ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News.
This week, controversy struck the World Scrabble Championships in Warsaw, when one player accused another of cheating. The competition has been known to get vicious, but the incident brought to light just how far some players will go to ensure a fair match. In this case, the accusations came with some pretty unusual demands, and the flap has longtime Scrabble enthusiast Meg Wolitzer worried.
MEG WOLITZER: Did you hear the news? The letter G went missing during the last draw of a match at the World Scrabble Championships in Warsaw, and nothing will ever be the same. A player from Thailand insisted that his British opponent be strip-searched in order to find that rogue consonant, but the authorities refused. So what's going on here? Is Scrabble becoming like every other major sport? Is my favorite game headed for a kind of word-related, Barry Bonds/Lance Armstrong future? Because frankly, that's a future I don't want to live in.
I first started playing Scrabble when I was a kid. My mother and I would take our old maroon set to the beach and make our simple, sweet words. I still have it, and there were all these oil spots on the cover from an ancient tube of Bain de Soleil. We didn't know from anything back then. We didn't know that there were Q words in Scrabble that didn't take a U or that AA was good and FE was an ironclad option. We proudly made words like friend or hat.
But maybe a new precedent has been set and Scrabble players are going to start accusing each other of all sorts of things. Like they'll say their opponents are wearing special lenses, the kind they used to sell in the back of Archie comics that allow you to see under a woman's dress or, in this case, right into the word rack of your opponent.
All players will have to take mandatory urine tests. Dictionaries, after they've been thumbed through, will be checked for trace elements of a special lexicographical steroid. Coaches will be fired. Countries will trade players. Timers will have to be studied to make sure that one player's side doesn't move ahead slowly, while the other player's side doesn't race ahead like the meter of a corrupt New York cabbie. The undersides of all tables will be checked to make sure there isn't any gum there to which a letter could conveniently adhere. People will make millions. It's all going to explode.
I know this isn't the first time there have been accusations of cheating in a game where you don't have to wear gym shorts or a cup. But this incident has certainly gotten the most attention. And I fear that it's not only Scrabble that's going to change. Look out, pick-up sticks: You're not safe either.
SIEGEL: Meg Wolitzer is the author of the young adult book "The Fingertips of Duncan Dorfman" about kids who meet at a Scrabble tournament. The World Scrabble Championships wrapped up on Sunday. First prize went to a player from New Zealand who won with the 96-point word omnified. You can comment on this and other essays at our website. Just go to npr.org and click on Opinion.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.