On Thursday, a plurality of mankind’s future bosses will compete to see who is the best in the world at spelling obscure English vocabulary words.
As you might imagine about a group of semipubescent Mensa candidates who have accomplished more in their first decade-ish of life than you have in the entirety of yours, the 2017 Scripps National Spelling Bee candidates are an impressive bunch. Here’s Akshra, who, according to her official bio page, is “inspired by Bill Gates (with whom she shares her birthday) for his philanthropy in the field of cancer research.” Or else rising SEAL Team Six member Christopher; or Theo, Canadian prime-minister-to-be; or future doctors [deep breath] Shrinidhi, Maia, Gabriel, Samuel, Emelie, Saketh, Alice, Abby, Reshmi, Kelly, Naysa, Riley, Abhiram, Riya, Celine, Tien, Rohan, Lisa, Lily, Deuce, Zachary, Aisha, Shaheer, Sohum, Erin, Stella, Avril, Seunga, Jeremy, Brandon, Anna, Jennifer, and Mandy (who also plans to be an internationally famous novelist, thank you very much). I think it is fair to read these write-ups less as the dreamy aspirations of children who have never contemplated the comparative advantages of spreadsheets and afterwork happy hours than as threats to the future generation of admissions counselors/junior analysts/babies seated near business class/significant others.
Here’s a sentence from one contestant’s bio for you: “Deneiro loves spelling, and his favorite word is S-U-C-C-E-S-S.” Here’s another: “Now Liam wants to find bog treasures and study engineering so that he can invent.” Here are two more: “Nana says that he plans to go to an Ivy League college or the University of Illinois. After that, he will either be drafted into the NBA by the Chicago Bulls or continue to medical school to become an anesthesiologist.”
Then there’s Chad, who likes spaghetti.
But the sad truth is that few of these future internship deniers of your cerebrally puny progeny will make it to the stage for Part 2 of the Bee finals, which will air on ESPN Thursday night beginning at 8:30 p.m. ET. Just 40 finalists were selected from the initial pool of 291 challengers, 188 of whom never audibly spelled a word incorrectly, which — welcome to the vicious indifference of the adult world, kiddos! The point-based elimination system led to such injustices as the departure of 6-year-old Edith, from Tulsa, Oklahoma, who was the youngest qualifier in Bee history and was featured in an ESPN hype video.
When she stepped to the microphone to do some spelling during Wednesday’s preliminary sessions, it became clear that she was emphatically not at the Bee to waste her time trading pleasantries with grown-ups, even longstanding Bee pronouncer Dr. Jacques Bailly, himself a 1980 Scripps spelling champion. No, Edith was THERE TO PLAY:
She nailed the word “nyctinasty,” obviously, and made sure her competitors knew it:
Then came the final qualifying round, when Edith was asked to spell “tapas.” Has Edith ever had a tapa before? Has she ever tried jamón, ibérico or otherwise? Has any patata she’s ever sampled been brava? What even is Spanish, when you think about it?
Doesn’t matter. Edith’s got this.
Tragically, ruthlessly, and, I am prepared to say, most definitely anti-kindergartenly, Edith was not named a finalist, so she will not appear Thursday. Her hobbies, according to her official bio, include climbing trees and catching bugs. I am #TeamEdith forever, and wish her many bugs and low-branched trees. (Among the other injustices: Anna Livia, your and my new best friend, was also monstrously left off the final tally.)
But fear not, Bee lovers. This year’s group of 40 finalists includes plenty of brilliant babes, some of whom will likely be eliminated from Part 1 of the finals (which begin at 10 a.m. ET) by the time you read this. There’s Helena, who says she would one day like to be “either be a figure skater, a manga artist or a butler.” There’s Tejas, who is competing in his fourth Scripps National Spelling Bee, meaning that 28.6 percent of his years on earth have included dunking on other kids on national TV. Maggie would like you to know that she admires Ohio State football coach Urban Meyer and roots for the Cleveland Cavaliers; Ananya pulls for the Golden State Warriors, and I am not saying that there should be tension, but conflicted viewers should be aware that the night portion of the Bee finals start a half hour before Game 1 of the NBA Finals tips off, just an FYI, take from that what you will. Srikar lusts after Albert Einstein’s brain. Shruthika says her favorite TV show is Shark Tank and is invited to come watch at mi casa anytime she likes. The finalists count 16 pianists, six violinists, three cellists, three trumpeters, two guitarists, two French horn players, and an oboist, clarinetist, trombonist, saxophonist, flutist, plus a quartet of singers among them. I am not not interested in hearing their nightmare symphony. (Just kidding, it would undoubtedly be beautiful and inspired, the angels would weep, etc.)
So buckle in, friends. There are words to spell.