AJ Daulerio's Cultural Oddsmaker runs every Friday. Email him to let him know what you think.
The 80th Scripps National Spelling Bee contestants are currently locked in their rooms, furiously poring over gigantic dictionaries, compiling flash cards and memorizing prefixes and root words in preparation for the May 30 competition. This leaves no free time for these youngsters; instead of spending weekends reading Russian translation of Ulysses or conducting molecule splicing experiments with household cleaning products, they'll be spending late nights watching tapes of past Bees and spouting off the language of origin for "appoggiatura."
Of course, this event would be better served to be covered next week, just a few short days away from the competition. However, with it being Memorial Day weekend, combined with your already spotty afternoon attention spans, it was decided that a good portion of the Deadspin readership would probably be completely shit-hammered drunk by next Friday at 2:35. So, why bother? No, instead, next week's column will be an even less inspired assemblance of tenuous sports-related narrative, telegraphed dick jokes and deep-rooted racism presented under the thin veil of "satire." Working topics include "Who's the Next Black Dude to Get Shot?"; "Which Soccer Player Does David Hirshey Really Want to Blow?", "Which Commenters Have Ever Rubbed One Out During a Deadspin Up All Night Sesssion?" or "Ah...Fuck It?" And then I'll probably try to set the all-time record for random tags in one post. Get excited.
The Spelling Bee also has some personal meaning to me. Two years ago, during the 2005 competition, was my first week at the former Gawker gambling blog, Oddjack. The month before that, I'd somehow become overseer/editor without a rabid interest in sports gambling, a genuine dislike of professional poker and only about three weeks of training or basic blog publishing software. Hence, the first week consisted mainly of Spelling Bee posts with laughable PhotoShop accompaniment and pictures of dead animals. Why, oh why, did it ever fail?
So, this week, I'm waking up the ghost of Blop-o-Nartus, throwing an arm around a bespectacled little wunderkind, and placing odds on the winners of the 2007 Scripps Howard Spelling Bee.
Let's go beat up some smott kids, after this jump.
Samir Gupta: 3/1
Samir's known for his red sweatshirts, his dandruff and his superstitions about showering regularly during tournament time. A cocky fucker, it was reported that after Samir received his trophy at the El Paso Times Bee, he smiled and said there wasn't a single word at the regional competition that he couldn't spell. Yeah, bring that attitude to D.C., and Gupta might be carted out on a stretcher. Click. Clack.
Anqi Dong: 2/1
Anqi "Beer Can" Dong makes his third appearance to the Scripps showdown, bringing with him a rabid, Dong-loving fanbase all the way from Canada, giving him a slight advantage over the other contestants. Catch him during the offseason, and you'll find an affable, charming young man who worships Charles Babbage, shreds on his oboe and dreams of building a 21st Century Super Computer out of a toaster and digital watch. Once on stage, it's a different story; Dong transforms himself into a snot-shooting, spellbound minotaur, who intimidates other opponents with high leg kicks and gutteral yelps.
Cody Wang: 4/1
It's not a Spelling Bee without a Wang, and this year's Wang is named Cody. Another Canuck, Wang trounced through the Can West Can Spell Regional Tournament, by nailing "infructuous" after a four-and-a-half hour competition. He credited his victory to the support he gets from his family, his friends and, most important, his homemade robot, Zorflax, who's been his main support system and his only social contact in his 12 years of existence. Although the crowd is praying for a Wang/Dong final round, Wang's still a baby at the Scripps and his hyperhydrosis problem could prove costly if he makes it to the televised round.
Maheen Rana: 1/2
This California lexicon lassie is also a repeat champion and makes her third appearance at Scripps bring with her an impressive resume that includes leisure time activities like flute-playing, sewing and a love of geography. In fact, Rana's geographic prowess is so strong, she'll sometimes warm up by spouting off the GNP of Belarus or spelling the cities of Uzbekistan in order of population — backwards. But don't be fooled by her mousy demeanor and her giant eyebrows, for Rana's a fierce competitor who is rumored to wear war paint on her face using the blood of suckling pigs she sacrifices backstage.
Samir Patel: 1/3
The tiny brown titan, Patel makes his fourth appearance this year, after strong finishes each of the last three years and winning over the hearts of a national audience with his squeaky voice, magnetic smile and his diminutive, Owen Meany-esque stature. Patel was criticized a bit last year after getting bounced early and bawling like a little bitch on national television, but he's still beloved by everyone. This is probably his last year of competition and he'll be the sentimental favorite to win — and this year he might just do it. A victory will make him an international phenomenon and possibly a Hollywood superstar. Or Bollywood, rather.