Saturday, June 02, 2007

"The National Spelling Bee"

Skip to the random thought

So, did you happen to catch the spelling bee this week? If not, you missed out. I recorded the morning coverage on Thursday, and watched the finals Thursday evening. Speaking of which, I think the fact that the spelling bee finals are now in primetime on ABC is a bit of a sell-out. I hope this trend doesn't continue. As soon as the kids start wearing advertisements, the spelling bee is done as far as I'm concerned. The fact that the spelling bee hasn't (totally) sold out by now is part of what makes it entertaining.

What else makes it entertaining? The "ding". Spell a word wrong, and you get the "ding". It's hard to say exactly what's so great about the ding, except I suppose it's a lot easier than the judge having to tell a bunch of children that they screwed up.

And, I mean, how can you not root for these kids? Sure, as the competition progresses, you'll find kids to root for more than others, but you usually won't see yourself specifically rooting against anyone. Except, perhaps, for the "favorite" Samir Patel, who flamed out and had the nerve to file an appeal afterwards. You misspelled the word, Samir - sit down and eat your crow. But in most of these cases, you can't really blame the kids for being overcompetitive and/or sore losers; it's almost always the parents' fault. Blame the parents. They're more competitive than the kids themselves. I mean, the eventual winner (Evan O'Dorney) didn't even seem to care that he won. He doesn't like spelling. He said he'd much rather be doing math or playing the piano. (Who wouldn't?) Meanwhile, his parents were thrilled, of course. But maybe that's just because they know his college education is already paid for.

Despite Evan's obsession with math, I was actually rooting for the guy who finished second (Nate Gartke). He was from Alberta, and he listed "curling" as his #1 interest. Of course I'm rooting for that kid. But I had to wonder - isn't this the "National" Spelling Bee? Why are there Canadians and people from other countries in the field? Because these days, they call it "National" simply for legacy; the bee is open to anyone from an English-speaking nation. So, this isn't the national spelling bee; it's the world spelling bee. Therefore, unlike the champions of American professional sports leagues, Evan O'Dorney actually is a "world champion". (That's a pet peeve of mine. Why is it the "World Series"? Why are the NBA champions called "World Champions"? It's a made up sports league. You're MLB champions, you're NBA champions. That's it. I guess the idea is to differentiate it from "national champions", which we generally use to refer to collegiate champions, but "world champions" just sounds pompous and cocky.)

In addition to Nate the Curler, I was also rooting for anyone from Florida or North Carolina, but they didn't make it so far. It was hard to root for anyone else based on their interest, because everybody pretty much had the same interests. Many of the spellers played sophisticated instruments like the piano or violin. Why is that? Does being good at spelling also make you a good musician? If the two are correlated, that would explain a lot. I'm a decent speller, but certainly not Spelling Bee caliber. (I won the school bee one year in middle school, but flamed out miserably in the written test.) I guess I'm a different kind of "nerd" than the spelling bee kids. These kids are well spoken, read a lot, and play music. I like math and science. The math and science kind of nerd isn't really made out for the spelling bee, I guess. Except our boy Evan, apparently - he's a math wiz. If you're good at math, you should be good at spelling, because spelling these words based on language of origin, definition, and part of speech is kind of like solving a mathematical formula. But a lot of it is memorization. If you have to rely on strict formulas to spell words you've never heard of, you're bound to get one wrong eventually. But Evan seemed to have all the tools, and that's why he won. Wahoo Evan!

Today's random thought:

- The other day, I was wondering whether or not reality television had peaked, and that it was now on the decline. Outside of "American Idol" and "Survivor", what else was there? Where did it all go? Well, this week (including during ABC's spelling bee commercials), I discovered where it all went: to the Summer season. Have a nice summer of crappy television, everyone.

1 comment:

Jacob said...

And if anyone hasn't seen the movie Spellbound yet, it's actually quite entertaining.