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A Silly Game of Luck?

by Phil Simborg - 25 June 2008

PHIL SIMBORG
The other night an old friend came over to my house. Joe walked in, sat down, and noticed a few of my backgammon trophies. (Don’t know how he happened to see them on the mantle with the spotlight on them!)

He got up, took a closer look and said, “Backgammon! You mean they actually give trophies for winning a silly game of luck like that?”

Being a clever, quick-witted person, I responded, “Huh?”

Further conversation revealed that Joe had “mastered” backgammon when he was in college but gave it up when he realized that it was almost purely a game of luck. He’d been playing “real games of skill” like bridge, scrabble and chess ever since.

I guess my wife sort of noticed my neck turning red and my eyes getting quite large, because just as I was about to let him have it, she served up a couple of drinks and completely changed the subject. Of course, she also gave me one of those looks that immediately told me that if I open my mouth, just once, it might be the last time I ever do.

Thankfully, she reminded me that Joe was a guest in our home, and no matter how rude and stupid his remarks, I should and would treat him with civility. So I simply let the subject pass and talked about less controversial things…like politics and religion.

Inevitably, however, the subject of backgammon came up again, as Randee and I were talking about a trip we would be taking soon to a backgammon tournament. And again, he expressed his amazement that “an intelligent person like you could waste his time playing such a silly game of luck.” I smiled, and asked him if he still remembered how to play, and he smiled back and said sure. I made him a small, friendly wager that if we played 5 games he could not win more than 1. (We had to play individual games because he didn’t know how to use the doubling cube.)

I don’t have to tell you what happened. He played horribly and beat me unmercifully. Naturally, I was a very good sport (my wife was watching carefully and holding a very sharp knife) and complimented him on his victory and his skill.

The experience has not changed my feelings about Backgammon, but I have to admit that the trophies are now in a storage locker.

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