Welcome to the Spelling Bee
It happens to me every year--and this is my third straight--but walking into the Hyatt on H Street during the Spelling Bee is absolutely like time-warping your way out of downtown D.C. and into some gifted and talented program in Iowa on the day before summer vacation. Everywhere you look it's nervous happy energy, smiles filled with braces, all manner of Chuck Taylors, little groups of mixed-gender groups shoving each other, middle-school mustaches, and even kids wrestling on the ground.
The Bee Keeper substitutes for the yearbook, Bee Keeper being the little colorful book with photos of every speller and spaces for autographs. The only real difference is that there are also tons of TV reporters with cameramen and bright lights talking to the spellers about how amazing and wonderful they are.
The first kid I saw today was wearing a t-shirt that read: "Warning: Unsocialized Homeschooler." That was pretty great, but not as great as the t-shirt pictured above. Every speller apparently got four of these, and many of their siblings are wearing them right now, during the second half of Round 2, which is ongoing. I've considered knocking one of the six-year olds down to steal his shirt.
I talked to one young lady, 14-year old Caroline Bell, who was sort of shocked that I was a sportswriter. I explained that once it's on ESPN, it's a sport.
"Sports is, like, athletics," she noted. "This isn't athletic at all."
That was a true statement. Well, too late, I'm here. And I'm listening in on the conversations of pre-teens.
"It was really easy," one young woman said to a young man, about Round 2.
"I actually kind of hope Round 3's harder," he agreed.
Anyhow, there are all the things any sports writer could want. Extensive media notes. Wireless access. Free coffee and cookies. ESPN producers. Both parents simultaneously videotaping their children being videotaped. And Korean journalists interviewing freelance TV reporters from Cincinnati about the phenomenon. What a great event.
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