Good Game, Frank

Evaluate a significant experience, achievement, risk you have taken, or ethical dilemma you have faced and its impact on you.

There he is, clad in his “World’s Biggest Fish Fry” baseball cap, neon orange diabetic footsoles, and multicolored top hat à la Dr. Seuss. Four hundred and twenty pounds, bound to his high-backed leather armchair (driven with tender care all the way from humble Cincinnati), and a powerful, scruffy beard eclipsing his oxygen plug: this is Frank Lee, my final opponent at the National Scrabble Championship.

As the result of my transformation from mild-mannered schoolboy to board game connoisseur and Scrabble junkie, I had been feverishly studying until this very moment: the climax of my amateur Scrabble career.

The score is 386 to 326, my favor, and there is only one tile left in the bag. The board has practically become a New York Times Crossword, and not a meager Tuesday or Thursday; this is a full-fledged Sunday. Words like “IXIA” (defined as an African plant with sword-shaped leaves), “LEKU” (a monetary unit of Albania) and “UNAI” (a two-toed sloth) permeate our board; are we truly playing what some Merriam or Webster considered English words?

As I gaze down at my score sheet, attempting to card-count the tiles and ascertain which ones are left, Frank warily examines his side of the chess clock, which reads 1:37, and he...

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