Thursday, June 3, 2010

A Red Letter Day

I love this day. The National Spelling Bee begins in Washington, and it is the only thing on television I will not miss. No way; no how. Imagine it: two days of watching youngsters who are eager, bright, determined, geeky, gawky, adorable, emotional, impudent, scared, generous, curious, wiggly, multi-colored, and --- above all --- wrapped up in words.

This event, dear ones, is not just about knowing how to spell. It is about figuring out words, learning where they come from, and how they veer away from their origins just when you think you've got them nailed. It is detective work, with the gumshoe part accomplished in repetitive discipline. It is being able to lasso the spelling, once you know if it is from the Greek or the Latin.

The great Spelling Bee competitors have patience, timing, and cool. They do not jump their guns, and they are not intimidated by the judges or the clock. If they faint, they get up and ask for the language of origin, earning a place in sports comeback history.  Think of the spectacularly serious Akshay Buddiga, dropping out of the camera's view in 2004. Few remember that year's skinny Hoosier champ, David Tidmarsh, but Akshay has a fan club. Shows to go you; spelling is sexy.

For the spectators, the bee is a rolic of satisfaction and mystification. Bless ESPN3's heart for letting us watch the spellers as they unravel words and knit them back up - writing them in the air, on their palms, on the backs of their numbers, and in our hearts.

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