Let’s talk gamesmanship.
I like Scrabble. In particular I like playing old school Scrabble – you know complete with the board, trays, and little wood tiles. I know there are electronic versions, but it just isn’t the same. I want to stare intently at the tiles and board while everyone else in the game says a prayer that I won’t mess up their next word placement. I want to count out loud all the double letters and triple word points, I want to rack my brain for words that have a “q” but no “u”, and I want to test my vocabulary. What I don’t care as much about is winning. I like a good-natured game of Scrabble that has a winner, but winning (to me) is only secondary to the joy of playing the game.
I have concluded that there are basically two types of Scrabble players (and for that matter game players period). There are those that play for enjoyment and then there are the mercenaries whose goal is to crush, decimate, annihilate and humiliate you. I am the former type of player and my son Noah is the latter.
Winning is not the only thing that is important to Noah, gloating about it is likewise favored. Years ago when we would all play Monopoly the rest of us would saunter along trying to get three of the same colored properties to start a nice little hotel development; but, not Noah. Noah purchased everything he landed on even if he had to mortgage things to get it. He had the utilities and railroads and mixed colored properties – it didn’t matter what it was he purchased it. I never purchased the railroads personally because they have no associated color and you cannot put hotels on them. I failed to see the benefit, but that was because I play for enjoyment.
Noah is the Donald Trump of Monopoly – minus all that silly hair, the money and fame. It is safe to say that Noah’s mercenary game-playing is infamous. Almost no one in the family is foolish enough to agree to play games with him anymore…almost no one.
A mother’s hope springs eternal. Recently Noah and I had a mini Scrabble marathon. As I said earlier, I love Scrabble. I play for the enjoyment. The way I view Scrabble is as a challenge of one’s own intellect. I foolishly hoped that Noah had matured (that sometimes happens as one ages) and was past his days of hyper-competitiveness. As I said, hope springs eternal.
The six game series started off with me in my typical mode of trying to make the biggest and most interesting word possible with the tiles I had chosen (all the while bemoaning having either too many vowels or too many consonants). Noah could care less about the challenge of coming up with the most interesting word. Noah’s focus was purely on where he could get triple points for his “x” while blocking high point scoring options for me. I don’t even pay attention to high-scoring options really – if I happen upon them – fabulous. If not, so what? Scrabble is an intellectual exercise with one’s self not a demarcation of comparative intelligence – for me…at least that was the case before I lost three times in a row and Noah’s gloating caused me to snap.
On games four, five and six I realized that this had moved out of game mode and was now armed conflict and clearly I was playing with a warrior set on taking me out. Well the fight or flight mechanism kicked in and I did what I had to – oh yes, in the next three games I “kicked his ass” (note this is the required language of such game play and necessary to relate herein so that you can appreciate how great a transformation I went through during the Scrabble series).
Unfortunately, we did not get an opportunity to play the tie-breaking game during my visit as Noah had to head off to work. It matters not though. I think we both learned a lesson. I learned that the person you play with can change the type of player you are. Reinforcement that those you hang around with can influence your behavior even when you know better (and yes, my mother was right about that).
I believe Noah learned that as aggressive and mercenary as he might be, he remains my spawn and he didn’t get those traits from his dad. Mama can throw it down if she must. After all, the boy needed to be schooled on humility and isn’t that a mother’s job?
Until the tie-breaker I will gloat mercilessly and without remorse…all with an eye on the bigger lesson…when playing Scrabble with Noah put the damn "x" on a triple letter square no matter what.
Day thirty-three of the new forty – obla di obla da