Spelling bee has no business being in ESPN's vocabulary

The Kickoff

June 02, 2006|By PETER SCHMUCK

The National Spelling Bee is a terrific event that is chock full of drama and adolescent angst, but if the line between traditional sports and eclectic time fillers gets blurred much more, you might just see Stuart Scott interviewing me after the next power eating championship.

I mean, let's get real. I understand that the cable networks need something to fill the three hours a night that aren't already committed to reruns of the 2004 World Series of Poker, but watching a 12-year-old's world come to an end because he failed to correctly spell the word eremacausis doesn't strike me as the pinnacle of sports entertainment.

How about if everyone goes to see Akeelah and the Bee and we call it even?

Of course, you'll have to decide if I really mean this or I'm just trolling for angry e-mails from all the middle-school English teachers who just discovered cable sports, but I will concede that I'd rather watch a spelling bee than those lumberjack competitions that used to fill the programming vacuum in the wee hours of the morning.

In fact, I might tune in if the bee were on Lifetime or even the Discovery Channel, but I want to be able to root against somebody when I'm watching ESPN. When you watch a spelling bee, there's a whole different psychological etiquette involved.

Every one of those kids deserves credit for the long hours of study and intense preparation that put them in position to stand in front of that microphone and spell words that you and I (and remember that I am a highly trained professional writer) do not even recognize as English.

So you find yourself rooting for every one of them, and what kind of sporting event is that?

If you're going to broadcast a spelling bee, why stop there? How about a math bee, where each kid gets a chance to figure out just how much Roger Clemens is getting paid for each inning he pitches the rest of this year?

The Kevin Millar controversy appears to be dying down. Everybody was all smiles in the clubhouse yesterday, and I didn't hear anyone discussing the latest fashions.

Millar thinks the whole thing was overblown, and he may be right, but I thought it was pretty entertaining - and, at this point in a discouraging season - you take your drama wherever you can get it.

I want to congratulate everyone who showed up at Camden Yards last night for the final game of the three-game series against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. I would have talked to each of you individually, but I'm afraid of lightning.

For everyone who is wondering how Albert Pujols could be on pace to hit 76 home runs this year, I just want to remind you that Conspiracy Guy saw this coming right at the start of the season.

What better way to deflect attention from the stat-inflation of the steroid era than for somebody to challenge Barry Bonds' single-season home run record?

Of course, there are going to be people looking at Pujols suspiciously - because that is what BALCO has wrought - but my paranoid alter ego has been fixated on the allegedly juiced ball since Opening Day, and I see no reason to change conspiracy theories midstream.

Promising young executive Dayton Moore jumped from the on-deck circle in Atlanta to the general manager role in Kansas City yesterday, proving that it is possible to become bored with success.

No one was surprised that former Royals GM Allard Baird was fired with the club again wallowing with the worst record in the major leagues, especially after owner David Glass blasted the team a month ago and forecast major front office changes.

No doubt, there were a few fans hoping that Glass would fire himself, but that's just not the way it works.

This week's funny headline from SportsPickle.com, the Maryland-based sports humor and satire site on the Web: Astros offer Pettitte $20 million to go into retirement.

peter.schmuck@baltsun.com

"The Peter Schmuck Show" airs on WBAL (1090 AM) at noon on Saturdays.

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