Joe Lavin

May 30, 2006

How Do You Spell Overkill?

This Thursday, for the first time ever, the National Spelling Bee will be televised live in prime time by a broadcast network. ABC will air the finals at 8 pm Thursday, which speaks volumes to the sudden surge in popularity of the spelling bee -- or else it just speaks volumes to the fact that it's summer when there's nothing else worth watching on any of the networks. I just hope they haven't turned it into some sick reality show. "We've locked the top ten young spellers in a house for a week to see how well they can really spell under pressure." Kids, if Joe Rogan shows up, get the hell out of there.

It's also being shown for the first time in High Definition. Feel free to stop reading this right now in case you have an urge to rush to your closest Circuit City in order to get an HD set just in time for the big event. Frankly, I'm glad that when I was a teenager there was no possibility of my acne and braces being televised in High Definition.

I don't have anything against spelling bees, but, as Melanie Groppe pointed out in USA Today, it's a little odd that ABC has decided to dump Miss America for low ratings, while also embracing the National Spelling Bee. Score one for the nerds, I guess. Say what you will about ABC, but they do like embarrassing youngsters in prime time. After all, we're just a few months away from the Little League World Series and all those glorious close-ups of little leaguers who have just made horrendous errors.

Meanwhile, the Scrabble folks must be a little annoyed that the spellers are getting all this attention while the National Scrabble Championship has been relegated to a several month tape delay on ESPN. Oh, wait, did I say the National Scrabble Championship? It's actually now the U.S. Scrabble Open, partly because, according to their web site, the new title "makes this more of a sporting event, similar to golf or tennis, tying in also with our annual ESPN coverage."

I suspect broadcasters might be a little wary at live coverage because you can still play dirty words in Scrabble. 2004's final was stopped briefly when one player tried to play the mildly dirty word "lez." Judges ruled that the word could not be played since the match would later be televised, though luckily it didn't affect the result as that player still won. It's strange. Anna Nicole Smith can have a reality show these days, but apparently the Scrabble people have to be careful lest the FCC cracks down on them. We wouldn't want the fragile young minds of children warped by the game of Scrabble.

Spelling and scrabble are not the only previously obscure events to make it to television. There's also poker. Turn on your television right now, and I guarantee you'll find a poker game somewhere. I've even seen poker on ESPN Classic. For those of you who have ever said, "What a great poker game! I sure hope they make it an instant classic," there is now hope.

Kickball, dog shows, and sand sculpting are also televised -- and not just on "The Ocho!" -- thus answering in the affirmative that decades old question, "Wow, will they televise anything?" What's next, you ask. Well, there are a number of events just begging to be televised.

Just last week, for example, Andre Cataluna, a seventh grader from California, won the very quaint 15th Annual National Handwriting Contest. Alas, on the same day, he lost to another seventh grader in the far more competitive Type Five Different Emoticons on Three Different Instant Messaging Services While Also Watching TV, Listening to Music and Eating a Microwaved Burrito Contest.

The World Sudoku Championships have also not been televised yet, though a sudoku tournament was shown on British television last year. I bet they'll have a television deal for the Worlds by the end of the year.

Not only does the World Marbles Championship exist, there is also something called the World Marbles Championship on Sand. I guess it's similar to tennis where Wimbledon is played on grass, while the French Open is on clay. Perhaps there's even a marbles grand slam that can be televised

And finally, if that's not enough, there's always extreme ironing. For me, this would mean bringing my shirts to the cleaners during inclement weather, but apparently it's actually a sport. According to, it "combines the danger and excitement of an 'extreme' sport with the satisfaction of a well pressed shirt… This can involve ironing on a mountainside, preferably on a difficult climb, or taking an iron skiing, snowboarding or canoeing."

There's even such a thing as underwater ironing. Recently, a New Zealand team set a Guinness World Record by having 55 people iron their clothes underwater simultaneously, which was hailed by all as a stunning accomplishment until everyone realized that they now had to put the ironed clothes back in the dryer.

As ridiculous as all this is, I'm sure it's only a matter of time before extreme ironing makes it to television. And hey why not? It can't be any worse than another season of "Big Brother."

©2006 Joe Lavin

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From ComputorEdge
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Choose Your Words Carefully
I have never been in a chat room like this before, and I feel a little embarrassed watching all the weird games people play. Just think, there could be anyone here. The people you meet could be your next door neighbor, your boss, or your postman. And, oh the language. You wouldn't believe the language. ( More.... )