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
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
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.