Twas the night after Xmas day and in my aunty’s house only one creature was stirring: me. In the lazy boy I pondered many thoughts; inconvenient truths, devils in prada, the fattening of America, and I ate many Cheese-Its and in my mind’s eye compared them to Cheese Nips. What I discovered was, the crumbs was ruining my prada and the inconvenient truth is that cheese crackers are contributing to my fatness. Nips are greazier than Its, sure and Its may very well be more real-cheese flavorful, as my sister proclaims, but for my money Nips contain more greazy love. For my dollar the Nips have it.
Irregardlessly, my roving gaze eventually ESPN 2, and the rebroadcast of the final rounds of the 2006 Scripps National Spelling Bee. This throwdown event took place back in May and June of 2006, but the Xmas night rebroadcast proved to be irresistable to me, much like a box of greazy Nips. I watched all two hours of the rebroadcast, which is roughly equivalent to a one pound box. What happened in this year’s Bee was not only unique, it was unquestionably entertaining. For the first time an eliminated challenger was brought back out of the penalty box and onto the ice, and a Canuck almost took the title.
The caliber of the spelling nerd is a bar higher than even judicial review, a bar larger than even Roseanne at her heftiest. The spelling nerd totally destroyed my mind like a deluge of home-schooled rockets. What heavy rocks did kids crawl under to memorize the dictionary, and like old racehorses who would take the shotgun and put them down when they reached the end of middle school and could no longer compete in Scripps? (The green pastures for the retired prize-winning wordhorses is probably the professional, international Scrabble tournament circuit…)
Agreeably, ESPN 2 and ABC (the original broadcaster) kept airing personality profiles of these queer children. Much more so than in the Olympics, these vignettes were the entertaining lubricant for the hard mindfuck of midget-minds packed with word knowledge blowing away the vocabulary pride of this internet writer. In one such profile a girl was asked to describe her interests other than studying the dictionary, and she replied that she enjoys chatting online.
The same girl, who had great promise, got the ding of the bell that signifies an incorrect spelling in an unexpectedly early round and head down in shame went dejectedly over to her sadly obese parents. I was about to let loose a line of mirth regarding her so-called hobby. Something like, “Wait till she tells her little chat buddies how bad she fucked THAT up…” but an instinct of sympathy caught my tongue. The ABC man was interviewing her and she said how great an experience it was that she got to the finals rounds. He asked, “What was the best part of the experience?” and tears ran down her face as she said the best part was all the friends she made…
And I, in my lazy boy, teeshirt covered with cheese crumbs, started sobbing uncontrollably. It brought me back to my days being a tortured super-nerd, or at least being a semi-tortured nerd amongst tortured super-nerds, and how lonely it could feel to be set apart. For real, I had a crying jag, and became 110% engaged in the Scripps. My full attention was brought to bear on the ousting of Saryn Hooks for the supposed incorrect spelling of the Hebrew word, “hechsher” (as she spelled it) which the judges mistakenly had listed as “heshscher”. After taking the walk of shame to her parents, the judges error was uncovered and she was dramatically brought back into the fold, hooking me deeper.
A hechsher is a rabbincal endorsement of food. By the time it came down to the final two contestants, both female, the drama was cranked higher than a one-on-one between Jordan and Bird, Wade and Bryant, Sonic and Mario, pizza and hamburgers. It was like a high noon showdown between gun-slinging cowboy Its and sword-wielding ninja Nips with the prize being a heshcher from the Pope of all rabbis. The consecutive two-time Canspell National Canadian spelling champion, half asian half white (pictured below on the right), Finola Mei Hwa (meaning blossoming flower in Mandarin) Hackett versus four-time consecutive finalist Katharine Close from New Jersey. Both were in their final Scripps, ever.
Katharine had come Close four years in a row, but this year destiny was on her side. For some reason, asked to spell “weltschmerz”, sweet Finola couldn’t quite Hackett. After much finagling, even after invoking her precious bonus time, Finola began the word with a V and the entire audience let out a groan. She knew then she had lost. Weltschmerz is a German word that means world-pain or world-weariness, a sensation that perfectly described pure Finola’s soul emotion at the audience’s reaction to her spelling. For Christ’s sake, her father speaks German.
Her opponent, to win the Scripps championship, had to then spell two wicked tough words correctly. The definitions of those two words tell succintly and perfectly, eerily perfectly, the way I felt watching the conclusion to the contest. First was the Sanskrit derived word for the energy that uncoils in a yogi right before they reach nirvana (okay I made most of that definition up): “kundalini.” She nailed it. The winning word for Katharine Close was “ursprache”, which is defined as the common ancestor amongst a set of common languages. Katharine’s knowledge of urpsraches catalyzed her kundalini, and demonstrated to the flower blossom what weltschmerz is all about.
In any event, both girls are finished with competitive spelling and both blazed out of Scripps with trashbags of cash. Just for fun, and because she hypnotized me with her schoolgirl charm, here’s what the 2006 Scripps would have looked like if it had been Finola and me in the twentieth round…