Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Scrabbling Over Scrabble

     Click on the following link to read about some new news in Scrabble playing. See my post of April 17, 2013.

    When I first saw this article I thought someone had stolen my idea. See my post of April 17, 2013. But this is some new news. The National Scrabble Association which has at least partially been supported by Hasbro, the toy company which currently manufactures Scrabble, the Board Game, is closing its doors.  Slowly over the years this article says, Hasbro has been withdrawing financial support. Finally as of July 1, the company has withdrawn all support and the Association has closed. This withdraws financial support for many of the competitive venues of the game.
     This occurs at a time when Scrabble is never more popular, and the competitive side of the game is at its broadest. Fatsis' article says that "more than a million people, from kids to hipsters to nonagenarians play daily on Facebook. In May, nearly 200 students in fourth through eighth grades competed in the National School Scrabble Championship. On Saturday, more than 500 die-hards,, the author included, gathered in Las Vegas for the National Scrabble Championship, a five-day 31-gme anagrammatic marathon."
      Indeed, Hasbro has spent millions of dollars in the last 25 years financing the NSA, organizing national, world, and school tournaments, booking the winners of some of these on late night TV spots, maintained a database of competitive players, published a newsletter, put the game on ESPN for 6 years, published a Scrabble dictionary and has kept it up to date with modern words that have become acceptable Scrabble words. Now Hasbro follows in the steps of its predecessor in Scrabble, Selchow and Richter who made Scrabble from its inception in 1948 until Hasbro purchased North American rights in 1989. In 1985, a marketing executive from Selchow and Richter said, " You have to understand, we are in the game-making business. We are not in the altruism business." Now Hasbro follows in these footsteps.
     I had no idea that the competitive arm of Scrabble play was so widespread and so active. I know that tournaments are very closely monitored. Tournament play is the real game of Scrabble, where players are not allowed to use aids, 2 word dictionaries, and other modern electronic gizmos. Also each play is timed and each player has only 25 minutes to complete all of his plays. This means that competitive players have to have at their disposal "178,000, 2 to 15 letter words" and they exercise their "spatial relations, board geometry and language maximization" skills repeatedly through several days of tournaments.
     Somehow the players and their associations will continue to support these venues. Competitive players have now formed their own independent North American Scrabble Players Association which is supported by higher dues and various forms of fundraising. This new organization will provide the $10.000 prize money for the national tournament in Vegas, replacing the $15,000 that Hasbro has withdrawn.  These tournaments will go on, but this article expresses the disappointment that industry can not find the wherewithal to provide support for such an honorable purpose.
     The author of this article in the New York Times, Stefan Fatsis, is a competitive scrabble player himself. He has written several books on Scrabble. The most recent is entitled: Word Freak: Heartbreak, Triumph, Genius and Obsession in the World of Competitive Scrabble Players.


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