America’s Good-Time Game?

Posted: October 23, 2011 in Uncategorized
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BOB BURNHAM, host: Welcome to this week’s Moron Quotient. I’m your host, Bob Burnham. Controversy ensued at this year’s World Scrabble Championships when Chollapat Itthi-Aree of Thailand demanded that his opponent, Edward Martin of England , be strip-searched after the letter G went missing during their match.

Joining me to talk about the high-stakes sport of professional Scrabble, I am joined by Johnny Cornball, the sports editor of Crossword Illustrated magazine. Mr. Cornball has written extensively about the high-stakes world of professional word games. Mr. Cornball, thanks for being on the Moron Quotient.

JOHNNY CORNBALL, sports editor, Crossword Illustrated: Thanks Bob. I appreciate the opportunity to talk about a sport does not get the exposure it deserves.

BOB: And from the Panel of Morons, let me introduce Madame Goo-Goo, who has just returned from her Indulgence World Tour.

MADAME GOO-GOO, pop-star icon: Hello Bob! It’s so nice to see you!

BOB: The pleasure is all mine. And let me introduce the newest member of the Panel of Morons, the comedian Katie Quip. Katie, congratulations on being named to the Panel of Morons, and welcome to the Moron Quotient.

KATIE QUIP, comedian: Thanks, Bob. Let me just say that I’ve never been so proud to be called a moron. I guess my 6th grade teacher was right about me all along!

BOB: So let me start by asking the obvious question. Mr. Cornball, is Scrabble really a sport?

CORNBALL: Believe it or not, it is. It’s not just a game for family holidays. Professional scrabble is a world of cutthroat competition.

QUIP: Cutthroat–that’s worth at least 14 points.

BOB: Katie, it sounds like you are quite the Scrabble fan.

QUIP: I play it all the time! I once scored 70 points playing the word a**hole.

CORNBALL: You see, that’s the kind of attitude the belittles the amount of time and effort these people put into their sport. It’s their whole life. They spend 12 hours a day memorizing words in the weeks leading up to a major competition. They play daily, argue over strategy with their peers. They take their sport seriously.

GOO-GOO: I think that’s beautiful. It’s like their vocation, just like singing is my vocation. They learn to love themselves through their passion. I think they should celebrate that, and we should as well.

BOB: As the stakes in professional Scrabble get higher and higher, are incidents like the one between Chollapat Itthi-Aree and Edward Martin becoming more common?

CORNBALL: There is a lot of tension in these tournaments. When I covered the Golden Tile Classic in 1998, I swear that someone’s head was going to explode. I’ve seen fights break out—one man even kicked his rival in the stomach. It’s a brutal sport.

GOO-GOO: That kind of violence simply reflects the violence in society. Sport—like art—reflects society. Pop-culture celebrates violence, and pop-culture is our religion. Sports are getting more and more violent. And why is that? Because we don’t celebrate who we are. We worship victory, when we should be worshipping ourselves.

BOB: That raises a good question. Are professional Scrabble players as obsessed with winning as athletes in any other sport?

CORNBALL: Absolutely. And that explains Chollapat’s reaction at the missing G. There’s a lot of pressure on these athletes, and that leads to suspicion and anger. One competitor even got so angry that he ate the letter Q when he couldn’t play it.

QUIP: He should have gotten credit for playing the word quiche. That’s worth at least 20 points.

BOB: Do you think that the world of professional Scrabble will ever become mainstream?

CORNBALL: I think it would be great if it did. Look at the popularity of some so-called “fringe” sports: poker, dog shows, the WNBA. I definitely think there is a market, and it would be great to get exposure.

GOO-GOO: And that would validate them and celebrate who they are.

CORNBALL: Exactly. One competitor I interviewed as he was preparing for the 1996 National Championships told me, “I’ve never been good at anything in my life—school, sports—

QUIP: —Sex—

CORNBALL: —winning this thing would give meaning to my life.” The people who play professional Scrabble are just as dedicated to winning as any NFL coach.

QUIP: I’d love to see Jim Harbaugh and Jim Schwartz play a Scrabble match!

BOB: Katie, I believe you are referring to Jim Harbaugh, the coach of the NFL’s San Francisco 49’ers and Jim Schwartz the coach of the Detroit Lions, who exchanged words and almost got in a fight after their game last week.

QUIP: Yeah. Jim Schwartz was pissed that he lost his W.

BOB: And that’s all the time we have today. I’d like to thank Johnny Cornball for joining us on the Moron Quotient.

CORNBALL: Thanks. I enjoyed talking about the great sport of Scrabble today.

BOB: And to our Panelists: Madame Goo-Goo and Katie Quip. Thank you for being with us.

GOO-GOO: Thank you so much, Bob. And remember to love who you are, for you’ve all you got!

QUIP: Thanks. You’ve all been great. I love being a moron!

BOB: And thanks to everyone else who joined us for this week’s Moron Quotient. May your week be filled with peace and goodness as we build a more fraternal and peaceful world!

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