Friday, June 4, 2010

THE TED WILLIAMS OF THE SCRIPPS BEE: BeeFan, who obviously knows much better than I do, opines that Finola Hackett was the greatest speller to never win Scripps.

I don't know from best, but when I think back on our years of Bee coverage, my favorite speller never to win was Tia Thomas. I loved that she had no poker face -- when the word came out, her eyes told you that that word had no chance against her. And when, once a year, later and later in prime time, she got the one word that she hadn't already mastered, you could see her wobble, flinching as if insulted by a close friend, and it was heartbreaking.

The level of institutional Bee knowledge here today is awesome. Anybody else have a favorite who never wore the crown?


  1. I was expecting you to bring up The Mattssassin.  And, um, isn't Samir Patel our favorite speller never to have won?

  2. I participated in the '85 Bee, and the third-place finisher my year had also finished third the year before that.  Her name is Tanya Zahava Solomon.  That's a remarkable achievement, given the element that luck plays in the bee. 

  3. Charles3:14 PM

    The guy who came in second in '86 ended up being the first speller to make it to four Bees--but he never made it to the top spot. It's tough to imagine winning your way to *four* national Bees. Even if you have paltry competition in the lower level bees, you still have to study hard for the big one.

  4. Jennifer J.6:30 PM

    I'll always love Samir as I am from his hometown area and he kicks word arse!.

    I was rooting for Matthew Evans to win in that 5th and final year. I think he should get an honorary prize/cup N-O-W for defending the value of the English language as is and Spelling against this years protestors. See article and shake head in disgust and semi-disbelief:

  5. BeeFan7:07 PM

    Those protesters are just ...

    (No, I won't use language like that)

    If anyone thinks they have a point, they might try reading this book:

    "The art of spelling : the madness and the method" by Marilyn vos Savant.

    The author is famous for having the highest-ever recorded IQ score (over 200, the average is 100).  She argues, among other things, that English spelling makes perfect sense if you understand how the language developed and how it works.  Spelling reform would actually make it harder.  So she says.  I tend to agree.

  6. BeeFan7:12 PM


    While I don't think Tia Thomas was the best speller never to win the Bee, I never understood the dislike of her by certain posters on this blog and the way she was compared to a certain movie character.  I would have been quite happy to see her win, although my first rooting choice that year was Kavya (who won the next year anyway).

  7. isaac_spaceman8:36 PM

    You're jogging my memory -- I think I took the same position you're taking in a post. 

  8. FormerSpeller6:43 PM

    As someone who has met Tia Thomas, I can attest to what a sweet and adorable little girl she was. She showed some real competitive fire onstage. One of the tougher lessons that Tia will learn in life is how unkind people are to openly driven women. My two greats who never won are Prem Trivedi (two-time runner-up) are Samir Patel.