On my way home today I passed by Megamall as usual, and there was a Scrabble tournament going on. I stopped for a few minutes and watched. I realize a lot of people would probably find watching Scrabble games boring, seeing only two geeky people spelling out words at random, not even making any sense. But watching the Scrabble games brought me back to a time when I didn’t have the internet to keep me up at nights.
Scrabble is a game close to my heart, me and my brother Kerwin practically grew up with the game.
My grandfather often played games at home with my uncles, often with small bets of ten or twenty pesos. I remember as a kid I was so envious of a notched-tile board that my grandfather had bought, while we kids played with our cheap and dingy locally-made board. There was one summer where me, Kerwin and my cousin played Scrabble basically every day, sometimes with our uncle who often had free time. We learned a lot of new words of course, we learned strategy, we complained about someone taking far too long to play (usually my cousin).
I remember often abusing the fact that we played with a challenge penalty. To non-Scrabble players: that means that if you think your opponent has played an illegal word, you may challenge it, and he loses the turn if it’s not in the dictionary. But if it does appear in the dictionary, you have lost the challenge and must forfeit your own turn. It added a nice bluffing subgame: I would consciously favor words that I knew to be correct but looked ridiculous – after all, words like “VUV” and “ZOA” were allowed in the usual Scrabble dictionaries. I usually did this trick to my cousin who was older than me. Kerwin was younger so for some reason he just trusted what his brother would play.
I remember being really excited the first time I won against my uncle; he had been the most difficult opponent I had ever played at that point, and it seemed like such an accomplishment.
If you knew me during college, you may know that I was a pretty good Scrabble player. I took the PE class (easy 1.0! although of course PEs don’t count against the GWA), played in two or three University-wide tournaments, and won one or two. Well, memory tells me I won at least one, but the number of extra Scrabble sets I still keep to this day tell me it was probably two.
I do remember that at a certain point I was even thinking about competing in National or International tournaments. Alas, if only Scrabble tournaments were held at the same regularity that Magic tournaments are, I might have a completely different (and much less expensive) geeky hobby right now.
These days I still manage a game every so often with either my brothers or my mother, so the extra scrabble boards go unused. We’ve also played a lot online, Scrabulous is an excellent waste of time. It’s sad that Milton-Bradley, the company that owns the Scrabble trademark, is suing Scrabulous over this when Scrabulous has made Scrabble so popular online, especially over Facebook.
Watching the Scrabble tournament today for a few minutes, I realized I wish I had known about the tournament; I may be rusty but I could probably still put up a fight. And I also remembered one of the great things about Scrabble: anyone can play – the tournament had young and old, men and women alike, fighting for dominance over the space a few tiles and a few words. Maybe someday I can compete in that world again.