscreants.

The above comments are made only to try and right possible misconceptions which, while usually trying to be made in good faith, sometimes loses much meaning in the describing and thus the interpretation.

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