Friday, June 4, 2010

BOTTLE UP AND EXPLODE! Per our friend Dan Steinberg, it's pandemonium at the Bee over the bifurcated Round 6 and the is-it-or-isn't-it finals. Marsha's explanation about what's happening appears to be correct, but that doesn't mean that everybody likes it. Tokyo's Sonia Schlesinger is "thunder[ing]" and taking names. She and Anvita Mishra argue that the Bee is favoring ESPN over its real constituencies (the spellers and, more generally, education), and it's hard to disagree. Meanwhile, for the perspective of someone who would be onstage whether or not they finished Round 6, tell it, Elizabethplatz:
"I don't think it's fair that so many got out and some just whooshed along," said 13-year old Elizabeth Platz, as audience members clapped and Kimble attempted a frozen smile. "I'd rather have five finalists than five who didn't deserve it. I think it was unfair."


  1. This is bullshit hairplitting:

    "These kids haven't gotten a free pass, the ones who didn't spell," [Kimble] said. "And if they misspell, then they get the same prize and the same rank as the [previous] kids who misspelled....They're competing in what ABC calls the championship finals. They're not officially championship finalists until they spell that final word in the sixth round."

    Guess what: if you're calling them CHAMPIONSHIP FINALISTS on your OWN website, they're champioship finalists.

  2. isaac_spaceman3:59 PM

    I agree with everything you said, but for what it's worth, "bullshit hairsplitting" is kind of the fuel on which the Bee runs.  It is of necessity a world that sees no shades of grey, the consequence of which is that if something is not black, then it must be white. 

  3. Things they can do:

    1.  Re-air all the completed part of round six in prime time, even if edited down.
    2.  Invite all competitors eliminated in round six on-stage for an end-of-round televised ovation.
    3.  Have Chris Harrison give each of the kids a rose.

  4. Charles4:04 PM

    Wow--just wow. You can bet there are some discussions going on behind the scenes right now. The Bee does not like controversy.

    I'm fascinated by the idea of spellers basically steering the press conference/coverage in a direction the organizers had not planned. Many of these students are smart and eloquent. And not shy!

  5. Marsha4:07 PM

    So in other words, we're adhering to our rules as far as giving out prize money and rank, but we're adhering to what ABC wants as far as how we treat these kids and talk about them.

    Sending six kids to the press conference who didn't spell their 6th round words is ridiculous, especially given how many kids were felled in the 6th round. (And not that I want to attack the kids, who did nothing wrong, but at least one of them hasn't even had a difficult word yet.) And calling them Championship Finalists on your site violates your own rules.

  6. Vanessa H.4:10 PM

    Sonia Schlesinger tells it like it is,  "I mean, I know TV is a big deal, but it's not what the Bee is all about. The Bee is about spelling your words right and being fair," and Mishra broke my heart, "I could have done better. If they didn't have enough, they could have brought people back, and I could have done better." The Bee is supposed to celebrate these kids, not break their hearts.

  7. DadofTwins4:16 PM

    It's as if the NCAA chose to push the Sunday games of the Elite 8 back to Tuesday so ESPN could have a Monday press conference with the "Final 6." Nothing changes about the competition itself; only the attention it gets.

    Of course, when you're twelve, attention is huge.

  8. Marsha4:17 PM

    And when you're twelve, so is fairness.

  9. Jenn.4:26 PM

    The fact that the students were arguing the fairness, and all in all, sounding logical and smart, is a great thing.  But the fact that a number of kids were in the top 20 spellers in the country but don't feel like they were fairly is pretty awful.  Yes, the goal is to crown an overall winner, but another goal should be to make sure that every kid in the group feels like he or she was at least treated fairly.  I know that there can be some "luck of the draw" unfairness---one person gets an easy word, another one does not---but at least the normal way that it works is fundamentally fair: that kids who have the same number of points are treated the same.

  10. Vanessa H.4:40 PM

    It strikes me that they are treating the spellers who haven't participated in the 6th round the same as the 4 spellers who genuinely qualified for the championship round. And  they are doing it solely for ABC's primetime broadcast  which is deserving of outrage. I love the Bee because it promotes substance over style. But this shows kids that getting the word right is not as important as having the correct number of kids. TV is being valued over education. That's the message. My persecuted twelve year old geek soul is outraged.

  11. calliekl4:40 PM

    All I know is, if this was 12-year old me or my 12-year old child up there, I would be pissed. Poor kids.

  12. Just posted my impressions above, as a former speller. I'd likely have said the same thing as Elizabeth Platz, had I been in her position. The Bee's decision blows.

  13. BeeFan5:45 PM

    Was it 2007?  2008?  I'm pretty sure they've done this before with no controversy.  I remember being mildly surprised at the time.

    They really need some sort of firm rule, though.

    They're starting to push things in tailoring the Bee too much to the whims of television.

  14. BeeMom6:51 PM

    I'm pretty sure the last time they did this was 2006, which was the first year of the ABC broadcast.  The reason it's a big deal is the national TV coverage.

  15. lindab12:22 AM

    For another perspective, consider that in the old days before ESPN picked up the spelling bee (and way before ABC put the "finals" on primetime), CNN would show the competition a few minutes at a time.  In 1990 when we were there, Gorbachev was visiting, and very little of the competition made it onto TV at all.   
    I feel really bad for the spelling bee organizers.  I know they try really hard to make things as fair as possible.  I understand the kids' disappointment, for sure, but the things the parents were saying to Paige Kimble (quoted in Dan Steinberg's blog) seem a bit over the top.