Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Tanner Glass Scrabble Challenge Goes Mainstream

Up until today, you might have been forgiven for not knowing that Tanner Glass had agreed to play Scrabble with PITB. The challenge had made its way around the Twitterverse and the Blogosphere, but it hadn't yet escaped to a larger audience. If you weren't online, you probably wouldn't have known. But now, the mainstream media's got the story. Now it's news. It's true. Yesterday, both Jason Botchford of The Province and Ian Walker of the Vancouver Sun offered up stories on the Tanner Glass Scrabble challenge. Let us examine them together:

Botchford was the first to weigh in. In his piece, he recaps what has happened so far, then delivers this delightful bit of reconnaissance: Glass isn't that experienced. So he's doing what any good Dartmouth alum might do--he's studying:

Now, Glass doesn't like to lose much and herein lies the rub. While Mooney has been playing regularly for five years, Glass had only played about 15 times before this year when he started what he calls a heated word rivalry with Aaron Rome, on the road.

"I played very little before this year," Glass said. "I played a bit in Rochester with this kid Pete Aston, he was good, and his girlfriend, they were both really good. Never played (as a kid). I'm no Scrabble whiz by any means."

What does he do about it?

"I've been researching a lot," he said. "Words that are seven letters or less."

I think the big scoop here is that I overestimated Glass's Scrabbling experience, but don't think that means I'll be taking him lightly. According to Botchford, he still hates to lose, and that's gotta count for something. Plus, he's a fourth-line winger: if he can't finesse me, he might wear me down with physical play. I should wear shin pads in case he tries to kick me under the table.

Anyway, for chuckles, I recommend checking out the unique comments on Botchford's article. They're all over the place. Some are supportive of me ("Mooney will crush him... He is so smart it's not even funny"); some are skeptical of me and supportive of Glass ("quite frankly, how smart can a guy be who blogs about a sports team? GO GLASS"); some are hilariously spiteful ("kudos to glass for not backing down to these clowns"); and some are just hilarious ("Tanner should call that bookworm Kyle Wellwood to get all smart and stuff").

The instances of vitriol surprised me. I'm interested in the allegiance some Canucks fans have to their players--an allegiance that makes them view any challenger, even one as innocuous as a Scrabble opponent--as pure evil. Thanks to this sociological trend, some people have decided I'm some sort of monomaniacal nerd in need of a good smackdown.

Ian Walker (who is very cool) didn't help to dispel it either. Walker's article treads similar ground to Botchford, bringing the reader up to speed, and explaining Glass's limited experience as a Scrabbler, but it's a very different article, especially because Walker interviewed me. He also closes one major mystery: up until now, I was uncertain who it was that finally convinced Glass to play us. It turns out it was his sister, with whom we connected through Twitter not too long ago:

One thing led to another and … Glass's sister soon got involved.

“She saw it on Twitter and I guess the Pass it to Bulis guys and her got to talking online so she called me up asking if I was interested,” said the affable Glass, 27. “It's amazing in this day and age. You can't say anything without someone getting wind of it. It really is the world wide web.”

Let's just establish upfront that Glass's super-nice sister found us, we didn't go looking for her. PITB would never invade a player's personal life like that.

Anyhow, Walker's article goes a little more in-depth into who PITB is, and also delivers the half-truth that I play a game of online Scrabble every day. Only on average. I play online a couple times of week, but when I do play, it's usually four or five speed games in a row. I still play much, much more than Glass, and it will probably be apparent. Walker:

Glass, on the other hand, can count on his fingers and toes how many times he's played the game before this season — and then he would still have digits left over to wiggle his little piggies and scratch his nose.

“He doesn't have a chance,” boasted Mooney, who is one major paper away from receiving a Masters in English. “I lose friends because I'm so good. I may not be a stickler for rules — he can use the three-letter variety — but I'm going to crush him.”

This is funny stuff. While I admit these are real quotes, I was chuckling as I said them. Unfortunately, they do nothing to dispel the notion that I'm some sort of monomaniacal nerd--the black Artie Ziff.

One other thing to add here: the quote about the three-letter words is a bit off. What I meant was that I probably won't be a jerk and play an overly technical game, full of three-letter words I know are legal but could never hope to define (like CWM, or RHO). That would be dickish.

That said, here's a quick tip for people trying to expand their word list, like Tanner. Most bingos (words that use all the tiles in your rack) also include one tile already on the board, so they're actually eight-letter words. You could never know all the words in the English language that are eight letters or less. Instead, just memorize all the words you can spell with the letters in LATRINE and one additional letter. These letters are the most common seven in the game.

Better yet, forget about the big words, and memorize the much shorter list of legal two and three-letter words. The more consistent points are in small, rare words. For example: RAT is worth three points on its own. CWM, on the other hand, is worth 10. When you play serious Scrabblers, they beat you with little words, not big ones. In that respect, they play a bit like the Montreal Canadiens.

Anyhow. Thanks to Jason Botchford and Ian Walker for taking an interest in our Scrabble game, and thanks again to everyone who's helped turn this from a little thing to a big thing. We'll keep you posted.


  1. I think this calls for a new T-shirt: Harrison and Tanners' snarling profiles bumped up against one another over a Scrabble board.

    It can be given a boxing match nickname, like the Smackdown at Lansdowne (this may only work if you happen to live in Richmond), and subtitled: "Two men. Seven letters. No actual first names."

  2. There's also the little detail that I'll be playing too. I get to be the awkward third wheel who is moderately good at scrabble, but beatable. In addition, there's the added twist that I could be bought and spend the entire game setting either Tanner or Harrison up for double and triple word scores. I have a link to my Amazon wish list if either party is interested...

  3. You'll also be taking valuable points and key letters from the main opponents! You're the scrabble world's Ralph Nader!

  4. Right, right, Daniel's also playing. Hmm. Forgetting other people exist: the first sign of monomania.

    I wouldn't blame you for selling out. Being my friend costs money, what with the Golden Ears bridge and all; you need to recoup your losses somehow.

  5. I still haven't seen a single bill from crossing the bridge. Not sure what's up with that...

  6. Your bill is probably in some office, in a drawer, just racking up interest and late fees under a box of unsharpened pencils.

  7. If the Mooney/Glass tshirt ever becomes 'a thing' I will proudly wear one and pass along the Scrabble magic in Australia.

  8. I just hope Daniel doesn't do too well. After all, if this match turned into a competition between Harrison and Daniel, with Glass struggling to keep up, it'd be a PR disaster of Beginning-Of-Bagger-Vance proportions.

  9. So you're saying I should dive like Sean Avery?

  10. Maybe. For the greater good.

    The greater good.

  11. Congrats guys.

    Next up: Operation with Salo.

  12. But seriously. Harrison. Mooney. Tanner. Glass. Not a single first name among 'em. You guys sound like a law firm.

  13. It's true. Just think of George Harrison and DJ Tanner. Those are last names, folks. Fortunately, I round things out with a solid first name.

  14. Please tell me you aspire to larger contributions than that.

  15. But again, Tanner Glass has the advantage in that both his first and last name are allowable Scrabble words.

  16. And Daniel, imagine the headlines:

    Tanner Glass Attends Heated Scrabble Game Between Pass it to Bulis Bloggers, is Allowed Tiles

    And the erroneous lede:

    "While Harrison Mooney and Daniel Wagner likely play scrabble all the time, they insisted on Tanner Glass's attendance last night in a game that saw them run up the score more than Chicago did that one time no one wants to remember."

    Later in the article:

    "Glass seemed upset Mooney and Wagner insisted on posing with him for a picture with their newly-printed 'Tanner Glass, Scrabble Champ' t-shirts, seemingly a cruel ironic twist of the knife after Glass's thrashing at the Scrabble board. Asked if he'd consider a re-match, Glass responded, 'With those jerks? Not likely.'

    "Canucks head coach Alain Vigneault accused the bloggers of running up the score. 'They're both ahead of Glass over 100 points, Mooney over 300, and then Mooney plays "quixotry" on the triple word score. He had every right to do that. He did it. He was pushing it, and he did it.' Mooney's play was worth over 300 points."

    An article months later:

    "While the Tanner Glass t-shirts did not sell well in Vancouver, sales have boomed in Edmonton, where fans are wearing them in an ironic effort to mock the Canuck fourth-liner's intelligence.

    "'Oilers fans are more energized than they ever have been,' Oilers GM and former member of the Canucks' front office Steve Tambellini said. "Their hatred and contempt for Tanner Glass and all the Canucks have brought them together, and it's really energized the team during this win streak. I think we owe a lot of this to the folks at 'Pass it to Bulis.' The Oilers are currently first in the Northwest Division."

    It's clear it'd be a disaster.

  17. "Tanner Glass accused the pair of collaboration. Wagner used a move during the middle game to merely add an s to an e, making the word 'es.' While this 2-point play seemed a waste, it allowed Mooney to combine it with the previously played 'ox' and 'zing' to play 'sesquioxidizing' across the triple word score, a move that many Canucks felt was suspicious. John Shorthouse called it a 'downright dirty play.'

    "Shorthouse also criticized Mooney's decision to challenge Glass's play of 'cancelled,' which can be correctly spelled with one or two l's, but only appears in the Official Scrabble Dictionary with one. 'Not everyone has time to read that specific dictionary,' Shorthouse said. 'It would be a terrific play in a tournament atmosphere, but this was like bringing grenades to laser tag.' Mooney commented that his play was 'totally legit' and that Glass's use of the word was 'wack.'"

  18. "In circumstances that are charitably being referred to as 'curious,' both Pass it to Bulis bloggers were found to have strange tapping devices strapped to their thighs with what appeared to be garter belts. 'It's possible,' theorized one onlooker, 'That the devices could be used to communicate via morse code. I'm not accusing anyone of cheating, of course. They could be a completely innocent explanation. Or one involving weird sexual kinks.'"

    "Mooney and Wagner both refused comment."

  19. My favorite part of Walker's article is how easily Harrison gets cast as the villain and Tanner as the plucky underdog. If Tanner wins, I think we have the next "Rudy."

  20. I didn't help my own cause with those quotes. After reading the article, even I hope somebody smashes in my kneecap to knock me out of competition.


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