Daily Archives: June 5, 2010

ABC tries to ruin the Spelling Bee. And a few words about Coach Wooden

One of my favorite events of the year was held last night.

The National Spelling Bee.

Don’t laugh. The Spelling Bee absolutely, positively brings the goods every year. It’s got drama, it’s got humor, and best of all, it’s something on television that highlights intelligence, and that’s a damn rare thing these days.

I always sit riveted as the kids struggle with words they don’t know, try to ask a bunch of questions to stall (I love the sentences Dr. Bailly comes up with when he has to use these obscure words in a sentence), and then come up with the right spelling as they walk back to their seats and mouth “I didn’t know it!” to their parents.

Some of my favorite Bee moments? Well, definitely the kid in the clip above who thought he had to spell “numnuts,” and of course this clip is a perennial favorite:

And of course, maybe my favorite headline ever on sportspickle.com, the sports humor website, was this one from a few years ago: “Spelling Bee contestant loses on word “girlfriend.”

So last night I was primed for another great installment. But ABC, bless their hearts for trying to make the Spelling Bee seem cool, tried to ruin it. And almost did.

First, they screwed around with the semifinal round, stopping it halfway through the sixth round when they’d gotten down to 10 spellers. So basically, some kids who were eliminated in Round 6 had to watch as some kids who didn’t have to spell a word in Round 6 got to the finals. That’s crap.

Then on the prime-time telecast, ABC had two awful, over-talking announcers doing the commentary; they never shut the hell up. It was truly annoying. Bring me back Chris McKendry or whoever the hell usually does it, please.

Then, when the finalists started dropping like the temperature in January, ABC realized “uh-oh, we’ve got two hours to fill, and it’s 9:15 p.m., and there’s only two spellers left!”

So we got commercial after commercial after commercial; good Lord they dragged the thing on forever.

But ABC couldn’t spoil it. The moment was still awesome when Anamika Veeramani, a 14-year-old from Ohio, correctly spelled “stromuhr” to win the crown. (By the way, Indian kids have become to the Bee what Kenyans are to marathon running.).

The kid looked shocked that she’d won, which was also a cool moment.

All hail the Bee. Long may it reign, so smart kids with few social skills can be triumphant somewhere in life.

**John Wooden died at age 99 Friday night. It’s one of those times where there’s no need to exaggerate or overstate the importance of a person after they’re gone; everybody knew what an incredible man the former UCLA basketball coach was.

There were so many virtuous qualities about Wooden: His kindness. His generosity toward others. His wisdom about life beyond the court. How many people do you know in the world who, literally, you’ve never heard a negative or disaparaging word about?

That was Wooden. His basketball knowledge was far superior to anyone else’s in the 1960s and 70’s, as he won an unfathomable 10 titles with the Bruins.

But it was all the little life lessons he imparted onto players like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Bill Walton, that has truly made the difference in the world.

Check out some of his wonderful maxims at www.coachwooden.com, and here’s a beautiful piece by SI’s Seth Davis about Wooden’s love of poetry.