The thrill of victory. The agony of defeat. The human drama of mental competition. This is ABC's Wide World...of Spelling?
The Scripps National Spelling Bee, shown during prime time last night on ABC, has everything all reality shows and sports broadcasts want and need to be hits --- and it wasn't even created by a TV producer.
If you haven't heard by now, an East Bay teenager, 13-year old Evan O'Dorney from Danville, California, won the big Bee last night by correctly spelling "serrefine," a word which the spell check on my blogging software doesn't even recognize!
You can watch Evan's winning moment by clicking over to ESPN. Evan, who is home-schooled, is an old hand at the Bee and has been in training a long time - having made three trips to the Bee finals in the past three years. You can read more about him in today's SFChronicle.
The annual spelling competition, which begins in schools all across the nation in the winter, has gotten a lot more attention over the past few years, thanks to fictional movies (Akeelah And the Bee and Bee Season, which was based on a best-selling novel), a theatrical musical (The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee), and in particular, an award winning documentary called Spellbound, which started this Bee fascination back in 2002.
For millions of kids like my son, the Bee is actually a fun contest that begins in their classroom, and ends the same day in the gym when someone trips up over a word like "believe."
But for true Bee hopefuls, the competition becomes a "be all - end all" kind of thing - a fact that was painfully documented in Spellbound. That documentary gave us all a glimpse of the intense stress would-be finalists face: years of dictionary drilling at the expense of other activities, rigorous mental games, and pressure - oh the pressure - from parents.
On NBC's Today Show this morning, Evan told Meredith Vierra that he doesn't really like the Bee and is glad it's over. The Today Show also showed a story about Bee favorite Samir Patel who, in his last year of eligibility this year, saw his hopes dashed with a misspelling that Patel's parents appealed and which turned controversial - and a little ugly.
Kids, their parents, and competition is a controversial subject...and the issue is the same whether it involves brains or brawn. In that way, a spelling bee and a soccer match have more in common than you might think.
Is competition healthy - or hurtful? And who's most often to blame when things turn bad? You can click below on "Comments" and give us your thoughts.
Baby, even the losers, get lucky sometimes.
Baby, even the losers, keep a little bit of pride,
they get lucky sometimes.