This marks the second year in a row that I have kept a running diary of the Spelling Bee. All week I have been looking forward to this day, however I would like to point out that many people have. The Bee has become a cult hit. Darren Rovell claims to be the top handicapper for this year’s contest and has his predictions in his blog. Once again the Bee will be in HD, but the main difference from last year is that Mike & Mike now have hosting duties. It’s a curious move. I’m not sure if it is a sign that the Bee is kind of a big deal or if ESPN/ABC is just trying to increase the exposure of Mike & Mike. It may be a combination of the two, but ever since the Imus debacle, ESPNRadio has been working double time to have Mike & Mike become the new morning drive-time power house. I like Mike & Mike, but this has the potential to become a live version of Cheap Seats. For some reason I just feel like picking on these kids on live TV is a lot more cold-hearted than doing it five-years down the road.
This year ESPN covered the early rounds on TV, kind of like a Super Bowl Pre-Game Show. I watched it at work. Top entertainment. However, the favorite for this year, Samir Patel, was eliminated in the early rounds. The word, clevis. Before we get into this year’s running diary lets once again take a look at Past Great Moments in Spelling Bee History:
8:00 – Opening of the broadcast. Robin Roberts provides the voice over. Some random kids, who may, or may not, have ever been in the Bee filmed an opening segment poking fun at themselves. It includes a Peyton Manning and Tiger Woods reference.
8:02 – More Robin Roberts voice-over montage. 15 spellers remain.
8:04 – 286 walked into the “Grandaddy of Them All” (Robin Roberts’ words, not mine), only one will walk out. Paul Loeffler is joining Robin Robberts, he won in the past, and still remembers the word, spelling, and definition of the word he spelled to win.
8:06 – Mike & Mike get introduced. Golic isn’t sure why he is there. Golic likes Jon Horton to win.
8:07 – Jonathan Horton is up first. I believe he led off the finals last year. Every time he spells a word, he stops after every letter, coughs into his hand. He can’t pronouce girolle (an edible mushroom, if you were curious). He says the word a dozen times, wrong, and finally the judges say “look at my lips as I say the word.” I could have sworn I heard them mutter a “Jesus Christ, is he retarded” under their breath.
8:08 – And he spells the word wrong. There goes half of the appeal of this year’s final. Sucks to be ABC.
8:10 – Some kid actually spells a word right. Rascacio, I could have spelled that. Not
8:13 – Tia Thomas likes to make knit hats for pre-mature babies. She has to spell zacate (green foliage). And she is wrong. I wonder if the parents of these kids know what these words mean let alone know how to spell them.
8:17 – Cody Wang, another favorite, spells apozem wrong. Three out of four kids have been eliminated so far. I hope every kids spells their word wrong so ABC has to fill time till ten. That would be entertaining.
8:20 – This little asian kid, Anqi Dong, is the second kid to write on the back of his card. He spells Buleuterion wrong and we are already down to 11 by the first commercial break. As he walks out of the competition he takes a seat on his dad’s lap. As soon as the network cuts to commercial I’m sure he is going to be beaten for being inferior.
8:25 – Stu Scott and his creepy lazy eye interview Jonathan Horton. Horton is crying and once again it is brought up that he loves Steve Nash. If you remember last year, the segment they had on him was priceless. He was talking about how he could get as good as Nash if he practiced, then they showed him shooting the ball over the entire basket.
8:27 – For the first time a kid makes a joke at the microphone. When given punaise, which is another word for bed bugs, Joseph Henares says that he would rather spell bed bugs. Even the judges started laughing.
8:29 – If I wasn’t watching TV I would have assumed that Claire Zhang was American. She spells urgrund wrong.
8:31 – The first “genius” is profiled. Kavya’s friends think she is the shit because she has gone to India. Her younger sister wants to be just like her and be a speller. She is the youngest in the competition at 11 years old. She has to spell cilice. I spelled it wrong, and I should have got it right since it was in The DiVinci Code. Kavya takes the entire time and then spells the word wrong. We are now treated to “The Dreaded Bell Montage.”
8:37 – There has been little to no use of Mike & Mike so far. I’m not sure why they even had them go there. By the end of the broadcast I will have a explanation (that I will make up.)
8:40 – Mike & Mike make appearance number two. They throw it to Stuart who is interviewing Kavya. He is on his knee in what looks like an awkward situation. Her little sister is standing with her and is clearly afraid of the eye.
8:42 – Nithr Vijayakumar provides us with the greatest name of the finals so far. Combine the most gentlemanly golfer in the world with a stoner and what do you get? It would be great if she made either a golf reference or a White Castle reference. She is struggling with pelorus. Will she get it right?
8:45 – Nope. There is a plethora of bells in the finals this year. Her family tries to console her to no avail.
8:46 – Conner Spencer steps up to the mic and immediately he is my new favorite. He reminds me of the catcher from The Sandlot minus the freckles. He spells helzel right and gives us our first fist pump of the evening.
8:47 – Matthew Evans thinks the bell is a mean thing. “To B – E – E or not to B – E – E, that is the question.” He is a comedian. He must spell genizah. When he finds out that it is of hebrew origin he gets excited. He nails it. Even though he has a funny shaped head.
8:54 – We are treated to a song about the rules of the spelling bee. It is dreadful. Sounds like its from the sound of music. These pieces are finally explained. They feature the cast from The Putnam County Spelling Bee, a Broadway musical.
8:57 – A nice up-close shot of a nervous spellers hands. Her word is Grognard (an old soldier). From the look on her face it’s 60-40 that she will get this wrong.
8:58 – 75-25 now that the announcer dude has told us that she only uses the back of her card when she is nervous. And she is wrong. There is now only one girl left in the Spelling Bee. This 14 year old girl from Madison, WI. She looks and sounds much older than 14. She wears every bracelet she owns as a good luck charm. 25 bracelets if you were curious.
9:02 – She spells helodes right to keep the girl’s chances alive without all the make up she is wearing affecting her speech. After the first run through the order we have lost more than half of the competition. Six boys left, and one girl.
9:03 – Chip: Prateek is the dark horse (If you couldn’t tell he is Indian)
At the hour mark, Chip has spelled one word right and I have put up a big goose egg.
9:07 – Evan O’Dorney is creepy enough to make me get up and bus my garbage. He is a math savant. Ok, his mom is even creepier.
9:11 – Schuhplattler provides us with the longest definition yet. And Evan nails it.
9:12 – Nate Gartke looks like a mini Chuck Klosterman.
9:15 – Joseph Henares once again surprises himself when he spells triticale right.
9:21 – My favorite finalist rushes through Cachalot (a sperm whale) and gets it wrong. He is pissed and smells his card while walking away.
9:22 – Fauchard is a word that has origins that are “basically Latin to French.” Matthew Evans is puzzled by the word, and gets it wrong. He walks away like he has something up his butt.
9:24 – Prateek, who Chip thinks is The Danny Almonte of the Bee stands in front of the mic with an aura of indifference. Not even his facial hair can conceal his smile when he heard the word.
9:26 – I misspelled epaulemant hardcore (apolmond). I suck at this game. Isabel nails it tho. Hmmmm Robin Roberts teases us before the bee-fore (get it?) the commercial by telling us the finalist went to the White House before the finals and met a special guest. I wonder who it could be? Monica Lewinsky? Jared from Subway? Mike & Mike?
9:30 – I wonder what Mike & Mike do between segments. The special guest was Laura Bush, and she made them spell government related words. Surprisingly none were impeachment, affair, sexual relations, or integrity.
9:33 – I like when they talk about the speller’s years of eligibility. It’s like college football. One kid may forgo his final year of eligibility to become a rocket scientist or a pastor. Fun fact: only eight graders are left. I don’t think any are home schooled.
9:35 – The young Klosterman spells his word correctly before ABC can put it on the screen. It took him 10 seconds. He didn’t even ask any questions about the word. Robin Roberts is speechless. She can’t even say something witty before the next commercial break.
9:40 – I lied, Joseph Henares is home schooled. So far none of the words come up as wrong in spell check. He shows good form by dotting all his “I” while writing with his finger on the back of the card. He gets aniseikonia (A condition in which the shape and size of the ocular image differ in each eye) wrong.
9:43 – Prateek Almonte is now out of the competition after being screwed by a Polish word.
9:45 – Isabel, the last girl remaining gets the boot after spelling cyanophycean wrong. And then there were two.
9:51 – We are down to the championship words. There are only 25 words on the list so if they get through them all, there will be co-champions.
9:52 – Matt O’Dorney leads off and knocks zoilus out of the park
9:53 – Mini Klosterman is taking his time spelling vituline. He is perplexed. But manages to pull the correct spelling out of his ass.
9:55 – ABC is squeezing in all the commericials they can. This is an odd time to go to a commercial break. Come to think of it they probably hoped for the champion to get his last word right at 5:54 so they could swing to a commercial before coming back for a post-game report. But that’s me pulling an explanation out of my ass. Come to think of it: Mike & Mike are there because it is hdsofnfosdf. Alright I got nothing.
9:59 – Matty O likes pasta and giving awkward high-fives. Mini Klosterman spells his word right and we are treated to another set of commercials. I wasn’t that far off last time. This was supposed to be the terminal break of the Bee that should lead into Grey’s Anatomy.
10:04 – And there is the graphic telling us to stay tuned for Grey’s in it’s entirety. Matty O nails yosenabe.
10:05 – Mini Klosterman the Canadian says “zed” instead of “zee.” He spells coryza wrong. It’s all on Matty O to spell his last word right to clinch the victory.
10:06 – Matty O nails serrefine. I finish the night 0 for a lot. Not impressive.
10:08 – Now for the interview with the new champion, Holy Feedback Stu Scott. He asks Matt why he doesn’t like the spelling bee. Matt likes math and music and doesn’t like memorizing.
Stu: At what point during the last word did you know you were going to win?
Matt: When I got the word
Stu: What do you think of the Spelling Bee now that you have won?
Matt: Are you trying to say that I should like it now?
Stu: That’s up to you
Matt: [Indifferent Silence]
Stu: Come on kid, you’re killing me
Just for the record, Rovell’s Number 4 pick won the whole thing. That is why he is the premiere handicapper for the Bee. The total Bee program got a 5.3 rating, which translate to almost 6 million households, but the last words got a 7.1. Not too shabby.
Until next year, stick to words that spell check knows.