Copyright ©2002
Stinkburger Inc.

How Do You Spell Entertainment?

by J. Elvis Weinstein

If you have TiVo or one of those other digital voo-doo recording boxes, I want you to go set it to record the next Scripps-Howard National Spelling Bee. You have time, the next one isn't until May 2002, but I assure you you'll be glad you did. I just finished watching the telecast for my second year and let me tell you, this is good television - part sport, part reality show, part gameshow - it rules!

It's broadcast on ESPN, which seems a little odd but in terms of drama, thrill of victory/agony of defeat stuff, I'd put this up against game seven of the World Series. 248 kids mostly 13 and 14 year olds, the pinnicle of the awkward years, cruelly whittled down to one awkward winner. Along the way, you watch a wonderful parade of stories told by their reaction to their failure. They run the gambut - from the cute girl who shrugs it off ("Oh well, I'm a cute girl") to the decimated over-acheiver who may never recover ("I am so Stupid! Stupid! Stupid! I'm never going to get into Princeton!"). You gotta love a sport that includes a crying room as part of it's set-up.

These are brave kids - not only to appear so vulnerable on national tv but even winning is perilous. Outside of boxing, there is no sports title more likely to get you beaten up than National Spelling Bee champ. Young Sean Conley, this year's winner from my home state of Minnesota, may want to invest some of his $10,000 bucks on Karate lessons.

Sean was last years runner up and to be honest, I think he should have gotten the title then. I saw an interview with last years winner upon his victory - when asked if he was ever in doubt on any of the words he said there was one "but God put the spelling in my head and I thank him." That's cheating! Of course God knows how to spell! What about poor little Timmy the Aethiest kid from Anaheim? Where's he supposed to turn?

A brief warning to the insecure viewer, be prepared to feel stupid. These kids are some good-spellin' motherfuckers and they will know things that you don't. Don't be suprised to find yourself yelling things like "In your face, Poindexter!" or "Sorry, Tubby, you're outta here!" It's OK. You know things they don't know (even if it is just how to freehand roll a joint) Take solace in the fact that no matter how small you feel, at least you don't have to go back to junior high on Monday.