I noticed that the National Spelling Bee has entered the final rounds, which means that today we will see some of America's best spellers right there on ESPN. Live and in color. And it will be replayed lots of times. This brings the question that many of you have expressed before. Okay, lots of questions. But really the one that I want to write about is "These kids aren't athletes? What the F are they doing on ESPN?".
No, they're not performing athletic feats. We can all agree on that. And I'm sure we can all also agree that these kids practice and prepare at least as much as athletes do. It's a very serious competition that means as much to them as the sporting event means to the sports star.
Are they performing under pressure? Hell yes. Are they displaying physical skill, strength and stamina? No. I think even if you grant them the most generous benefits of doubt, you couldn't call them athletes, and you can't call their competition a "sport". However, I don't have a problem with ESPN covering it live. No problem at all. It resembles a sporting event, and it's entertaining. There's a winner, a bunch of "non-winners", there's heartbreak, agony, thrills, spills, anguish and many other emotions commonplace in sports.
It isn't as if this event takes place at 8:00 pm and is shoving something else off the table. At 11:00 in the morning, at 2:00 in the afternoon there isn't really any live sports to speak of that would otherwise be on. We've all seen the "1978 World's Strongest Man" competition hundreds of times by now. Maybe there's a lumberjack competition we haven't seen or a ping-pong doubles tournament, but the point is, it fills a programming slot with a live competition.
You will also wonder the same thing when ESPN airs the National Scrabble Championship. Again (and I have a lot more vested interest here) I'll say that it loosely resembles an athletic competition and it really is exciting to watch. You'll be impressed by skill and speed, even if it isn't physical skill and speed.
Speaking of which, if anyone wants to help me finance the trip, I'd really like to play in the Nationals (August 19-24). Including airfare, lodging for 6 nights, tournament registration, and meals, I estimate the total to be about $1250. I don't have that kind of dough laying around, but I'll graciously accept any and all donations. Or if you know someone who lives in the Reno area, and will let me stay there for a week, that price tag drops dramatically. I wouldn't expect to win any prize, so you'll get no return on your investment, but you'll have the satisfaction of making me happy. Or you can come along and hang out with a bunch of scrabble dorks for a week. Sounds like fun, right?
For a related discussion about "are these people really athletes?" please visit areseven.
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