August 3–8, 2007
Dayton, OH

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PC 2007 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 25, Round 26, Round 27, Round 28, Round 29, Round 30, Round 31, After the Tournament, Award Ceremony.


As we all know, before we get to walk into an event, a ton of prep work goes into the laying down of that which ends up looking so swanky when we arrive. Enter the swanky makers: Mary Rhoades, Kate Watson, Chris Cree (Dallas, TX), and Carla Cree (Dallas, TX). They arrived in Dayton midday Wednesday to begin slogging at the mountain of duties. A tour of the facility and a laying down of what was to be done took up the rest of Wednesday with an agreement to meet at 8:30am on Thursday. While the others made plans for Thursday, Chris and Carla attended a weekly City Commission meeting Wednesday evening. There, the Dayton Mayor presented a letter of Greeting to Chris, thanking him for bringing the Players Championship to Dayton. Chris accepted the document and spoke to the assembled group about his history with and love for the game of SCRABBLE®.

Bright and early the next day, Mary, Kate, Carla, and Chris arrived at the Convention Center to find Patricia Day (Dayton, OH) there with a brood of young volunteers. Kate recalls 8-year-old Ed and 18-year-old Anita (both of whom Patricia mentors), five more students from DECA getting in some service hours, and two Convention volunteers, Birdie and Linda. This crew slapped the 455 color-coordinated contestant folders into shape, sticking stickers on player cards and folders and getting nametags into plastic badge holders. They also helped drape a few hundred tables. Go team!

However, perhaps the person for whom the most rejoicing took place, was when Texas's own Bryan Pepper arrived. The most celebrated because, unlike the others, Bryan drove to Ohio. Thus, he could lug a lot of heavy stuff: printers, boxes, etc. Once he was integrated into the set up team, things went even faster. When I arrived in the mid-afternoon, the jobs left were putting color-coordinated table numbers into tight metal stanchions at each board. Bryan collected the tall metal number holders and I did the sliding in part. Special needs tables were set up in each division and the top tables of all five divisions will feature four to six one-game-only tables. So, the better each division's players play, the more elbow room they will earn.

A person that cannot go unmentioned and the very reason this event is being held here at aii is Lois Greene (Dayton, OH). As the director of the Dayton Convention Center, she has done SO MUCH to help this event. First off, she is one of us so she gets SCRABBLE®. So often, time is lost in the "yes we need 155 6-foot tables and no 75 6-person rounds won't be just as good, thanks" negotiations. She has been nothing but a joy to work with, helping with our pre-event deliveries (even living crowded in her office with giant boxes of event T-shirts for a few weeks) and working between Mary's vision and the facility labor and event talent. And, on top of all this, she has been writing press releases, which have led to a "Dayton Daily News" article and a local Fox affiliate, FOX 45, live "Fox 45 in the Morning" appearance by Chris Cree (Dallas, TX), slated for tomorrow as I write.

My favorite Lois contribution, though, was her stroll down the major cool area of Dayton, asking businesses to post welcoming notes to the Players Championship. And guess what? Those flyers are EVERYWHERE! Smokin Bar-B-Que, Jay's, and Thai 9 Cuisine of Thailand (both front and back doors!) were the ones I glimpsed today, but I'm sure I'll see more. She was pretty dogged!

Over dinner this evening, Chris said, "Dayton has embraced us, they have been wonderful, this place is a hidden gem: an international airport, space to run around, a growing community. I like it here."

Dayton, according to its last census, boasts a population of 150,000. A former industrial center (GM was a big manufacturer years ago), the city is now turning toward new technology industries with its "Tech Town" area.


Another hot day in Dayton and we got off to an on-time registration start with five female volunteers full of boundless energy (Barbara Drinkwine (Menasha, WI) on div 1, Janet Griesel (Madison, WI) on div 2, and Susan Siedschlag (Gresham, WI), Arline Silverman (Lake Hiawatha, NJ), and Ginger White (Shirley, NY) handling divs 3-5) at the public interface end of things. They decided to integrate the folders, gift bags, name badges, and colored by division lanyards into one thing they presented to each registrant. The next stop on the registration path was a stop by the T-shirt table where Kate Watson and her 13-year-old volunteer assistant handed out T-shirts (in the sizes that were preordered). If we were missing a headshot of a participant, they were told under no uncertain terms to find me at my table inside the playing room so I could get that settled. As a consequence, I got MANY headshots from folks I would have certainly missed without the strong prod to find me.

John Chew surprised us this year by actually arriving before the start of a major event. We were happy to see him and he hit the ground running, working with the webcam guy, networking all the computers, deciding to move the data entry team to a lower place (beside the director's table on the main floor and not atop the 6-foot risers at the tables they were originally slated to work at), hooking up a backup printer, writing event code, and generally doing his multitasking computer maestro act. Other event volunteers helped attach table numbers to the plain backsides of the existing table numbers (to make them visible from either side of the stanchions), distributed papers into each table's basket (challenge slips and result slips), and lugged things hither and tither for Mary and the rest of us.

Chris Cree (Dallas, TX) approached the Internet table with near bleeding fingers. The three reams of paper he was bringing were in a plastic bag that was cutting into his hands. He said he hoped we had enough and I said we could certainly get through Saturday with that amount of paper. I think he was horrified as he walked off.

Lois Greene (Dayton, OH), the director of the Dayton Convention Center, who had so much to do with this event taking place here, knew she wanted to be all SCRABBLE® focussed while we were here (both before the event and during), so she took vacation time to spend every moment of her day at work. This way, though, she could focus only on us and not feel like she was neglecting other upcoming events. Smart lady! She worked closely with all of us today, getting us four water stations, electrical power, Internet access, pipe and drape, the whole nine yards. At the far end of the playing room, alongside divisions 4 and 5, are the vendor tables. Each vendor registered months ago and paid a fee for their table. Most of today, the sale tables featured a lavish Sam Kantimathi spread, including new mouse pads with a space to insert a photo, tile bags, tiles, and so much more. However, the most interesting new SamProduct is his new steel board. A bit heavier than his other boards, but gorgeous and industrial and something you just gotta have (or at least I do). Later in the day, WHAT creator Michael Wolfberg (Westford, MA) arrived and Mary Rhoades oriented him to his sale table. I look forward to seeing that area when all the vendors are here and showing us their creative best.

A finalist in this year's National School SCRABBLE® Championship, Joey Krafchick (Roswell, GA) arrived on the early side with his #1 fan and mom, Amy. Joey is seeded first in division 5 and his mom will be working with Matt Hopkins in division 3 while she cheers him on from afar.

Sam Kantimathi, who is here but not playing (which is kinda wiggy), asked me what DAYTON plus a blank was. I pretended to work on it for about 10 seconds before he saved me from myself and told me it was TArDYON (a slow electron), which made me laugh, since it would be a bit tardy, eh?

It didn't take long for groups to gather at the round plastic patio tables placed underneath the sun in the foyer's atrium. After defeating Marlon Hill (Baltimore, MD) in a one-on-one match, Pakorn Nemitrmansuk (Thailand) took on Winter Zxqkj (Houston, TX) who was being coached by an always passionate Marlon. Anagrams sprung up at one table and the words were long. I distracted the players at the game long enough for Frank Tangredi (West Babylon, NY) to take advantage of their politeness in looking up to speak with me while I was there, to study the tile pool and shout out FLATTERY. Turns out Frank didn't need my help at all. He was solidly in the lead at that point! He is excited about his Monday reading, as are the rest of us!

Bradley Whitmarsh (Attleboro, MA) greeted me at door of the playing room and said, "Of the 7 tournaments I've played in that you've run, Sherrie, I've won my division in 6 of them. Imagine how happy I am to see you here." This, of course, made the group around us laugh, but he and I know it has nothing to do with me and everything to do with his skill, which is growing exponentially with every passing month that he plays SCRABBLE®. Nice to see so many players from my "neck of the woods" (Northeast US) here in Dayton.

Mary Rhoades chaired the quick Event Committee meeting at 4pm today. In her gentle, easy style, she reminded us that starting tomorrow morning, Chris Cree (Dallas, TX) and Lois Greene (Dayton, OH), instrumental in getting this show off the ground, were going to revert to be being "just players." This isn't to demote them, but to free them to concentrate on playing and not on the event administration, because it honestly does no one any good to try to do both. She mentioned how she will instruct players to read the event rule sheet and she will spend very little time at the microphone. The players will love that!

Toward the end of the day for them, Dee Seegrest and Kate Watson, checked in with me at the Internet table. Quiet Kate, said, "Oh, btw, from now on, we would like to be referred to as The Chew Toys." This, of course, slayed me and I bent over laughing as hard as I had all day. You have to know Kate to know why this is so funny as it is something she would NEVER say in earnest, yet she pulled it off with such aplomb! We never did get to whatever her second and third things were as they went off into the sunset for a few minutes of down time before our Committee dinner later on.

Father/son Mike Sherman (Bronx, NY) and Joel Sherman (Bronx, NY) came by for a visit. The senior Sherman was sporting a sleek new pair of glasses and you could tell he was feeling fine from his suspenders to his shoes. I referred to his son as a "wet towel," which made Mike laugh, but then he felt forced to correct my malapropism, but telling me the phrase actually is "wet blanket." Fine, fine....

I took headshots until I thought I would pass out and John dragged me out of the playing room toward the Crowne Plaza and our waiting dinner party. New volunteers were at the registration helm, so I asked two of them to pose for a photo. Clearly flummoxed, Barbara Major (Alexandria, VA) introduced her co-worker, Peter Schwartzman (Galesburg, IL) as her daughter. Only a bit emasculated, Peter still posed for the photo and smiled!

Nineteen of us gathered with Chris Cree (Dallas, TX) to break bread and share our excitement about our running of the first Players Championship with games starting early tomorrow. While the sun set, we sat around a rectangular table in a room of two floor-to-ceiling window-walls and chatted about our days and our expectations for the event. The food was fab!

Registration closed at 10pm tonight, and we are still not sure of who we might be missing. A lot to look forward to tomorrow!

John Chew: As I write this, my suitcase is packed and I'm about to get some sleep before my early morning ride to the airport. I'm chatting back and forth with Sherrie Saint John on AIM, and with any luck, she'll be able to post the earliest commentary ever, while I'm in transit tomorrow.