Cam French


Bad Company – Bad Company


I got this note from a long-time contributor.

Thought you might smile. Some bridge players have a deliciously wicked sense of humour. You decide if this qualifies.

My friend Jerry Clerkin once made a pre-alert statement when he started a game against Cokin.  Jerry said, “We play upside down pencil signals.”

I almost feel sorry for poor Cokin;  Sion browbeats him into cheating (most of the expert community were of the opinion that Sion was a horrible influence on Cokin), they get caught, booted for 5 years, legal bills, ostracization and now has to endure the barbs of friends. Well I did say almost.

And he was the only one (apparently) that wanted to throw their unlawfully won Norfolk title back. But Sontag, Weichsel and Sternberg would not so much as entertain the thought.

“Bad Company, and I can’t deny it. Bad, bad company, ’till the day I die.”



Here is the funny part. Since this was posted, at last count 24 people have emailed me privately about this post. 22 said it was funny, 2 wishing they had the imagination to dream up such a barb, and 2 found the remark “offensive”. None would post, thereby going on the record. Not sure what that says but it is telling on its own. Cheating is the forbidden fruit, no one wants to talk about it. It is the bastard child of our game especially in a case like this where otherwise honest and ethical players like Sontag and Weichsel do a U-Turn on the ethics highway and someone calls them to account. But until we realize that sooner or later we will have to address cheating with all its warts, pain, implications and ramifications, it will remain a tainted topic, where few dare to venture. I encourage those who have an opinion to post for all to see.


Monelle RichmondSeptember 29th, 2011 at 2:32 am

I think it’s very funny, and obviously very offensive. If I’d been at the table, I’m sure I would have cringed. I might not have cringed as much with Sion at the table, though. His arrogance was like a dagger. Scary dude. We all try to be loving and forgiving, if only for our own peace of mind, but some people sure do test us to the limit.

Avon WilsmoreSeptember 30th, 2011 at 8:32 am

I don’t find Mr Jerry Clerkin’s comment at all funny. I find it grotesque and (very likely) malicious gamesmanship.


A. Proper Attitude

1. A player should maintain a courteous attitude at all times.

2. A player should carefully avoid any remark or action that might cause annoyance or embarrassment to another player or might interfere with the enjoyment of the game.

Is it the case that Mr Clerkin was aware of this law when he spoke?

The answer is probably, “Yes”.

Did Mr Clerkin say what he did knowingly and deliberately (not, say, after some needless provocation)?

Again, the answer is probably, “Yes”.

Did Mr Cklerkin make his comment in the hope of gaining points by rattling his opponent? Has Mr Clerkin been asked this question?

While we await an answer, Mr Clerkin might like to reflect on the name we give to those who, when playing a game, knowingly and deliberately break the law.

As far as the ACBL is concerned, Mr Cokin has ‘served his time’. He is (I gather) free to enter and play in ACBL events. When he does so, he should be left in peace, free of juvenile and spiteful gratuitous comments.

John GowdyOctober 1st, 2011 at 4:14 am

Was it funny? Not very …In bad taste ? Yes….However if you shit on my lawn you are and will always be a lawn shitter.

Is there a statute of limitations reguarding shitting or cheating? Not in my house. you reap what youe sow.

Avon WilsmoreOctober 1st, 2011 at 2:32 pm

Mr Gowdy raises some interesting points.

Regrettably, Sontag, Weichsel and Sternberg seem to think there “is a statute of limitations” – as this blog has demonstrated, they won’t hand back their title.

Mr Cokin did indeed sow, and he reaped a suspension from the ACBL. And that should be the end of it – the poor devil should be able to sit at the table free from illegal sniping from opponents.

We all agree Mr Cokin broke the law some time ago. Others cannot use that as an excuse to break the law (Law 74 and/or others) now.

Mr Cokin, and, indeed, anyone who finds themselves the butt of provocative and gratuitous comments at the table should simply raise their hand and make a complaint with the director AND THE RECORDER. In my experience, Larry Loudmouth does not like his name going on record.

John Howard GibsonOctober 2nd, 2011 at 4:55 pm

HBJ : What beats me is why the governing/awarding bodies didn’t insist on the trophy being handed back, so that their names could be deleted from all record books. This happens when olympic winners get caught out cheating on a positive drugs test. Hell…… what on earth is up with your bridge set up over there. Closing ranks or just too plain scared to do the decent thing.

Cam FrenchOctober 3rd, 2011 at 9:53 pm

Dear JHG,

The ACBL worked diligently to deny the title to its rightful owners, including a statement from then GM and Chair Richard Goldberg that claimed (falsely of course) that the “infractions” were detected and committed at Atlanta (in June) therefore no prior incidents will be considered.

Of course that was plain bulls*** as Woolsey/Martel and others broke the code at Norfolk, (March)and only forced the issue in Atlanta when they realized the ACBL had done nothing to verify their findings.

No one wants their skeletons disinterred. It would be easier for the league if the cheating team had voluntarily stood down, but obviously they prefer to retain their ill-gotten gains. Yes the League failed us, but the members of team Sternberg who were not cheaters (Sternberg/Sontag/Weichsel) failed us too.

This was a case of multiple blame. How this title resonates with all their other fabulous accomplishments escapes me. I mean really – why wouldn’t you throw it back? It is tainted. You owe us better. You are stars, don’t our best do the right thing? I guess not.

Thus Zeke Jabbour, Mike Cappelletti, David Hoffner, Gary Hann, David Sacks and Ron Feldman were designated to be Collateral Damage.

This is not an Olympic event, but you are right, were it guided by the Olympian rules, or even better, superior ethics by a few, we would not be having this conversation.

I wish it were otherwise but obviously I am in a minority.

It seems unbelievable to me that the League could (as in this case) validate cheaters, by creating false alibis and lying for them.

Bobby Wolff told us all that Sion/Cokin’s confessions were held in Jeff Polisner’s office and they essentially confessed to cheating on every hand in every event since the start of their partnership. But the League would have us believe this “started” in Atlanta. Sure…..

But that, eye-witness accounts from Martel, Woolsey, and others (and that little detail of the confessions) are all moot. Get over it. The ACBL will apparently never look back.

Too bad. Maybe a “Healing commision” like Nelson Mandala held to restore justice might be a way to look back and give back to those who were swindled.

Truth is, as members we were all swindled. We deserve more than League officials validating cheaters. And superstar players who cling to unlawfully won titles don’t deserve our respect, but our condemnation.

How dare you corrupt our game! A game based on ethics and proprieties, but that is the way it is.

I hope not to weigh in again on this, it has taken its toll on me and others and the League has “battened down the hatches”.

We all have to live with (but not accept) their complicity in this sordid incident.

Do the right thing. Is that such a tough concept? I suppose for a few the answer is yes.


bob mcpheeOctober 4th, 2011 at 2:39 am

When a convicted theif comes into the room you take your wallet off the table. He may have served his time, so what, fact is he did not bring a doggy bag.

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