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NSC 2014 Commentary: Before the Tournament

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Go to: Before the Tournament, Round 1, Round 2, Round 3, Round 4, Round 5, Round 6, Round 7, Round 8, Round 9, Round 10, Round 11, Round 12, Round 13, Round 14, Round 15, Round 16, Round 17, Round 18, Round 19, Round 20, Round 21, Round 22, Round 23, Round 24, Round 26, Round 27, Round 28, Round 29, Round 30, Round 31, After the Tournament.


The Buffalo Niagara Convention Center opened its arms to us today. There was no walking around to find registration: it was just at the front door and went swiftly. Volunteers worked at a long table and handed each player a light gear bag with a NASPA logo which contained a paperback 5th edition of the Official Scrabble Players Dictionary, a NASPA long wooden rack, a set of NASPA tiles with a NASPA tile bag, a few tourism items, and a small container of hand sanitizer! Germs are vanished! If the players pre-ordered an event T-shirt, they picked it up then, too. This year’s T-shirt is an original design of a buffalo by the now famous Jeremy Hildebrand (Ottawa ON).

Across the room was a tourism table full of flyers about activities in the area (many centered in Niagara, no surprise). Perhaps the busiest table, though, was one where Kristen Chew, Patty Hocker, and Kien Hung Yeo (Malaysia) (but, we just call him Henry) fulfilled TWL 2014 orders. Those who had preordered the new word list were so excited! Many who had not preordered also hung around to look it over. A thicker book than past TWLs (because it contains all acceptable words from 2-15 letters long—goodbye Long Word List!). The design is again by Jeremy Hildebrand (Ottawa ON) and features an OWL on a navy blue background. Hoo#! Hoo#!

Jason Keller (Highland Park, NJ) left NJ a day before the NSC and swung by his alma mater, Cornell. It has been 11 years since he graduated and spending the night at the campus hotel and walking around the grounds was a lot of fun. Since the last NSC, Jason has teamed up with Weight Watchers (he has even been featured on their website as a success story!) and he looks sooooo very good! Tonight he wore an orange and white checkered seersucker shirt and his shoes had orange soles that peeked out visibly on the sides. Subtle coordination! He tells me to hold on for Monday, the day when he plans to roll out some serious orange. I can’t wait!

When I next checked in at 7:45pm, only 16 people had not yet registered, which wasn’t bad for 526 players!

Connie Creed (Philadelphia, PA) arranged the player reception this year (the first time we have had one for a NASPA-run NSC) and it was a smashing success. About 300 paid to join in the fun. The convention center put out a table of gazpacho in shot glasses, two kinds of deviled eggs, and walked around with platters cocktail franks en croute (pigs in blankets!), stuffed mushrooms, and assorted naan pizzas. Across the room was another station which featured steam trays full of mini Cuban and mini Reuben sandwiches. A few players thought the rhyme was clever and sweet! The room was decorated with green & purple LEDs and one of the three bars was bathed in green LEDs. Many tables are scattered around the room, all draped in black tablecloths. Some are card table height with chairs and some are oyster table height for those who like to stand and gather. Almost all are full.

Just as I arrived, the Daniel family swept into the room on a cloud of red. Gary Daniel (spouse), Reese Daniel (son, veteran NSC data entry worker, ~16), and Robin Pollock Daniel (Toronto ON), who wore a beautiful sleeveless red dress, red shoes, and a red handbag. I am not sure which garnered more compliments, her outfit or her new coif: much shorter and sleeker. She had intended on playing in the Collins division, but opted for TWL since that required less studying which suited her in the months ramping up to the NSC.

Just as I was finishing scribbling into my notebook with notes about Robin’s impressive entry, Chris Lipe (Rome, NY) walked up and only had eyes for Reese. I heard him say, “Nice pants! I have a pair just like them. I wore them at the last WSC and sat next to Wilma Vialle, who had a pair on just like them, too. We were twins.” These pants look to be a garmet-dyed faded reddish chinos. Reese corrects me. “They are salmon dress pants.” Chris nods vigorously, agreeing with Reese’s characterization. I have been out styled.

Jesse Matthews (Kelowna BC) walks up: tall, handsome, and now a graduate. He was working on an honors graduate project last year: did competition (physical and cerebral) enhance the lives of people more than lack of competition. The answer is yes. He now is looking into graduate programs and may be heading East! This will be a big change for the young man from British Columbia! Jesse is playing in his first Collins event at this NSC!

John Robertson (div 1 leader) approaches me and sighs. “Sherrie, you did NOT stop by the director event held earlier today! And I finally won one!” I explained about the long car trip from Boston, the delays, the accidents, the road work, etc. But I could tell that all he wanted was to gloat, so I let him. He was seeded 6 of the 8 in the TWL event and he took it all, winning with a 4-0 +525. This event, held before the NSC for NSC workers and directors in general, has a pretty low entry fee, so he only won $15, but he got to play METEORITE and he is walking on air tonight. Ted Rosen (Rochester, NY) ending up taking second and $10. In the Collins event, Tony Leah (Ajax ON) was held up by traffic and so Jason Broersma (Caledon ON) took his place. Good thing, too, because he took second and earned $5. The big bucks, $10, went to John Chew, 4-0 +461.

I ran into the lovebirds, Jason Broersma (Caledon ON) and Sue Tremblay (Caledon ON), next. They were glowing and full of fun stories about their recent return from South America. To sum it up: 40 days long, one very large mountain climbed, and 7 countries seen.

I spy a fun hat across the room. It isn’t exactly a yarmulke and it isn’t a beanie. I walk up and see the hat atop Noah Walton (Portland, OR). Conrad Bassett-Bouchard (Piedmont, CA) explains that it is a Chinese hat. Once I examine it, I see what look to be silk panels, quite pretty.

Barbara Epstein (Brooklyn, NY) approached me with a dogeared photo of expert Louis Schecter who we lost this year at the age of 61, way before his time. She had thrown his 50th birthday party and looked forward to their monthly game sessions. He, like so many we lost this year, is missed.

Jim Pate (Birmingham, AL), our dictionary committee leader (and hero!), greets me. I state the obvious: “You have been busy this past year!”

John Green (Lealman, FL) tells me that he took a total of 5 busses to get from his home in Florida to Buffalo. That added up to 36 hours in total! Always a fount of information, John tells me that he got to walk by the house, in Buffalo, where Teddy Roosevelt took the oath of office in 1901. The previous president, McKinley, had been assassinated in Buffalo, and Teddy was brought up there to take his oath. John had other tidbits about the lack of a proper bible for the ceremony. Probably worth a wiki search!

Andy Saunders (Guelph ON) is happy to report that he had NOTHING to do with preparing for this year’s after hours Trivia, which will be held tomorrow night. He said, “It was all John Robertson’s work and he’ll be running it, which means that I can actually play this time!”

I am noticing a popular drink tonight: Cosmos. Two people come to mind: Ida Ann Shapiro (New York, NY) and Kate Fukawa-Connelly. Kate fans will be happy to know that she will be here throughout the weekend. She has offered to help toss in a bit a bit of color, too! Work didn’t permit her enough time to play the event, but we are taking her for whatever time we can get!

Dan Horowitz (Wilmington, DE) was so proud to show off his new daughter, Emily. She looks to be on the early side of toddlerhood and is both super cute and super squirmy. She was twisting out of her mom's arms until she spied my pen. She grabbed it and delicately drew all over one page of my note pad. When she was satisfied with her work, she let go of my pen and let me continue with the notes.

Mark Przybyszewski (Depew, NY), flexing his "local" bone fides, tells me of a Burmese place called Sun. I have to check it out for dinner this week!

Herb Lewis (Cherry Hill, NJ) happens by with his loveable, effervescent wife, Sunshine. She has been an event staff member in the past and we all love working with her: life of the party and all that! One year she fell and broke her arm at an NSC, so now she watches from the sidelines. This year, she informs us, she won't be watching at all. She has booked the hotel closest to the falls and she is Niagara bound for a few days!

I get a hug from Robert Linn (Potomac, MD). He looks great and is excited to be at the NSC in the Collins division. I ask if he is happy that Nigel is playing TWL so he doesn't have to play him (Nigel is Nigel Richards (Malaysia), the 5-time NSC champion) and he surprised me by saying no. Bob estimates that he has played Nigel 20-30 times and he has even won a few of them! He enjoys their games!

I find Chris Cree (Dallas, TX) at a table and he says that Connie Creed (Philadelphia, PA) has done a fabulous job and he waved his arm around. He is happy with the event numbers and he is delighted to see the happy faces at the reception.

Matt Canik (Austin, TX) is standing with fellow Texan, Bryan Pepper, and it takes me a few moments to register who he is! Matt is all grown up with serious glasses and he is tall and lean. I ask about his siblings: he is the only one here this year. His brother, Chris, has been a past NSC division winner.

Around this time, I notice that the room is full of School SCRABBLE kids: Bradley Robbins (Windham, NH), Stephen Sneed (Fort Worth, TX), Jackson Smylie (Toronto ON), Matthew O'Connor (DeWitt, NY) etc. They are taller and more intimidating now!

From the Worcester, MA, SCRABBLE club, Megan McMahon (Worcester, MA) and Nicole Kazarian (Worcester, MA) are happy to be at their first NSC. I think proximity had a lot to do with their attendance. I know Megan is trying to visit every state in the US to walk marathons. Maybe she’ll do Nevada next summer?

Julia Bogle (Indianapolis, IN) loves the reception. Se describes it as “awesome with great ambiance!”

Kit Morehead (Berkley, MI) brings Karrie Bowe (Portage, MI) over to say hi. Carrie’s youngest child is now 12 and is just old enough for her to slip away to the NSC. Kit tells me shocking news: Carrie’s last NSC was in San Diego!

Joel Sherman (Bronx, NY) approaches Ben Greenwood (Florence, MA) and asks if he is excited to get his “playing mojo” back. Ben has been very busy raising two children and we know how that cuts into time for games, even SCRABBLE games! Joel is looking forward to getting a few games in with the aforementioned Nigel. And, he’s looking for wins.

There are a couple tables crowded with Canadians. One has a group from the Toronto SCRABBLE Club. Mireille Huneault (Oshawa ON) and Irene Gedney (Toronto ON) are here for their first Nationals. Both are nervously excited. Irene tells me she plays SCRABBLE to help her recover from a brain injury and she finds the challenge of games beneficial. She recently held a garden party SCRABBLE event at her home and 24 people attended! Also at the table, Josh Greenway (Toronto ON), held his first SCRABBLE tournament as a director this past Monday. He is still riding on the high!

Risa Horowitz (Regina SK) spent part of today at Body Blitz where she received a sweet ginger and milk body scrub. She smells great and she encourages Mad Palazzo (Richmond Hill ON) and me to rub her arms. She is soft!

As the reception drew to a close, Chris Cree (Dallas, TX) had a microphone set up in the reception room. John Robertson and he have an ongoing football bet about their respective favorite teams: John’s Notre Dame and Chris’ Oklahoma. Last year Notre Dame won and Chris had to sing the Fight Song at our NSC staff dinner. This year, Oklahoma won, so John had to sing in front of hundreds! His song “Boomer Sooner.” As he approached the microphone, he mentioned that he’d be playing in Cesar’s Palace next month. Ha ha ha. After it was over, Andy Saunders (Guelph ON) said, “You will be pleased to know that I got it all on video.” You can find it on YouTube or from a link off the NASPA FaceBook page!

So, Pat Hardwick, a player not in attendance, said to her friend who is attending, Michael Bassett (Port Clinton, GA), “break a leg.” This would have been a good omen had he NOT broken his leg a couple at the NSC a couple years ago.

I saw the Horns Joel Horn (Reading, MA) and Judy Horn (Reading, MA) at a table with the Drumms Don Drumm (Clinton, NY) and Heather Drumm (Clinton, NY). I wondered if they knew all the Horn/Drum words.... Later, Joel Horn tells me that he’d sat at a table with three of the four registered Judys here: Judy Horn (Reading, MA), Judy Cole (Concord, MA), and Judy Newhouse (Houston, TX). Judy Troutman (Lincoln, NE) will have to join them next time!

A new face to me: Jonathan Kent (Unknown city, NY). He plays in the Long Island club run by Bob Krause (Maspeth, NY). Both are here for their first NSC. Jonathan is all business and he is convinced that he will win his division this NSC. Seeded 22, I am excited for see this confident and cute new player pull this off!

An aside: I am staying at the Hyatt, one of our event hotels, and the staff today wore red event shirts in SCRABBLE tiles that connected the H to spell out Hyatt Hotel in crossword style. Very cute and very supportive of our event. The NSC and two weekend weddings have that place filled to the max!

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