I’m a decent Scrabble player. I don’t want to toot my own trombone, but I’m not easy to beat. Scrabble is the only game I’m any good at. And I mean the only game.
I stink at all other forms of play. When I play chess, my opponent has to constantly remind me not to use the bishop piece to clean my teeth. I have never won at Monopoly. Playing Twister is how I ended up married.
When I was a kid, I liked playing Operation. But my gameboard never had batteries, so we played using the honor system. This led to many fights among boys. So my mother threw it away.
No, Scrabble is my game. And make no mistake, I am a fearsome opponent.
A common myth among the uninitiated is that Scrabble is for people who have big vocabularies. Not at all. The path to victory is knowing a little-known list of bizarre two-letter words that you would swear are fake words, but are actually in the official Scrabble Dictionary. Words like: “ao,” “ko,” “xu,” “ua,” and my all-time favorite, “za.”
You throw “za” onto the board at just the right moment and you’re looking at a possible 2,457 point lead. Maybe more. I have won a handful of matches with this one word.
My mother taught me how to play Scrabble. I was a child and not that interested in the game at first. My mother is a passionate Scrabble player.
I remember that first game. The pieces came in a nondescript 1950s burgundy box. It looked nothing like the entertainment sold in today’s world. There were no flashy graphics, no bright colors. Only little wooden tiles and a beige gameboard that looked about as interesting as an air-conditioner service manual.
To kids many kids of my era, Scrabble was considered lame. In some circles, it was called “el lame-oh.” On the International Fun Scale, it ranks only a few notches above wax suppositories.
But not to me. I loved Scrabble from the beginning. Although I could never beat my mother at Scrabble. She could whip me hard without even using more than two letters at a time.
The main thing you have to watch out for when playing Scrabble is liars. I’m serious. If you were to ask the Official Scrabble Umpires what the biggest threat facing the Scrabble Association is, they would say, big fat liars, or BFLs, as they are known by game officials.
BFLs are the people who make up words which are totally bogus. Some of these people have turned word-faking into an artform.
I’ve encountered such phony jargon as “karafus,” “moaster,” “tillow,” “shannt,” and my personal favorite, “busheez.”
During one particular game, my BFL cousin swore on his mother’s eyes that the word “grolde” was a precious mineral found within the California mountains.
Your only choice when confronted with a BFL is issuing a formal challenge. But challenges are tricky. Because if you aren’t ONE HUNDRED percent certain the word is fake, you could lose a turn. And you might lose the game.
So when you’re having an argument with your cousin, who keeps insisting that his wedding ring is made of 24-carat grolde, before you challenge, you must be unwaveringly certain that he is totally full of busheez.
Because things get complicated when you start consulting the Scrabble Dictionary. They have whacked-out rules that don’t make sense.
For example, the word “Christmas” is not approved by the official Scrabble rules. But some dictionaries are now including “innit” (slang for “isn’t it”) is perfectly legal. And words like “zyzzyva,” (a tropical weevil) or “thang” (slang for thing). Which is just ridiculous, innit?
So anyway, I play Scrabble every day on my phone. I usually keep four or five games going at once. I win almost every match, but I’m a nice guy about it. I never gloat or write articles stating how fabulously awesome I am.
Still, you can’t change the facts. And the fact is: I win a lot.
At least, I used to.
That’s all over now.
Because something has happened. It started a week ago. It was a day like any other. The computer matched me with a random opponent.
My opponent said his name was Brad, he’s from Maine. He beat me once. Twice. Three times. Six times. He has beat me 14 times now. Our last game lasted two whole days. He whooped the pine tar out of me. I have never played against a guy like Brad. Not in my life.
I knew this man was different from the opening word he played during our first game. “Zaxes.” It was, without a doubt, his tour de force. And in plural form.
When someone puts down a 42-point opening move, you know you are in the presence of a great man.
We played until late last night. It was, perhaps, one of the most grueling experiences of my adult life, aside from the time I helped lead a Baptist youth nature camping trip.
When Brad delivered the final blow, I was already falling behind by 23 points. Brad played the word “into” to win the game. There I was, lying dead on the battlefield.
I was so overcome with admiration that I had to message my opponent and tell the man that he is my new hero. Our conversation went like this:
“Brad,” I messaged, “you are the man!”
“Thx,” he replied.
“You played a great game.”
“LOL!! Thx. U2”
“LOL! I would but I can’t, mom says I got to brush my teeth.”
I’m going back to playing Operation.
muthahun - October 17, 2020 10:18 am
Only in Maine would you find someone talking about tack hammers for slate rooves…
AlaRedClayGirl - October 17, 2020 11:22 am
There’s nothing more humbling than being beaten by a kid!
Karen G - October 17, 2020 11:39 am
Toooooo funny 😂
Melanie - October 17, 2020 11:46 am
And don’t forget qi. 🤣
Sharyn - October 17, 2020 12:21 pm
I knew my mother was well and truly on that sad road to dementia when I could finally beat her at scrabble. I wish I’d thought to put a bag of tiles in her coffin.
Jan - October 17, 2020 12:21 pm
Cindy Kelly - October 17, 2020 12:28 pm
Last night on Jeopardy there was a 2 word category..Thanks for the chuckle.
Dee Thompson - October 17, 2020 12:34 pm
Ha! My schoolteacher grandmother — the one I am named for but never met — was a Scrabble champion. It’s an awesome game. I play about 30 games all the time on my phone. I only win about half the time but I have learned words like aa and xi and haj. I like to to tell myself that anyone who beats me is just cheating. It’s very comforting.
Dmoore - October 17, 2020 12:39 pm
Awww man it’s good to be humble(d) once in a while…lol.
Connie - October 17, 2020 12:40 pm
I love Scrabble. I play every day on my phone. I have 23 games going right now. I win some, I lose some. I don’t really keep up with it. But I hate the weird words that Scrabble approves.
Kjl - October 17, 2020 12:44 pm
Our entertainment budget was sonlow when we were newlyweds that one months entire allocation went to buy that famous burgundy box. We got our money’s worth out of it and it still “works” forty-six years later!
Carroll Uithoven - October 17, 2020 12:47 pm
I, too, love Scrabble. Taught my daughter to play like your mom did. Then one day she beat me! Today we keep a running game of Words with Friends going. Occasionally I win.
Zebu is another great word. Always play it, no matter the point count.
S Bumpus - October 17, 2020 1:12 pm
Excellent read with my scrabbled zeggs!
Pam H Thompson - October 17, 2020 1:44 pm
Me too, at least five games at a time. But at least we don’t have to do challenges. BTW I go to church with a guy who edited the Scrabble dictionary. He referreed real Scrabble tournaments, pre-Covid.
Naomi - October 17, 2020 1:49 pm
Sean, if you like Scrabble, you would love Upwords. It’s like Scrabble, but you stack the tiles up to make a word.
Jenny Young - October 17, 2020 2:08 pm
That is hilarious!
I do disagree with one point…..I think you won at Twister.
Steve Winfield (Lifer) - October 17, 2020 2:23 pm
I can just see you, Jamie & Ellie all entwined on the living room floor.
“Left paw red.”
Jim Thomssen - October 17, 2020 2:28 pm
Try Zarf. Best word ever. It’s the silver handle think that goes with fancy Russian tea sets!
Lisa Wilcox - October 17, 2020 2:36 pm
Thanks for such a great post. My mom and I played multiple Scrabble games at a time when she was still alive. I have such awesome memories of playing with her. No one else has taken her place as my worthy opponent and so I don’t play anymore.
Debbie - October 17, 2020 2:42 pm
Lol. This was great! You remind me of myself. I tell on myself every time. I’m hoping this kid is at least 10 years old. Any less, and this story becomes sad. I really can’t stop laughing.
Martha - October 17, 2020 2:56 pm
Good one !
Jane - October 17, 2020 3:15 pm
We are TV less. So we spend our winter nights playing Scrabble. It is a wonderful way to pass the time. Usually he wins. And sometimes I let him.
Margaret E Odell - October 17, 2020 4:18 pm
I see his zaxes and raise him a zac on a triple word space with the z on triple letter space! Scrabble is my favorite game.
Laurel F. Johnson - October 17, 2020 4:40 pm
Too funny! my sister is a Scrabble nut, so I sent this edition on to her. I know she will truly enjoy this. Thank you for giving us something to laugh about during this time of Covid-19! You are a blessing.
Linda Moon - October 17, 2020 4:50 pm
Words. Scrabble is all about words. Your promise to us readers, plus my Twilight Zone additions of adding one more each day, is now 2,345,469 words you owe us. Brad lost his manhood in his reply to your congratulatory message you sent, and he lost my respect! Come play Pictionary with my guy, Sean. He shows no mercy, even to a gingerhead kin who’s a lot like you!
MAM - October 17, 2020 6:02 pm
I used to play Scrabble with my mother. We even used English tiles to play in French. We always ended up with lots of consonants left over. But we had fun! My game of choice when I’m waiting in a doctor’s waiting room or wherever that I have a few minutes to play is SpellTower on my phone. You only have to beat yourself! And BIG long words with Qs, Zs, Xs, and Js help your point count. 🙂 Try it out.
Susan Kennedy - October 17, 2020 7:06 pm
za is my favorite as well. But Qi is pretty good too! 😂
Janice Greenwood - October 17, 2020 8:29 pm
As I’ve said before you make me laugh or cry. Today was especially poignant as I’m mourning the loss of my sister – she refused to play with me after I wouldn’t accept her play of QUE. when all established players know it is QUEUE.. I’m the family champion in Scrabble (or I was until last Christmas when my grandson beat me. I think he is still taking his victory lap). Husband doesn’t spell very well and loves to tell any potential opponent that I cheat. Novices agree because they don’t know the tactic of 2-letter or no-consonant words played strategically. Anyway, thanks again for providing a perfect start to every day.
Patricia Gibson - October 18, 2020 2:18 pm
Gave me a laugh and I needed one😂
Angela Cochran - October 18, 2020 8:07 pm
Love scrabble! My favorite game too! I’m still laughing!
Elizabeth - October 18, 2020 10:36 pm
I found that so funny and right when I needed a ‘pick me up’ thanks so much Sean!
Maria Mullins - October 19, 2020 2:16 pm
I laughed myself silly at this! I love scrabble, and play words with friends on my phone which is like scrabble. Be aware there is some kind of a cheat app out there. I found out about it when my opponent beat me bloody!😂😂
Dawn Bratcher - October 19, 2020 2:41 pm
LOL! I play Scrabble with 2 friends online everyday. We look forward to it so much!
missusmux - October 19, 2020 3:48 pm
Dee Thompson . . . BFL’s!
MissBethy - November 17, 2020 2:07 pm
Shannon - November 18, 2020 2:08 am
My loss? Boyfriend and me playing at my mother’s … fantastic ‘cause she was the judge, He challenged my word ‘a s k e d ‘ . Make me win, huge scores, totally stopped because tiles all used! His question and the loss for me! Was that word …His Pronunciation used ..“ a x / Ked/ d u h “ . Late at night, multiple date game running, senior in high school and a huge argument because of score and embarrassing charge to use dictionary, changing score to one person as final, winning full board with final word. When he won …my high allowed female cuss word, the board flew off the table, tiles went up and out everywhere………I was butt-whipped by my Mother and we didn’t date for about a month due to both of our mothers’ decision. His mom laughing hard with her. Lost one tile for years in that carpet! The game I Quit playing, Still have original game box, sealed with tape turning yellow,,, new board, taught my son BUT, .No Way In Heck and have never used the old game board and the worn tiles with word game over 50+ years ago! ❤️❗️🤣🤣🤣
Helen De Prima - August 5, 2021 9:09 pm
The online version of Scrabble is lame — too cute a board. I’m addicted to Wordscraper which looks a lot like the old Scrabble board. Such fun to play and become friends with opponents on every continent but Antarctica.