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NBC Treats Word Games Like the Olympic Games

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Sandy Sand
Message Sandy Sand
Sunday morning. It was too early to listen to Vin Scully call the play-by-play and hear the Dodgers lose to Colorado, yet again, but late enough, thankfully, that all the talking head monsters had gone back into their caves, and I thought it was safe to click around the channels while downing some dull scrambled egg whites.

Wrong. Opting to pass on ABC's round of golf, I hit on NBC and a voice saying stay tuned for the Reader's Digest Increase Your Word Power Challenge.

Okay! Now you're talking. My whole life I've been trying to increase my word power, although I must admit my all-time favorite words contain only four letters, are understood by everybody, and dammit, say exactly what I mean.

So, there I am prepared to pit my verbalistic skills against those of middle schoolers after completing the New York Times crossword in pen, albeit accompanied by a giant bottle of white out -- those NYT puzzle makers can be ingeniously deceiving little devils -- and who pops up on the screen, but the moderator of the contest, Al Roker.

There's the first insult to my intelligence. I've never figured out his place in NBC's food chain. The closest I can come is that he's their male version of the empty-headed, ditzy blonde weather girl, but not nearly as good looking.

Putting up with Roker's insipid inanities and repeatedly encouraging the audience, mostly comprised of the young brains' parents, to shout out which round was coming up, I should have known better than to watch anything on NBC that has the word "sports", "contest" or "games" in it.

Now, I'd love to crawl into the minds of NBC execs who think that any contest, whether it's the Olympics or this word challenge, find it absolutely, positively necessary to be punctuated with idiotic profiles of the contestants or otherwise "who cares?" bits of trivia.

On second thought, maybe that's a place I'd rather not go.

One thing those execs have down pat is expanding 15 minutes of programming into an hour. I want them to cut through the nonsense and get on with the games!

Time to plunge into round one. Okay, I got five out of five. Round two. Still as smart as a middle schooler; I got ten out of ten. Round three and danger to my championship is looming, and as the rounds progress my chances of being the adult champ in the midst of teens is diminishing...greatly.

The first word I missed begins with an "f" and ends "ium" and I can't read what I wrote in the middle, and means a 'fan-shaped constellation.' Guess I've wasted hundreds of hours watching the Science Channel, because I don't remember them ever describing a constellation that way.

All was not lost though. On my way to trying to find that 'F' word, I learned that "fuliginous" means colored by soot, and the third definition of "flocculus" is a cloudlike mass of gas appearing on the sun's surface. I'm sure those two words will become part of my daily vocabulary.

I didn't know the first definition of "cataract" is a waterfall; I just thought it was an eye disease.

Now, subgenius (cq, editor's jargon for it's okay) is unique, which is what it means. Don't fault me for making a spelling error, because I looked through every "sub" word in my 50-pound American Heritage Dictionary, and could not find the word 'subgenius." The closest I could come to finding it was in one of my two Roget's: sui generis, meaning unique.

By the way, my daughter who was watching with me, and I were both laughing, because we thought 'subgenius' should mean just below a smarty pants.

I won't even try to list the five other words I missed, because I can't find them in the dictionary, which makes me sure my handwriting is really bad, and wonder if I have the worst dictionary in the world...or...Reader's Digest made them up.

We headed into the grand finale, and with all the wit and wisdom Roker could muster, he painfully reminded the one and only male contestant that he IS the only boy left and must battle it out with four girls.

I'm muttering 'you numbnuts' between gulps of O.J. You've embarrassed this poor child so badly that he's speechless; the blood has drained from his face; he's gone totally ashen and looks like he's going to pass out.

Not to worry, the young man recouped, and like a true champ he pulled himself together and out-worded me and the four girls.

Do I feel bad that I was done in by a 13-year-old boy and didn't know that "termagant" means me at times...a quarrelsome woman? No.

Do I feel bad because I was beaten out by a bunch of teens. Nah! I still know that even though I didn't come close to winning a $10K, $15K or $25K scholarship, I'm still smarter than all the NBC execs and programmers rolled into one, because I hardly ever watch the drivel they call entertainment.

If those execs were really as smart as they pretend to be, there would be a least one hour a week out of 168 hours of broadcasting that would draw me to their station. You know, like when they aired "The West Wing" and Martin Sheen was the president.

The closest they have is Keith Olbermann who is on their stepchild network, MSNBC, whose show I never miss. I'm pretty sure he would have known every one of those words.
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Sandy Sand began her writing career while raising three children and doing public relations work for Women's American ORT (Organization for Rehabilitation through Training). That led to a job as a reporter for the San Fernando Valley Chronicle, a (more...)
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