Tag Archives: National Spelling Bee

Good News Friday: As the NBA Finals tip off, a beautiful story of a huge Raptors fan, and a city that embraced a foreigner. An amazing “America’s Got Talent” debut from a blind singer. And the National Spelling Bee brings me joy, again

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.

Go Raptors.

**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.

The latest version of the “Daddy Chronicles,” starring a toddler who’s in total “Threenager” mode, and a 7-month old all ready to crawl

Hello my friends and welcome, welcome to the show that never ends (except on the four days a week I don’t write a blog post).

I’m sure, like me, you’re still buzzing over the fabulous National Spelling Bee last night on ESPN; I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again, it’s the most consistently awesome annual event on TV (as usual the kid I thought would win, Jashun, didn’t. I stink at Bee predictions.)

So while I fly to Oakland to give the Cavaliers’ J.R. Smith lessons on scoreboard-reading, I was thinking I hadn’t done a “Daddy Chronicles” in a long time and it turns out it’s been like four months since the last one. Unacceptable, especially since these kids change every day.

I deeply apologize, and will make up for it today. Herewith, life with two boys and a patient wife who will no doubt be sainted one day:

— OK, so first I’ll start with the “new guy,” or L.B., as we sometimes call Theo. (For Little Boy.) Let’s just say he and milk have a wonderful relationship: It appears, and he drinks it down like Kobayashi ingesting hot dogs at that stupid contest every July 4. My little guy has gotten huge, like 18 pounds at 6 months of age huge. I’m pretty sure he’ll be bigger than me by next Tuesday.

We’ve started solid foods in the past few weeks, and he’s a big fan of those as well. He actually starts to cry when you remove the spoon of carrots or peas from his mouth while reaching down to get more. He believes, I think, that there should be a funnel system ensuring he’s constantly getting the food.

He’s still the same happy, smiling baby, except when we take that spoon or bottle away. Oh, and he only poops every three days or so (Doctor says it’s normal.)

— He’s starting to scoot a little bit now, and he’s been rolling over for weeks. He’s also swatting at stuff, including his big brother when Nate happens to be near him (which is almost always). “He’s hitting me!” Nate will cry out.

“Nate, he doesn’t know he’s hitting you, you’re on top of him and he’s just flailing his arms.”

My argument is unconvincing to the big brother.

— Last thing about Theo: He has decided he’s a power-napper. His brother used to take delightful, 1.5-2 hour naps in the morning and afternoon at this age. Theo? Not so much. No matter the conditions, whether in stroller, crib or swing, he goes 40-45 minutes, then he’s up. So he takes 3-4 little naps throughout the day. Great for him, not so great for Daddy.

— So, Nate. The three-nager stage has definitely hit us. He’s still an amazing, smart, caring child (more on that in a minute) but the tantrums have certainly increased the last few months. Part of that is probably anxiety over our impending move to the new house, part of it is sharing our attention with his brother, and part of it is him just being 3.

But wow, we get 2-3 tantrums most days. About incredibly important things, like not getting to help me pump gas at the gas station, or not getting the snack he wanted.

Delightfully, when the tantrums come in the car, his legs are now long enough where he can kick the back of my seat while I’m driving, which makes me insane and puts me in a rage. We keep telling ourselves “this too, shall pass.”

— His heart is still so big, though. He’s always sharing his extra straw or napkin with other kids at school who don’t have one. The other night on the way home from visiting the new house, Shelley and I were talking about what to do for dinner. We asked him what he wanted.

“Whatever you guys want to have is fine with me,” he said.
I know he’s just repeating what he’s heard us say to each other. But still, come on! What 3-year-old says that?

— Nate has also ever so slightly started to get into sports (I have no idea how that happened :). One time during college basketball season he asked why some men on the court were wearing black and white stripes. I explained that those are the referees who make sure the players play by the rules.

For weeks afterwards when there was a game on, it was an excited cry of “Daddy! I just saw one of the referees! And there’s another one!”

— Finally, had a wonderful Dad moment last week, when we went to the new house (we move in a few weeks) and he got to see his new bedroom furniture. His own room, a big new bed, a swingset in the backyard… yeah he’ll miss NYC, but how his face lit up when he saw it … so great.

Now maybe he’ll get a job and help pay for it all.



A few days late, thoughts on the awesome Spelling Bee. RIP, Alice from “The Brady Bunch.” And the perfect graphic for/against Derek Jeter


Game 7, overtime, Blackhawks-Kings. Nuts. And L.A. wins it. So now we know it’s Rangers- Kings, starting on Wednesday. Should be a whole lotta fun. New York vs. L.A., Marian Gaborik against his old team, maybe the two best goalies in the world going head-to-head… can’t wait till Wednesday.

So one of my favorite events of any kind in any year is the National Spelling Bee, and every year since I”ve had this here blog thingy I’ve written about the Bee, its awesome contestants, and everything associated with it.

Alas, this year the Bee happened during Game 6 of Rangers-Canadiens, and so I didn’t get to see the coolest “smart kid” competition of them all until this weekend.
My father-in-law thought I was “very weird” for watching a Spelling Bee on DVR, but he just doesn’t get it.

Some thoughts, a few days late, on the craziness of the Bee and the first co-champions in 52 years:

— OK, first of all, every year ESPN tries a little bit harder to make these kids seem cool. But this year, man, they went SO over the top trying. Those skits/vignettes with the spellers dressed up in weird costumes, set to current music? And the whole skit with Dr. Bailly, the awesome pronouncer, yelling at the kids that “it’s Bee Day!”

Bless your heart, ESPN, for trying to make our spellers look like cool kids. but they’re not, they know they’re not, WE know they’re not. But I’m glad you try.

— Is it me, or has this thing gotten way friendlier and more casual this year? The sentences Dr. Bailly’s reading out as part of the definitions were funny, lots of times, and filled with pop-culture references, like “Breaking Bad” and lyrics from Kelis. And all the kids say “hi” to Dr. Bailly before spelling their word! Man, I remember when this competition was more cold-blooded.

— Still my favorite thing about the Bee: When a kid sounds out a word, basically guesses, gets it right, then comes back to the chair and gives the other kids a look like “I didn’t know it!” Happened a few times Thursday.

— Jacob. Jacob, Jacob, Jacob. This kid’s in the Bee Hall of Fame off his theatrics in the finals, isn’t he?

–Finally, I’m so glad this is on national TV every year. It’s always riveting; I mean, co-champions, with each kid nailing incredibly difficult words in the last few minutes? Great drama. And for once, it shows young people with no athletic ability or “musical talent” in a positive light, for millions to emulate. I know it’s corny, but I love it.

**Very sad to hear that Ann B. Davis, Alice of “The Brady Bunch” died Sunday at age 88. She will always be remembered as Alice, the housekeeper who for some reason got brought along on family vacations with the Bradys (she threw her back out in Hawaii, who could forget that?), never could get Sam the Butcher to commit, and in the end got replaced by some chick named Kate.

I always loved her little shopping list chalkboard, and her genuine enthusiasm for every Brady kid triumph.
Ah, Alice, you’ll be missed.


**Finally today, this made me laugh out loud, pretty hard. Derek Jeter is beloved by  Yankees fans, hated by everyone else, and generally acknowledged to be the kind of player whose greatness is always talked about in intangibles, like “he’s a winner,” or “he plays the game right.”

It drives quite a few people nuts, including Joe Posnanski, who laughed at this “scouting report” graphic posted about Jeter before a game last week.

So he wrote a column about it, and it’s hysterical, especially the “conversation on the mound” part.
It’s Monday, and you need a good laugh. Click here.

An incredible display of selflessness by a 9-year-old. Another great Spelling Bee. And Louis Zamperini, an “Unbroken” American hero, meets his Boswell

And a happy Good News Friday to all of you. Wanted to start this week’s dose of happy news with an incredible 9-year-old boy named Brendan Haas, of Massachusetts. Brendan had set up a trading contest on Facebook to help out a military family by giving them something memorable.

He and his mom were able to, through a series of trades, accumulate $900 worth of Disney certificates, good for stays at the park and at a Disney Hotel in Orlando, as well as air fare. On the Facebook page, Brendan asked for names of families who had lost a relative in the war, and entered their names into a raffle.

A family of a fallen soldier was chosen randomly from a hat over Memorial Day weekend. And so the wife and 2-year-old daughter of 25-year-old Timothy Steele, killed last August in Afghanistan, will be enjoying what’s sure to be a much-needed trip to see Mickey Mouse and friends.

“I think it would make them a lot happier,” Brendan Haas said.

What a fantastic gesture, and a pretty fantastic kid, too.

**One of my favorite nights of the year was Thursday; the Scripps National Spelling Bee once again made for terrific television. It was a night of high drama; two of the favorites (including Arvind Mahankali, who lives about 10 minutes from my apartment in New York City) didn’t make the final two, and the winner was Snigda Nandipati, a 14-year-old girl from California.
As always, I have some thoughts on the Spelling Bee finals:
— As usual, the kid I pick at the start of the show to win it got eliminated early. I liked the Frank kid from Colorado; seemed to have a good personality and all that. But he got KO’ed pretty quick.

— The Bee people totally are trying their best to make the kids seem cool, with all these skits that get better every year (although the kid who made his eyes bug out scared me a little). And they even spiced up the part of the contest where they read sentences with the impossible word in them; head judge Dr. Bailly even giggled a few times while reading them.

— The most exciting contestant was that Lena girl, who practically hyperventilated as she spelled a word, then was shocked when she got it right. So socially awkward, that Lena kid, but she made for great TV.
— So glad they took the parents off stage this year. As if there wasn’t enough pressure on the kid…

— And finally, still the best Spelling Bee moment of all time: the fainter who got up and spelled the word correctly.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

**Finally, an update on the wonderful Louis Zamperini, star of the bestselling book “Unbroken,” and owner of one of the most incredible life stories you will ever hear.

As I wrote about when I read the book, Zamperini, who survived torture at a Japanese internment camp in World War II, is a true American hero who should be celebrated in every school. He has a wonderful perspective on life and an unending capacity for forgiveness.
CBS Sunday Morning sat down with him for this terrific piece (if it’s not showing up embedded above, try this link) with a nice suprise at the end: Zamperini finally gets to meet “Unbroken” author Laura Hillenbrand, who made him famous all over again.