As I’ve gotten older my appetite for following sports has waned considerably. I still have favorite teams that I follow although not as fervently as I did at a younger age. Watching a good pro or college football or basketball game on TV keeps my attention most of the time, but I don’t think about the scores or the players much beyond the final buzzer. I view it as strictly entertainment only with little or no impact on my life or my concern.
Since the Covid-19 pandemic has eliminated any life sports from being broadcast the people at ESPN have had to dig deep to come up with content to fill all the time on all their channels. I’ve seen enough reruns of championship games that I won’t take the time to watch any more. How interesting can it be when you know the outcome? And yes, the 30 for 30 series is pretty good and has offered some interesting angles on events or personalities. But I can’t get too engaged in most of the time filler that they’ve dredged up over the recent weeks. This past Sunday afternoon they got me, though.
While eating some lunch and channel surfing, I came across a rerun on a competition that turned out to be riveting. The Scripps 1997 Spelling Bee was being rebroadcast, and I loved it. They aired the final 2 hours of what is typically a 4-4.5-hour contest with 45 (?) young people between the ages of 11 and 13 vying for the title. Man, oh man was this compelling TV. I got totally into the tension and emotion of these kids asking for additional pronunciations, use in a sentence and word origin. If they could sweat the floor would have needed to be mopped after every attempt. The back stories on the kids were intriguing (going to live with a spelling coach, seriously) and seeing their families in the audience added to the drama. My wife and I watched the final nine contestants battle it out for the final 90 minutes.
I enjoyed the competition as much as I have watching a buzzer beater or walk off home run. I loved seeing these kids who probably aren’t going to show up in any other sport on ESPN dominate the stage and I loved the celebration by 13-year-old Rebecca Sealfon when she nailed the last word in the contest. Her pure joy at realizing she would be champion had her jumping up and down as she spelled it correctly. The only bummer was realizing that this year there won’t be a Spelling Bee because of the Covid-19 virus, and that’s a shame for some dedicated intellectual athletes. By the way her winning word was EUONYM, and I didn’t know how to spell it!