Thursday, June 1, 2017

FIFTEEN SPELLERS REMAIN:  I am thrilled that the Bee has ended the false, wrong, stupid era of having a second computerized test cut down today's finalists to a manageable group for prime time.

We'll instead have a rather large group of 15 finalists at the microphone starting at 8:30pm on ESPN -- a late start for some young kids (a 10-year-old, three 11s, and two 12s by my count), and I do wonder if that, too, might impact how things end up. If nothing else, we probably will have an early lawnmower round, perhaps in the first round, and I think few things suck more than not giving the spellers at least one round on prime time to shine before fourteen of them (or maybe thirteen) ultimately err.

Over the years I've compiled and revised a list of what I like and don't like about the Bee, and I will repeat it again here, with a few changes:


  • Smart kids being awesome. Smart kids being awesome.
  • Settling it in front of the microphone, as late as it goes.  I am anti-tie, but even more anti-tiebreaker test.
  • That part late in the Bee when we get to words of Finnish, Mayan, Welsh, Afrikaans, proper names, and Egyptian origins.
  • Jamaican and Canadian spellers, except the 2008 Canadian Bloodbath round which was really unfortunate.
  • Foodie words, because it's the only time in the competition many grownups feel smart.
  • Dr. Jacque Bailly 
  • Sardoodledom.
  • When Bee veterans, coaches, and parents come here and share their wisdom and experience. 

Don't Like

  • Showing the clip of the kid who fainted. He's a kid.  It wasn't cute. It was scary. It still is.
  • Use of computerized competition to impose artificial elimination checkpoints for tv purposes, especially, in the cutoff from Thursday afternoon to Thursday night.
  • Interviewing kids in the middle of the competition
  • Interviewing kids right after they've been eliminated
  • Cutesy filler pieces which demean how hard these kids work
  • Yiddish words capable of multiple correct spellings (otherwise known as The Marsha Special), and capable of igniting Bee controversy.
  • Amateur psychoanalysis of the kids and their parents. As I've written before, which is as close to a mission statement as we've got:

"What we won't do is mock the kids, or presume we can learn anything meaningful about them or their parents based on the brief slices we see on tv. As my favorite line from Frost/Nixon goes, 'The first and greatest sin or deception of television is that it simplifies, it diminishes. Great, complex ideas, tranches of time. Whole careers become reduced to a single snapshot.' We will try to be modest about what we believe we're seeing; the only thing we can know for sure is whether the word is spelled correctly, and what we learn from former spellers thereafter."
See you tonight.

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