and more words I'll never use,
linguistic land mines
DSH hopes to get its shit together next year and find a way to get a press pass to the Bee (which, we'll admit, probably means attempting to do so earlier than one week prior). We're also a little disappointed that New Jersey couldn't keep its one-year streak of championships alive, though our congratulations certainly go to Evan O'Dorney for tackling "serrefine" and taking down the prize. (By the way, did it seem to anybody else that there were a lot of words about swords this year? Every time I looked up they were asking the kids about some implement of death or another.)
Our biggest moment of the day, though, was watching Samir Patel take his fall. We here at DSH found ourselves rooting for the kid even through an appeal that was, as Shonda Rhimes put it, a bit "icky". (I'm always a bit shocked that the Bee isn't more litigious than it is. All those parents, all those kids, reasonably direct access to the judges... I hope security is tight.) Not sure you can blame the kid's parents for taking a shot at a technicality, especially when Patel showed grace coming off the stage and taking his loss. I'm tempted to send the kid my old, worn-out, grade-school era Dan Marino jersey as a show of solidarity, except I'm not entirely sure he knows who Dan Marino is. In fact, I'm not entirely sure that most of the kids on that stage know what a football is. I do know that losing sucks, even for a Face Of The Department like Patel. Lots of bright young spellers coming up through the farm system, though, and besides, ABC can just transition him to "the agony of defeat" clips, right after the ski jumper.
But to return to "icky" for a second... are we watching the glorification of smarts or just smart-sploitation? Is the Spelling Bee a good thing? Or are we just reminding the fat kids you can get on TV by eating a lot of hot dogs? Certainly there's an argument to be made that these kids are too young for primetime pressure, but I've always thought that it comes down to the reasons the kids are getting involved. If their parents are shoving them into it, piling on the pressure, locking them in their rooms with a chair and a dictionary then yes, that's not good. Doesn't that hold true for anything? I knew plenty of Soccer Parents growing up, too, and we can agree that it's not the fault of the sport but of the overbearing moms and dads who, for whatever reason, are ruining the experience.
If it's about the kids, though, if it's about spellers going out there because they like to compete but they can't get around on a fastball... because they're more comfortable with Latin roots than jump shots (god knows I was)... because maybe they LIKE being on national TV... then I don't think we need to rest uneasy tonight because we're watching them. And playing drinking games to their misspellings. And betting on them.
Okay, maybe not betting on them.
There are a lot of kids out there who deserve to be on the cover of the newspaper for what they're accomplishing but are getting pushed out by 'roided sluggers and starlet tramps. If a euonym can get them there? Probably not the worst thing in the world.
Finally: dotted schwa! Don't mind if I do.
Update: A discussion I had with the inimitable Rob Iracane, fellow lover of all things ath-linguistic, reminded me: ESPN actually did right by the Bee this year. They were smart in going with Chris McKendry and Robin Roberts for the brunt of the play-by-play duties and leaving Mike and Mike to do the occasional commentary, on which they were solid. Even Stuart Scott managed to dial back the b-o-o-y-a-h a bit for his turn on the sidelines. You don't normally see the words "ESPN" and "restrained" together in a sentence... not outside of court documents... but their coverage of the Bee was, dare I say it, respectable?