Whether by design or accident, the kids at this year's spelling bee were decidedly less wacky than last year's crop of home-schooled rascals. (I do like the Canadian, though.) However, the event was not without its chuckles or....stunning twists!
The team of word nerds writing the "Use it in a sentence" examples were emboldened by last year's performance and did their best to spice things up for the kids. They basically turned the official pronouncer, Dr. Jacques Bailly, into the "cool parent" trying way too hard to drop relevant pop culture references in a desperate bid to seem hip. The contestants saw right through it, as usual.
There was one dramatic moment, however, when Neetu Chandak was called back into the ballroom to be told that the judges had inadvertently misled her on the word that she missed in the previous round and she was given a second life. (There was more controversy later, due the TV-ization of the final round.) She turfed out in the next round, which was sad, but her comeback attempt was heartfelt, nonetheless. She's basically the Armando Galarraga of letters.
By the way, don't think that I'm mocking any of these children, because they're all heroes to me. I still remember the time when I was 11 years old and I was called down to take a three-point shot for the halftime raffle in front of a sold out varsity basketball game. I air balled. It still hurts. Now imagine doing that on ESPN and then getting interviewed by Erin Andrews afterward. It's a cold world.
So bless these kids. Every one.
The final round of the Scripps National Spelling Bee will air live on ABC tonight.