Tuesday, March 19, 2002

PULFER: Gamesmanship

Is the aim to ruin all opponents?

By Laura Pulfer, lpulfer@enquirer.com
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        A gloomy afternoon, it was perfect for a “girls day in.” The men of the family were otherwise occupied. Something about a basketball game.

        I said I'd rather watch my hair fall out than learn more about Meg Ryan or Robert Downey Jr. or Anne Heche on the E! channel. And seeing neighbors decoupage each other's walls and paint over antique furniture at the direction of deranged “interior designers” on Trading Spaces is just too violent for a Sunday afternoon.

        We could not agree on the relative feminist merits of the Powerpuff Girls versus non-surgical face lifts.

        The Helmsley smear

        So, my daughter suggested a board game. We dug out the old Monopoly box, which hadn't been used since my husband and I nearly filed for divorce over plastic hotels on the properties flanking Free Parking. He called me Leona Helmsley, and I overturned the board. We were stepping on little red hotels for weeks.

        The object of the game is, of course, to become fabulously wealthy so you can tear down all the normal-sized houses and build something behind iron gates with five garages, a media room and eight or nine bedrooms. You do this by exercising stock options just before your company tanks.

        Or perhaps I'm confusing this with real life. In truth, the game is a pretty fair analogy. Except that everybody starts with the same amount of money and the same chance to win. You can't inherit anything from a previous game. There's a banker, but no lawyers. And everybody has to follow the same rules.

        According to the rule book, “the object is to become the wealthiest player through buying, renting and selling property.”

        More aggressive strategy is available from the Monopoly Web site, which offers the services of a Strategy Wizard. A sample: “The object is to bankrupt all opponents.” Furthermore, “never let an opponent off the ropes.”

        Baffling and cut-throat

        Our gloomy Sunday was the end of another gloomy weekend here in Cincinnati. The Baptists changed their minds on Saturday, canceling their 10,000-member convention. The Rev. Al Sharpton was here to roil the waters. Friday night, downtown restaurant business was unusually robust as people came to “Bust the Boycott.” And diners were greeted with chanting protesters and signs such as “Eat, Drink and be Racist.”

        The boycott game becomes increasingly baffling. Who is playing? What are the stakes? Is anybody using the same rule book? Is there a time limit?

        I wonder how long this competition will last in Cincinnati. Is the object to “bankrupt all opponents?” And who are the opponents? Property owners? Diners? The hospitality industry? The restaurant industry? The entertainment industry? Retail?

        Is there a Strategy Wizard?

        Most of us understand boycotts, and their targeted effect. I didn't eat grapes for a while at the request of Cesar Chavez. But I didn't try to destroy my grocery store. Or California.

        I really have one sincere question for those who have pitted themselves against the entire city of Cincinnati. I am genuinely puzzled.

        How will you know when you have won?

        E-mail Laura at lpulfer@enquirer.com or call 768-8393.


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