Sunday, July 26, 2009

Euchre as a blood sport

Every family has, I think, its own unique ways of interrelating - accepted methods of showing affection, of speaking to each other, of spending time together. I would describe the distinguishing characteristics of my mother's family in this way: simple devotion to the supremacy of blood ties over all others - combined with aggressive extroversion and fueled by intense competitiveness. If this all sounds rather pathological...well, in some ways it is. We're the people you see who have too much to drink at a party, who talk too loud, who say things they regret the next morning.

But before you, dear reader, get the wrong impression - I should add: My mom's family are also quite a tight-knit group; they are affectionate, they are playful, they are funny. They don't take any sh*t from anybody. They've got your back. I'm one of them.

One of the popular ways to pass time at our family reunions is to play cards and have a drink. Drinking is optional - but card playing is expected. And it is a rather serious business, too. The game of choice is euchre. Oh, we'll play other things: cribbage, spades, pinochle, crazy eights. But the real game is euchre.

Friday night, I was involved in two noteworthy euchre incidents. The events are rarely about card playing itself - but more how the game can be a revealer of character (or, sometimes, lapses of character).

In the first, I was playing a game partnered with my Uncle-R against my mother and The Boy. And they were kicking our @$$es. Normally, this would grate on my uncle a good deal - but he was actually taking things pretty well. In fact, what was really getting on his nerves was my mom's seeming inability to keep her mind on the game. She was oftentimes more preoccupied with providing (or eating) snacks to keep play moving forward. [Note: Euchre is a simple game played with five cards dealt to each player. The pace of play is expected to be brisk - particularly amongst seasoned players.]

By the third game, fortunes seemed to have shifted, and Uncle-R and I were finally leading by a few points. Then my mother bid a hand and, during the third or fourth trick, when it appeared she might lose the hand, reneged (failed to follow suit during play). When this was pointed out, she said she had forgotten which suit was trump (even though she was the one that had "named" trump). Anyway, this was the last straw for Uncle-R; who was more p*ssed off, I think, by my mother's inattentiveness to the game than her error. He wanted the two points that the rules say our team was entitled to. My mother was offended at his tone - declared the game was over and kicked my uncle out of her hotel room (where he was supposed to sleep that night). I invited Uncle-R to bunk in our room for the night (since we had two beds and a sleeper sofa) and the world continued to spin.

Later that same night, I got involved in another euchre game with my Brother, Cousin-A and his wife, BK. BK and I were partners against Brother and Cousin-A. By this point in the night, all of the other players were feeling no pain (I was not partaking of alcoholic beverages that night). Until Brother made a remark that aroused the mock outrage of Cousin-A and BK; whereupon they began to strike him about the head and shoulders - literally!

Now, don't get me wrong - it was kind of fun to watch. But both Brother and I were surprised by the aggressive nature of the blows. Mine was more amusement - with a few comments thrown in that I hoped I would not be the next target. Brother's was more pain and shock combined with a bit of whining (looking for sympathy that would never come). But, in any case, they gave him a few good wallops. And play soon continued as though nothing unusual had happened; and, of course, nothing very unusual had happened. That's just how we roll.

I'm glad to say that no blood was actually spilled in any of these incidents. But the reunion is far from over. You never know what might happen next.

I'm just hoping for a loaner hand.

Take care.


Middle Aged Woman said...

Very sorry I missed that second episode. Not surprised by either one, though!

Jim Styro said...

No surprises here. Just more of what you've come to expect. Kids, cards & kin.

sunshine said...

A little bit of drama is definitely a part of playing cards, but I totally understand how it can become a blood sport when people really enjoy the game but mostly enjoy winning! I know of occasions when people won't even stand up from they chair in order to continue with a winning strike, LOL!

Hoping for a loaner hand for you too, good luck!!!

historymike said...

Agreed that euchre is an especially competitive and ruthless game. I think it must have something to do with the fact that you have partners, which means that any mistake also hurts another person.

Jim Styro said...

Sunshine: Thanks for your encouragement. I find enough drama in my life without trying to create any through serious card play.
As a professor of mine once said: "Take life seriously; just don't take yourself too seriously."

Mikey: Yeah - those damn partners are always making things difficult. In reference to that dilemma, I heard my Cousin-B4 over the weekend remark: "I just don't want to make a mistake and get yelled at." (He is a fantastic euchre player, BTW.)