Saturday, June 2, 2007

The National Spelling Bee

They televised the national spelling bee live the other night in prime time on network television. Correct me if I'm wrong, but don't they usually play a delayed broadcast of this event at two in the morning on cable?

I think it's all part of a scholastic marketing conspiracy to show kids that being smart isn't so dumb after all. 

By the way, how come people from Canada can enter our NATIONAL spelling be?  It is the NATIONAL spelling be after all, not the INTERNATIONAL spelling bee, right? Of course somebody will just bring up the World Series if I'm not careful.

Fifteen kids, nine boys and six girls made the finals from almost three hundred kids. The represented every ethnicity in the country except one. Like all champions, they got a trip to the White House to see -- oops, the First Lady.  Championship sports teams get to meet the President. You kids will have to be happy you met his wife. She's the better speller, so it's not a total loss.

To win the bee, the boys and girls had to spell words that haven't been used correctly in a sentence for so long you could smell the mildew.

Before each kid went up to the microphone we got an up close and personal look at their lives. It was like watching the Olympics. Only these kids' brains were on steroids, not their muscles. It became pretty clear pretty fast that most of them had done more in their brief thirteen years or so than the rest of us will ever do in our whole lives.

In one or two heartbeats it seemed there were just three kids left -- two boys who looked like identical twins and one girl, who, like all females her age, was taller and looked five years older than the boys. 

The hosts were Robin Roberts of Good Morning America and a former top finisher whose name escapes me.  He reminded me of Whispering Joe Wilson, the oldtime voice of bowling who used to have you on the edge of your seats with his breathless commentary. Like the way a golf announcer describes every blade of grass on the green.

"He didn't get much from the judges on that one. . ."

"If she knows her German spelling she has a chance to move on to the next round, but . ."

"The back end of that word is going to be a lot tougher than she thinks. . ."

Robin Roberts was chosen to anchor the show, I think because she spent fifteenyears at ESPN doing sports.

Which would also explain why there were two other ESPN sports guys doing commentary -- Mike Greenberg and Mike Golic from the Mike and Mike SPORTS show [have I mentioned SPORTS?].  To round out our jock coverage, ESPN anchor, Stuart Scott, was doing the post mortem interviews.

Wait, I get it. They're trying to make the national [plus Canada] spelling bee seem like a cool thing. You know, like it's sports.  Because, after all, these kids are COMPETING. And the winner is crowned a CHAMPION. That's cool. But having jock do the coverage was a little too precious for me. It only accentuated the difference between the geeks and the sportos at school. Even though it made you realize that not enough is done to celebrate the brainiacs of the world.

Of course, the kid that won it all was a math and music freaking genius who is homeschooled. As far as he is concerned spelling isn't much fun. It's just memorization and he probably has a photographic memory.

I just hope he won a scholarship that gets him out of the house sometime soon. His mother scared me a little. Over the top would not be too much of an exaggeration.

The champ's interview with Stuart Scott afterward reminded me of Al Michaels' interview with notoriously edgy running back Duane Thomas after Dallas won the Super Bowl back in 1971 or so. Michaels asked the Dallas Cowboys' running back a long rambling, two minute question that was more of a statement than a request for information. Thomas just stared at Michaels with a face that could cut stone and finally said,  "Evidently."

The new spelling phenom gave Stuart Scott similar treatment. Instead of the usual excitement you expect from athletes when they've just reached the pinnacle of their sport and they're hoping for endorsement deals and lots of chances to get laid, the new champ just stared at him.

The kid didn't say anything that could pass for charming, except to explain why he liked math and music better than spelling, which had to give TV execs and sponsors the heebie jeebies.

Undaunted by the presence of a really smart kid who wouldn't know a football from a snowball, Scott asked him if maybe he changed his mind about spelling now that he was champion.

"You mean do I like it more? No."

I don't think we'll be seeing a live telecast of the national spelling bee again any time soon. Unless there's a way to make it bloody.


ksquester said...

YAWN...........You really gotta get a life!   Anne

psychfun said...

Ha! Maybe they are trying to find tutors for the athletes? Ya, Bush would look more like an idiot in front of the winner. The winner might challenge him politically on Iraq! I'm surprised Bush didn't use it as propaganda to proof the No Child Left Behind farce is actually working!