The Coolest Kids At The National Spelling Bee

The Scripps National Spelling Bee is going primetime tonight, but if you weren't in front of a TV this afternoon then you missed out on the drama, the haircuts, and the soul crushing tween angst that makes competitive spelling such a riveting spectator sport.

I'm not kidding—this is great television. For starters, it's the most diverse competition you will ever see. Boys and girls, all races and ethnic backgrounds, ages nine to 14, and every single one of them an adorable, awkward nerd. (Yes, it's a little heavy on the home-schoolers, but no one is really cool at that age.) It's fascinating to watch these kids as it slowly beings to dawn on them that for one day, they're stars. They get cocky, they strut, they talk sass to the judges—then they misspell a Greek word meaning "goat horn" or something and their little dreams are crushed. It's terrible and awesome and heartbreaking and thrilling all at once. Plus, they've got the former Bee kid picking them apart on color commentary, the Sideline Princess doing backstage interviews, and even buzzer-beaters. (See below.) It's like the NBA Finals if the players actually cared whether they lose or not.

Hey, kid. I don't care how good a speller you are ... you swallow your cookie before you talk to Erin Andrews!

This afternoon's semi-finals pared down the field from 41 to the final 11 kids, who will compete live on ABC tonight for all the marbles. They throw words at you round by round, but when you miss just one letter then you're done. (Unless everyone misses and then they get a reprieve. See Rule 12, please.)

My dark horse for the title? Serena Skye Laine-Lobsinger. With a name like that, how can you go wrong?

The Coolest Kids At The National Spelling Bee

The Coolest Kids At The National Spelling Bee

The Coolest Kids At The National Spelling Bee

The Coolest Kids At The National Spelling Bee

The Coolest Kids At The National Spelling Bee

The Coolest Kids At The National Spelling Bee

Of course, this event is now so big time that even the guy who reads the clues is getting cocky. They've gone all wacky with their "use it in a sentence" examples in an effort to entertain the adults who don't understand any of the words that their own children can miraculously spell.

All we need is a national anthem by the Jonas Brothers and this thing is bigger than the MLB All-Star Game.

Scripps National Spelling Bee [All footage via ESPN]
Spelling Bee Live Blog [A List Of Things Thrown Five Minutes Ago]