Scrabble Can Just Go to Hell

Somebody had to finally say it. I can’t be the only person who feels Scrabble’s a pretty crappy board game.

On the face of things, I should like it. I’ve spent my entire career pushing words around on a page in one way or another. The game’s got a lot going for it besides vocabulary. It’s aesthetically pleasing, the board, with its pastel-and-gray squares — American mid-century design at its finest. The accompanying accoutrements are refreshingly old school, the wooden tiles and tray. A quality product. There’s even a lazy Susan version.

So what’s not to like? Well, basically it’s a smart game that plays stupid. Most games, except for solitaire, are an organized version of social interaction, something you do with friends or family. That’s where Scrabble goes awry. One player sits there silently trying to come up with a word, while the rest bide their time with varying degrees of patience.

Here’s a helpful suggestion for Hasbro, the manufacturer of the game: include an egg timer. Boggle did and it’s a much better entertainment for it, not to mention everybody plays concurrently. At this point in my life, I can only abide one game without a clock and that’s baseball.

I simply don’t have time for Scrabble. Fetuses have come to term while I’ve waited for competing players to enter their piddling arrangement of tiles. If there’s a full complement of four contestants, the conversation rotates around the table as awkwardly as a three-legged race. No continuity whatsoever. Even back in the days I used to enjoy a drink, getting pleasantly schnockered failed to improve matters.

I’ve been told by my wife that the guy who invented the game hailed from the same area she did, in New York’s Hudson Valley. Apparently, the scoring for each letter was determined by its frequency on the front page of a daily edition of the New York Times. I suppose I could find out if this apocryphal story is true. The internet’s a big place. But the truth is, I don’t care. Why? I’ve established this already. Scrabble sucks.

The mano a mano two-person version is the worst. No conversation at all. One player thinks while the other waits. Over and over until you run out of tiles. This is really somebody’s idea of a game?

In our case, Janet takes nearly a geological era to put down her tiles. She also acts very proprietary about the whole enterprise, since she’s from the same place that the inventor came from. (I grew up near Thomas Edison’s laboratory, but I don’t have the same kind of attachment to lightbulbs.)

On top of this, Janet gets this kind of pouty concentration face when we play. I always think she’s mad at me. “Are you mad at me?” I’ll say.

“No,” she’ll answer. “I’m mad at my letters.”

Despite that, I still think she’s mad at me. I’m not allowed to read the newspaper while I’m waiting because, you know, I might find some future answers there. I can’t talk either. “Can’t a person think around here?” the wife says.

When it’s finally my turn, I throw down some variation of monosyllabic caveman word posthaste. It’s not that I can’t devise something better. (Clearly, you can vouch I’m a polysyllabic sort of guy.) No, I deliver my word selection promptly because, unlike some people around here, I’m polite. Spry is a fine word; something I hope to be when I’m older.

But the worst part of playing with Janet is she kicks my ass. By hundreds of points. Gaudy victories. Scores in the low four hundreds. Words of scientific origin. It’s like playing a very slow game against the dictionary.

Okay, so she’s much better at Scrabble. Big deal. I’m not even trying. Besides, if you ask anyone, they’ll tell you I’m a lot smarter than she. This Scrabble superiority — total anomaly. It’s the stupid game.