Happy Friday, and happy June to all of you fine folks out there. Thursday night was an epic night in the National Spelling Bee (lots more on that below) but I want to start Good News Friday with an equally stunning story developing in the NBA right now.
But instead of talking about the Raptors’ surprising Game 1 win over the dynasty that is the Golden State Warriors, I want to pass on an off-the-court story I read this week, about an enormous Raptors fan named Nav Bhatia. He’s Indian, he’s been at every home game since 1995, and he owns car dealerships in town.
What’s remarkable about his story is just how welcomed he has been in this multicultural mecca of Toronto, and how he’s given back to his community.
“Other counties might be richer, but they’re not richer in mannerisms, politeness, or looking after each other…” Bhatia said. “And the country south of us has a lot to learn.”
This is really a wonderfully told story by Canadian journalist Muhammad Lila. A warm, welcoming city and a man who just wanted to help others.
**Next up today, as millions of people know, “America’s Got Talent” kicked off its new season this week, and while I’m not a regular watcher (though I did get sucked in by the Angelica-Darci battle a few years ago), I have a feeling I’m going to be watching one performer this year very closely.
Watch this amazing debut performance by 22-year-old ???, a blind, autistic singer/piano player who came on stage and blew the doors off the place.
The faces of the audience and judges Simon Cowell, Gabrielle Union and Julianne Hough are great, but what gives me all the feels here is the shot of Kodi’s mom, Tina Lee, at 3:35, as she positively beams, watching her son.
Life can not have been easy for Tina, raising a son with such challenges, but seeing him succeed on such an enormous stage, and her pride at watching it, knowing what it took to get him there? Just so incredible.
**Finally today, Thursday night was one of my favorite annual events that I never miss, the Scripps National Spelling Bee. Televised on ESPN every year and a program guaranteed to create drama and awesomeness, the Bee once again delivered. This was maybe the hardest Bee I’ve ever seen to win, as after 2.5 hours there were STILL eight amazing spellers left. It was an unprecedented result, which I’ll get to in a sec.
So many things I love about the Bee, as I’ve written about before here in this space: How it rewards smart kids, giving them a huge stage; how it shows how poised, smart and prepared they are, and how it spotlights just how freaking difficult spelling is.
This year’s Bee did not disappoint, and it brought me great joy as always. The sentences Dr. Bailly (the rock star pronouncer of the Bee) read seemed nerdier than ever, and the kids actually had a lot of personality this year (Simone Kaplan, my fave because of her spunk and her “Bee” shoes, sadly did not win.)
The Bee went way longer than normal, as the final eight spellers simply refused to miss. Dr. Bailly, after nearly three hours of competition and 18 rounds, finally said there would only be three more rounds, and whoever was left after 20 rounds would be a co-champion. Never in the history of the Bee have more than three spellers been co-champs.
And so in the final three rounds, all eight amazing spellers got their words right, so after 3.5 hours on national TV, the winners were finally crowned: All EIGHT of them! They will forever be known as the Elite 8.
It was so cool seeing them all hold the big trophy, and being so happy for each other.
So great to see smarts, and poise, and intelligence, rewarded on national television. It’s a damn rare thing these days. And it is very, very good news.