In commemoration of the Scripps National Spelling Bee, A.J. Daulerio's Cultural Oddsmaker makes a brief return. Email him to let him know what you think.

Tomorrow the Scripps National Spelling Bee will give another group of spindly kids with Akeelah-like aspirations an opportunity to make use of their freakish memorization skills. This year, the kids are more aware of the ramifications and long-term career potential that comes with the national stage. Spell the words right, become a shooting star; fail and go back to the life of being an extraordinarily bright child with lots of tuba-playing friends. (Or, if they're a home-schooled, back to being a socially-stunted shut-in whose only friends are the mailman and a rotting salamander carcass in a mason jar.)

Many of these kids are so absorbed and determined at developing their abnormally high IQs, they usually fall short on having a TV-ready appearance. But the more popular this event becomes, it'll be even more crucial for producers to make sure their featured participants aren't wearing their khakis on backwards or their glasses don't cause potentially deadly refractions of the stage lighting. It's the harsh reality of network ratings economics: If the final round is going to continue to garner a primetime slot, The Bee needs to get prettier in order to ensure long-term success.

And this year, spellers have added motivation to look less mousey, now that ESPN's all-purpose reporting princess, Erin Andrews, is sidelining the Bee. Unlike the drooling moron nation that worships her from the safe confines of the internet, these poor girl-spooked geniuses will be forced to process Ms. Andrews' striking beauty in person. One hair-flip and they'll quickly learn that, no, she's nothing like the girls in Latin club.

For male participants, this creates an even more daunting pressure-cooker atmosphere, as flubbing "quatorzain" in the first round will not only result in condescending snickers from their peers, but will also eliminate any chance of them professing their undying love to the tall, coconut-scented woman with the pretty teeth.


Among this year's batch of 288 nerdsworths, there are a few who have the potential to make both their etymological and wet dreams come true.

So, today, I'm ignoring my throbbing odontalgia, taking antibiotics for my staphylococci and trying to avoid a vivisepulture as I place odds on some of the lads who have the best chance at vouchsafing the crap out of Erin Andrews this week.

Let's go elucubrate after this jump. (Painting by the great Jim Cooke, of course.)

Pierce Dageforde: 2/1 His name sounds like it could be a pungent cheese from the Netherlands, but Pierce is representing both Omaha and Midwestern Iowa after mopping the floor with the contestants at the Midwest Spelling bee — and he plans on debunking any and all myths about spellers from corn country. He's coming to this event equipped with both a steel-trap mind and the charm and sophistication of a man twice his age. You can find him wearing his trademark turtleneck at many high society social events throughout the Midwest, smoking a pipe and wooing divorcees with his biting wit and collection of elegiac love poems. Dageforde says his ideal date with Andrews would be a trip to his grandfather's log cabin, nestled away in the woods of Eldora, where they'd spend a weekend taking in the majestic flora, making their own chocolate, and dancing the tarantella in their sweat socks across the creeky floors.

Scott Remer: 3/1 Ohio's Scotty "Reme Job" Remer realizes he might not make it out of the semifinals, but he's supremely confident he can get far enough to make a run at Erin Andrews. Remer's eschewed studying from his voluminous word list this week in favor of getting a manicure and experimenting with new pomeades. "Reme Job" said he's also purchased a new pair of snug chinos that better accentuate his overdeveloped quad muscles since he'd heard that Andrews "gets gooey" over a man with hulking soccer legs. His prediction for his chances this week: "If I get five minutes alone with her, she'll definitely get Remed."

Tony Incorvati: 5/1

Another Ohio boy, 10-year-old Incorvati slashed through the field at the Regional Grand Spelling Bee to earn a slot in D.C. Even though he's one of the youngest contestants this year, Incorvati carries a hefty amount of Italian swagger that overcompensates for some of his inexperience. "These fuckin' merigans ain't gonna know what hit 'em, " Incorvati told reporters during introduction ceremonies yesterday, opening and closing a Zippo lighter throughout. As for Andrews? Incorvati says she's a little too "twig-legged" for his tastes, but that's not going to prevent him from "givin' her a nice hard boning" if he makes the finals. "I'll chase her down in the parking lot if I have to," he said, while furiously making stroking gestures on a large pepperoni stick. "She's gonna get piece of this, if you know what I mean." We do, Tony. We do.

Xavier Barnes: EVEN

This skinny 13-year-old from Fayetteville, N.C. is new to the area, but he established himself early in the first marking period as a young man with a voracious appetite for big words — and the student teachers at Pine Forest Middle School. Since moving to Cumberland County last year from Kansas, Barnes has allegedly bedded some of the most unavailable women in the state. One of his male English teachers marvels at the budding lothario's technique. "It's, like, all he has to do is just stare up at them with those big brown eyes of his and the chicks will just melt." Barnes says a lot of his successes in both spelling and women comes from his abnormally large fingers, with which he can quickly sift through pages of unwieldy dictionaries quickly and digitally manipulate females to orgasm with just a wiggle. "I think if Miss Andrews gets one glance at these, her curiosity will get the best of her, " he says, moving his fingers in front of his face like Freddy Krueger. He's even given himself a nickname: "Bean Flickimus Maximus." Watch out, Erin.