Tuesday, December 29, 2009

group therapy

Moderator: Good evening and welcome to this support group for people who have unusual addictions. There are coffee and donuts in the back. Please help yourself to them. We will start with the person on my left and continue in a circle. Please introduce yourself and state why you are here:

"Hi, my name is Ken."

Group: Hi Ken.

Moderator: and why are you here this evening?:

Ken: I became an addict of the board game Scrabble and as of this weekend, it has been three years since my last game.

Group (many with confused looks on their faces): *quiet clapping*

M: That is very unusual and I see why you are here. Can you explain how you got addicted to Scrabble, a board game that is supposed to be fun?

K: After I injured myself bowling in February 1994, I needed something to supplement the competitive juices that I missed. My first intentions were fun but since my memory is so vibrant, I got good fast. By 1998 inspired by a tournament win the previous October, my game got to the point where I entered the National Scrabble Championship since it was in downtown Chicago. However due to bad play, bad luck, and inexperience, things went far worse that I could ever imagine:

All games are head to head. Winner is person with best win-loss record after 31 games with total point differential used as a tiebreaker.

I finished in 128th place out of 133. One person got sick late Wednesday and that is why I got two forfeit wins. When the last game was played by the champion on table number 1, I was on table number 66.

M: That had to have been a huge disappointment. What did you do after?

K: Seeing where I ranked compared to the best of the game and knowing that I was unable to get to that point, I instead became a club and tournament director. I saw many problems and unfair practices that other directors shown and wanted to make things better focusing things on that and reported bad practices to the association. However, people didn't care how badly they were getting screwed over by people supporting the top 5% of players and I never got any real support for my cause. I did run some tournaments but after three people I cared most about seeing play in my tournaments died due to AIDS, MS and old age, I decided to stop hosting them.

M: Sad. Were there any good moments?

K: A few. One time in a club I played the person who won the National and eventually World championship and with him tired and distracted and with good draws, I did beat him. Another time I ended someone's 35 game club winning streak. However, all that just raised my expectations and created more frustration for me when things did not go well.

M: I see; what happened next?

K: One night when I was out of town, my wife accidentally erased three years of club stats off my computer hard drive and another time my daughter ruined my hard copies stepping on them in the car on a snowy day. After that, the desire to run a club was gone. In spite of me expressing me that lack of desire, I was coaxed into still running things though I had no ambition or desire to do more than the bare minimum.

As I became a husband and a father, and later a fan and participant of comedy music, I had less time to devote to playing and studying Scrabble and it eventually started to show in my play. There was one time where I almost got kicked out of a tournament as my frustrations showed and playing Scrabble started to take a toll on me mentally. It got to the point where I would see any writing, sign or billboard and immediately try to rearrange the letters in it.

M: It makes sense that personal life would take away from other things.

K: The worst one was after my daughter kept me up much of the night before a tournament where I played horrible. A year before that, I realized my level of play was equivalent to the quality of sleep the night before. When I got home and my daughter made noise, I came as close as possible to doing something really bad to her. I had to gently put her down and walk out of the house.

G: *gasps*

M: Oh my.

K: When two people I called out about unfair tournament practices got a standing ovation as they were inducted into an area "Hall of Fame" at a tournament I attended, I realized it was time to stop.

M: So you walked away? Did you tell anyone?

K: No, I just stopped going to the club and eventually someone called and I told her I could not play anymore.

M: In the past three years, have you missed it?

K: In some ways I do. I still remember interesting things that happened at clubs and tournaments. I do occasionally play word games on line and even Scrabble once or twice but never played the board game which has sat in the same spot in my basement for three years untouched.

Late last summer, I got an invite to come back and a schedule of my former club's events. One time I even made the trip to the club but as I started down the stairs I heard the sounds of the tiles, paused, and left without saying hi to anyone.

M: Thanks. Who's next?

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