This Spotlight on Scrabble player, North American SCRABBLE Championship (NASC) Director Art Moore first appeared in the “Spotlight On” column in the September 12, 2019, issue of the NASPA News.

written by Mike Willis

Work of Art

Scrabble player Art congratulates Alex Sjoholm, the 2019 North American SCRABBLE champion. Photo Credit: Patty Hocker / NASPA.

When I first began to speak with Scrabble player Art, he informed me that he really didn’t care to talk about himself. Little did I know that he would try to prove to me that he is very truthful over the next few months.

He is so humble that it took quite a while to convince him to open up and share his wonderful Scrabble player story. But he finally did, and I am proud to get his message to you to enjoy. He is a great ambassador for our game, and we owe him a lot of gratitude for all he does.

Lorraine Green proudly gave birth to Scrabble player Art in Staten Island (NY), where he continued to live until 16. In 1985 he moved to central Florida and still resides there today.

Art speaks of his childhood, “My parents divorced when I was very young, and I have no childhood memories of my father Arthur Sr. We would connect not long after moving to Florida as he lived two hours away. My mother worked in child welfare while my stepfather was a corrections officer in New York City and Orlando.

“We were by no means wealthy, but nonetheless, I grew up happy, the middle child of three. This has probably best taught me how to be make the best of whatever situation I’m in a while trying to improve.

“I’ve always had a competitive streak in me, dating back to throwing temper tantrums over losing at Musical Chairs in kindergarten. And while I played some intramural softball and basketball in elementary school, it seemed I would always prefer intellectual challenges over physical.”

He continues, “I spent seven years in Catholic School with one class per grade and excelled there. However, I felt like I was only challenged once I was enrolled in public school where I was an A/B student.”

“It was in my last year of Catholic School -1981 – that a representative from Radio Shack visited our class, and from that instant, I was hooked on computers. I gobbled up every book I could on BASIC programming, and since we couldn’t afford one of our own, I would go to Radio Shack after school and type in the programs I’d written on paper.”

“I’d get a Commodore 64 for Christmas not long after, and my career path would be in the making. Oddly enough, my first exposure to the OSPD (Official SCRABBLE Players Dictionary) was when I wrote a game for my computer and needed a list of three and four-letter words. I saw the book at the library, circa 1995, and used it as my source.”

Art explains how he came to love the game, “SCRABBLE was my mother’s favorite game, and we played a lot of it as I grew up. I remember the excitement of buying the big blue box Deluxe Edition. The grid and rotating board were the greatest things ever! I bought the blue box SCRABBLE software years later, and it was then I learned about competitive SCRABBLE from other players on MSN Zone.”

“Even still, it would be some time before I stepped foot into a club. It was late 2006 when I decided I was going to check out a tournament. I joined NSA (National SCRABBLE Association) and sent a check to the director for the event in Clearwater (FL), which is 90 minutes from me. It was only after that that I reached out to the local NSA club and inquired about joining.”

“I walked into Club #438 in Casselberry (FL) (just outside of Orlando) on January 8, 2007, and have never looked back.  I showed up, introduced myself, and said I’m going to the Clearwater tournament next month, and I’m here to play. I won 2 of the 4 games I played that night. I came home and told my wife Diane, ‘I got my butt kicked. It was awesome!’ I went to exactly five club sessions before the tournament.”

“I spent that weekend at my father’s home 20 minutes away. I didn’t sleep a wink the entire time. To this day, I’m still pretty wired at tournaments, but I am able to rest in the evenings. I returned to my new club with a shiny 848 rating and was completely hooked. On the last meeting of that year, I posted the highest game of the year -620 pts – on the strength of my highest ever scoring play – OVERWIND – for 212 pts.”

Soon thereafter, Art began serving the SCRABBLE community. He explains, “A few months later, it was announced that Nationals would be held in Orlando the following year, and I was ecstatic. It wasn’t long after I started playing tournaments that I decided I was going to be a director, which was a stretch for me because, by default, I’m introverted – those NASC speeches were very tough in the beginning.

Jill Heffner (and her husband Andy) helped me through my first tournament, and I’ve run them with my wife every since. I take notes from every tournament I visit in hopes of borrowing and implement ideas from others. Within two years, I moved to up one of the ‘directors by committee’ of Club #438, a structure that holds on today. I didn’t take over club director duties for some time after directing tournaments.

“It wasn’t until the last year or so that we decided to let casual players play casually while the competitive players can still play with the official rules in mind. We do expect all players to use clocks to keep the session moving along. It has helped a lot with player retention. And it’s great to see some of the casual players start studying word lists. In their own time, they will come to play competitively, or they won’t at all. We welcome them all, and our club has seen the highest sustained attendance we have had in many years.

“My biggest highlight as a player would have to be the 2012 Championship, also in Orlando. It began with me winning 3 of 4 in the Early Bird and continued to a second-place finish (and a standing ovation) in the main event. I’d love to compete in another NASC (North American SCRABBLE Championship), but I was invited to join staff in 2013 and then again asked to lead the event.”

Scrabble player Art accepts congratulations from NASC co-president Chris Cree at the 2012 championship. Photo Credit: NASPA.

“I’ve found my time on the Advisory Board and as NASC Director to have been the most fulfilling part of my SCRABBLE career – the former for the depth of conversations with respect to the community, and the latter for the breadth of responsibilities and if I may, a chance to marvel at the finished product. It is built on the foundation laid by both Mary Rhoades and Dallas Johnson before me and persists through the hard work of the staff and volunteers that bring it all together. We tried out a limited playoff format this year – a best of three to crown the champion of each lexicon – and I’m excited to add this to the event.”

I asked Art to share a bit of what it is like to run the NASC. He replied, “Director of NASC is an incredibly busy, sometimes exhausting task, but it is far more rewarding looking across the room of hundreds of people who have come to play their favorite game and knowing all the team, and I have put into making it happen. 

“Each NASC will be memorable for different people in different ways. Did you see in Reno that Bryn Bowen entered his first NASC in Division Two and won it by only FOUR SPREAD POINTS? That’s incredible. We had the youngest ever NASC champion this year. Stories like that make me forget about the work that’s put into the event because the results can be amazing.”

He shares how there can be a world of challenges we don’t always see: “Behind the scenes, Reno had a handful of stories – like:

  • Arriving in town a day ahead of my luggage. I don’t know what it did in Denver for an extra night, but I hope it had a good time.
  • Realizing not all the player badges got printed before I left home.
  • Realizing the command center color printers were shot and needed to be replaced the morning of registration so that the remaining badges would be available.
  • NOT KNOWING WHERE THE TROPHIES ARE. They were at the hotel, but I was never notified and didn’t have a tracking number, and my contact at the trophy company was out camping and disconnected from the world.
  • My wife losing her wallet in the casino and arranging for my next-door neighbor to get into my home to retrieve and overnight her passport so she could board the plane to get home.
  • Accommodating a request to move the directors meeting from the evening to lunchtime while simultaneously seeing that the kinks are worked out in the live stream. 
  • Then leaving said meeting early because the shipment of dictionaries just showed up.

“While all of this is going on in the background, you still have to deliver the experience to the players and support the staff that supports you. That requires a stocked command center and constant communication with the facility staff. Thankfully, my wife Diane handles that bit for me – allowing me to focus more on direct tasks.”

Scrabble player Art confers with Jason Idalski and Rich Baker in the Command Center at the 2019 NASC in Reno (NV). Photo Credit: Patty Hocker / NASPA.

“The typical day starts about 5 am, so by the time I get on stage to say ‘You may begin,’ I’m well into my groove. The moment I step off that stage, I pivot toward lunch and the committee meetings we have during that time and begin building up things for the afternoon session. And the NASC experience goes well into the evening, where you’ve got to be sure the after-hours events get off the ground and be available if they don’t. And you might have a dinner commitment or three. When I get back to my room, I’ll have plenty of emails to catch up on – usually from John Chew. Any time I think I have a lot on my plate, I glance over at everything he’s juggling, and I’m thankful this is all I’ve got.

“I’d love to earmark one weekend each year for regional championships across the US and Canada. Then, divisional winners from each region would get free entry into that year’s NASC. It would be cool.

“I have other ideas specifically for the NASC, but I should leave them for committee speak. But this year, I’ve felt like Diane, and I have just started to put our fingerprints on the event. Dallas Johnson did a great job setting up and handing over the processes to me, and I’m happy with things so far. I thought the limited playoff format worked well, along with the viewing room for those on-site. I’m looking forward to implementing a few more things next year to build the championship up a little more. Stay tuned.

“On a personal note, I’ve been married 13 years to Diane, who has never once played a game of SCRABBLE but has also never once complained about my hobby. Here’s a secret: She was ready to say yes to us taking over the directorship of NASC well before I was. I’m a father to three, stepfather to one, foster parent to another, and as of last year, a grandfather. With family, travel (we love cruising), and work (computer & network technician), I stay pretty busy but at the same time, very happy.”

Diane Moore catches Scrabble player Art at the computer at this year’s NASC. Photo Credit: Patty Hocker / NASPA.

I asked Art to speak about his gratitude for his wonderful SCRABBLE life, and he prefaced by saying it would be difficult for him, but he spoke from the heart, “I’d have to thank my mother for loving this game so much that she taught her children how to play it at such a young age. I thank everyone who has sat down across the board with me – clubmates and tournament goers the same. 

“Since I’ll never be an expert or win a major championship, I thank Dallas Johnson for allowing me to be a Division Leader and then asking me again to follow in his footsteps as NASC Director. In addition, I thank Jill Heffner, who helped get me started on my journey as a director (and who occasionally reaches out to me for direction when she has unusual situations), and her husband, Andy, who did data entry for me at my first tournament. I think I was more nervous running that tournament than any I’d ever played in!”

Art, there will never be any doubt that in the SCRABBLE community you are a true Scrabble player Champion. Thank you for all you do to advance North American SCRABBLE play!

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