A professional Bridge player, Goren was also an international celebrity during the 1950s. He wrote several books on Bridge, selling millions of copies. He also wrote a daily column devoted to the game that was syndicated in nearly 200 newspapers across the United States, in addition to columns on the same topic in McCall's and -- if you can believe it -- Sports Illustrated. And from 1959 to 1964, he hosted a TV show devoted to Bridge.
What's even more remarkable is that Goren wasn't unique in deriving his fame from being very good at a very difficult card game; during the 30s, 40s, and 50s, there were many popularly celebrated Bridge players, such as Ely Culbertson and Harold Vanderbilt. Tournaments in which they competed were covered in the newspapers and attracted crowds of spectators. During the years immediately before and after World War II, Bridge was a favored pastime throughout the Western world (and beyond). According to various histories of the game I've read, anywhere between 40 and 50% of American homes hosted Bridge games regularly during the late 1950s. Movie stars like Omar Sharif openly spoke of their passion for the game, as did President Dwight Eisenhower, who often played while at the White House. Fictional characters such as James Bond and Hercule Poirot were both noted Bridge aficionados too, as was Woodstock from Charles Schulz's Peanuts comic strip.
By the late 1960s, though, the bloom had come off the rose and Bridge ceased to be the broad popular entertainment it had been for several decades prior. No one knows precisely why this happened. There are a lot of theories, ranging from the difficulty in learning (let alone mastering) the game, the growing complexity of the bidding systems used in play, or the eternal claim that people no longer have the patience their ancestors once did. Whatever the reason, Bridge soon became, in the popular imagination, if not in reality, an "old person's game." Nowadays, if discussion of Bridge comes up at all, it's usually in the context of someone's grandparents playing it, despite the best attempts of avid players like billionaires Warren Buffet and Bill Gates to promote the game among young people by noting that
Unlike other games that you master and eventually quit playing because they no longer challenge you, Bridge is a game that offers continuous challenges, new situations to be analyzed every time you play and a complex and intriguing language to be learned and mastered.There are likewise claims that Bridge playing helps develop better memories and stave off dementia in the elderly.
Millions of people still play Bridge today, but its glory days are long gone and, barring some unforeseen circumstance, it's not likely to ever again be the fad it once was. That doesn't prevent lovers of the game from continuing to enjoy it and to share their love with other players. Neither does it prevent their teaching the game to newcomers who've decided to participate in a hobby whose complexity (there are 635,013,559,600 possible hands in the game, plus a vast number of stratagems for using those hands) and subtlety make it difficult for computers to win against human opponents, as they regularly do in chess.
In short, Bridge is alive and well in 2010, played by millions across the globe and from all walks of life. Sure, it's faded from popular consciousness and is often ridiculed by people who don't understand it, but so what? The point of any hobby is personal satisfaction and enjoyment. So long as people continue to find the game fun, what difference does it make if it's played by just 4 people or 4 million?