UNDER the SPELL of SCRABBLE A Younger Generation of Players Embracing Enduring Word Game

By Yee, Ivette M. | The Florida Times Union, January 30, 2002 | Go to article overview

UNDER the SPELL of SCRABBLE A Younger Generation of Players Embracing Enduring Word Game


Yee, Ivette M., The Florida Times Union


Byline: Ivette M. Yee, Times-Union staff writer

Poker, shmoker. The game so often played in movies and TV shows has some wordy competition.

Was Drew Barrymore playing poker with the bad guy in last year's re-make of Charlie's Angels?

NOT.

Will Kate Hudson's fingers be canoodling a deck of cards in a future film?

Don't think so.

Both silver-screen sirens prefer Scrabble.

Scrabble, the coffee-table word game, is scoring big with the younger set and inspiring both books and films. With a slew of celebrities making it a real-life pastime, the old favorite is all the rage.

"The fact that the Scrabble game appeals to such a wide demographic is one of the reasons the brand routinely sells over 2 million games each year," said John D. Williams Jr., executive director of the National Scrabble Association. "We see the game's popularity increasing among tweens and teens."

Last September, Wall Street Journal writer Stefan Fatsis shone a spotlight on the game when he penned Word Freak: Heartbreak, Triumph, Genius and Obsession in the World of Competition. The book explores the insides of competitive Scrabble. Word Freak was scooped up by readers nationwide and made The New York Times best-seller list.

Today, 68 years after its creation, Scrabble can be found in one out of every three American homes. The game can also be played in cyberspace.

And it's attracting a younger generation of wordsmiths.

"While there is no specific research on [that] specific demographic, our School Scrabble Program and the amount of consumer calls we get here at Scrabble headquarters show that the Scrabble game is a favorite among teens, and gaining popularity each year," said Yvonne Gillispie, marketing and projects director for the National Scrabble Association.

The association introduces the game to thousands of young people each year through the School Scrabble Program, launched in 1991 to help improve vocabulary, spelling, dictionary use and other skills.

Though Jacksonville does not have any schools participating in the program, more than 15,000 others nationwide do.

"It's a great game for young people because it makes you use your brain," said Jean Goodman, a former Times-Union features writer who taught her granddaughter how to play Scrabble. "It's not like golf or tennis, you can play this game until the day you die."

Goodman, who lives in the San Jose area, formed a Scrabble club in Jacksonville 16 years ago. The group meets every Wednesday. Some members have competed in regional competitions.

"Sometimes I'd rather play Scrabble than go out. It's something different to do," said Goodman's granddaughter, Michelle, 11. "It does help you learn a lot, increases your vocabulary. And it's fun."

The thrill of landing a triple word score or fishing for hard-to-find word gems that start with a "Q " is also turning on Tinsel Town.

E!Online reported that Scrabble is turning up in bars and parlors around L.A. and that stars such as Justin Timberlake, Jennifer Lopez, Elizabeth Hurley and John Travolta fancy the game.

Scrabble has even made cameos on a few TV shows, including the WB's teen-friendly Felicity. What's more, two Scrabble-inspired films are in the works. …

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