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Scripps National Spelling Bee Live Blog

The nine finalists for the 85th Scripps National Spelling Bee: Snigdha Nandipati, Frank Cahill, Stuti Mishra, Gifton Wright, Jordan Hoffman, Emma Ciereszynski, Arvind Mahankali, Nicholas Rushlow, Lena Greenberg.

8:00pm: Jon: And here we go! I’m here all alone for the time being but I think some people are on their way.

8:05pm: Jon: There’s no way Frank is only 14 years old. I think I need to see that kid’s birth certificate.

8:10pm: Jon: With all of these features and interviews the production is very similar to the World Series of Poker.

8:24pm: Jon: Okay, so we are down two contestants already, Jordan and Emma. Is this going fast or is it me?

8:29pm: Jon: You know ESPN went to Arvind’s school because it was a safe bet the kid was going to go deep after finishing third last year. The kid is probably the favorite tonight.

8:31pm: Jon: Here comes Lena. She’s a 10:1 favorite to become a cat lady, right? I was watching some of the preliminary rounds and she is completely overdramatic.

8:41pm: Jon: Frank kind of reminds me of Cam from Modern Family. And as I type that he botches ‘porwigle’. Sorry, Frank.

8:46pm: Jon: Gifton is a beast. I want him to spell a word correctly and then do the Mutombo finger-wave.

8:47pm: Jon: Was that racist?

8:49pm: Jon: That cappuccino skit wasn’t bad. I think it’s a bit disturbing for a 14-year-old to be drinking a cappuccino, though.

8:54pm: Jon: Lena always speeds up while spelling her words. Bold strategy.

8:56pm: Jon: All these root word questions are borderline angleshots. Especially if you are allowed to keep asking once you guess incorrectly.

8:58pm: Jon: Stuti doesn’t even mimic writing words on her hands, she acts like she is typing them. Why does that make me feel old?

8:59pm: Sean: So I just got home from work… and immediately I see nothing but words that have never actually been used before. “Luteovirescent”? Insane. One minute in and I already feel like an undereducated slob.

9:00pm: Jon: This isn’t about you Sean.

9:00pm: Greg: I can’t even spell the names of some of these kids.

9:00pm: Jon: I literally just googled ‘Jacques’ to make sure that I was spelling it right. (As in Dr. Jacques Bailly, the… pronouncer?)

9:02pm: Sean: Is it really in good taste to use a song performed in part by Michael Jackson, in a program featuring children?

9:02pm: Sean: Too soon?

9:02pm: Greg: Speaking of too soon, has Gus Johnson been apart from CBS long enough? Can you imagine it. That kid was PUUUUUUURE.

9:03pm: Sean: Well, if Gus Johnson was calling this, it would be an absolute barnburner. We’d still be here at midnight.

9:04pm: Jon: The words that Gifton is getting are absurd. The Scripps computer is a racist.

9:05pm: Sean: AND WE’RE DOWN TO FIVE! Gifton goes down and is referred to as “The Pride of Jamaica” as he exits the stage. Bobsled Team, move over.

9:05pm: Jon: Why does this kid get a standing O? Just because he is from Jamaica? I thought we lived in a post-racial world now. It’s a little condescending.

9:06pm: Sean: Simmons comes to mind right now, his love for Mike Breen. “ARVIND… BANG!”

9:09pm: Jon: Clearly, Nicholas doesn’t listen to Vetiver.

9:09pm: Sean: Is “vetiver” the easiest word of the tournament so far? As close to a slam dunk as I’ve seen so far… and he clanks it. Scripps claims another.

9:10pm: Jon: A fifth-timer at that. His last stand and he goes down to a meatball like ‘vetiver’.

9:11pm: Greg: Looks like a larger version of his lucky ‘bee’ shirt wasn’t good enough. Should have stuck with the one two sizes too small.

9:11pm: Sean: They’re really dropping like flies now. The official Nowhere Plans hometown girl, Lena, next to fall.

9:11pm: Greg: I am not going to harp on a child, but she went way too quickly. I’ve learned over the years your gut is never good to go with in this bee.

9:11pm: Jon: Lena rushed that one. She should have sat on the word a bit and drove through it.

9:12pm: Greg: Haha wow a plug for the French Open. OK where is the NBA Finals music when you need it.

9:13pm: Sean: Jon, I think she was expecting fastball and reacting to the change.

9:14pm: Jon: That’s a minor league move. We’re down to three. I need a beer.

9:15pm: Greg: What a waste of a first round pick on Nicholas.

9:15pm: Sean: Did he just refer to younger contestants as “undergrads”?

9:15pm: Jon: Nicholas has really turned a corner in the eye of the public after the Webster’s recruiting scandal that plagued his first two years in the bee. Yet even without those distractions he whiffed, and now he’ll have to lay down the dictionary.

9:17pm: Sean: I think Snigdha has to be the favorite going forward. Totally locked in right now.

9:18pm: Jon: Don’t let Stuti’s soft smile fool you, she has a killer instinct.

9:18pm: Sean: “Prolegomenon,” a word that is spelled exactly as it sounds. A rarity in the late rounds.

9:19pm: Jon: You’re right, hopefully she doesn’t overthink it.

9:19pm: Jon: Is India the Samoa of spelling? That place just turns out champs. The remaining three are all of Indian descent.

9:21pm: Sean: “Schwannoma” could be Arvind’s undoing here. Let’s see if he can pull the upset.

9:21pm: Jon: And Arvind just can’t finish, again.

9:23pm: Sean: Arvind has become the Buffalo Bills of the Scripps National Spelling Bee.

9:24pm: Sean: It appeared Arvind had really stepped up his game this year. He had to be considered one of the favorites going in, but it just wasn’t to be.

9:24pm: Jon: The champion this year will be a female. Whatever.

9:25pm: Sean: For Snigdha, her second trip to Nationals will be her last chance at Scripps gold.

9:26pm: Jon: They had the split-screen camera going there showing Stuti’s reaction to Snigdha nailing whatever that last word was. Stuti was all class, naturally, taking it in stride. Deep down you know she was hoping for Sniggy to throw in a random ‘x’ or something.

9:27pm: Sean: Back to Arvind quickly, where does he go from here? He’ll be the top free agent on the market this offseason.

9:28pm: Jon: The ball is in his court, for sure. There could be a bidding war between Oxford and Merriam-Webster this summer.

9:29pm: Greg: And as a wild-card, Prokhorhov.

9:29pm: Sean: My sources tell me that Jim Gray has cleared his schedule next month.

9:29pm: Jon: I’ve been told that the Boys & Girls Club of Bayside, NY has been reserved as well.

9:30pm: Greg: Ask and you shall receive, though I wasn’t serious about wanting an NBA plug during this.

9:31pm: Greg: Has there ever been a Scripps Spelling Bee that didn’t involve two announcers with the last name Steele?

9:31pm: Sean: The silent “e”, very tricky. Fitting for this event, really.

9:32pm: Sean: For Snigdha and Stuti, where do they go from here? They’ve reached the top of the sport and are out of eligibility. Next year’s draft will be one of the strongest in recent memory. 1983 is on notice.

9:33pm: Jon: We may have a Rocky Balboa/Apollo Creed type bout on our hands here. Neither is showing signs of letting up.

9:34pm: Jon: Stuti is going to regret making that weird ass smile when she goes back and watches tape of this event.

9:34pm: Sean: Watching tape, though, is really what separates Stuti from the rest of the field. She’s really been able to advance herself into the ranks of the elite with her attention to detail. Nobody prepares more for the event.

9:35pm: Jon: “Schwarmerei”, is that some sort of Jewish samurai?

9:35pm: Jon: YES, she sees the time. Don’t rush her, clock lady.

9:36pm: Greg: We might be over before 10!

9:36pm: Sean: Snigdha has a chance to achieve glory here. One word for the game.

9:36pm: Jon: She’s got her eyes on the prize.

9:37pm: Greg: Prediction. This isn’t ending now.

9:37pm: Sean: The pressure she is under must be enormous. Will she be Pujols or Lidge?

9:38pm: Greg: Wow, that was anticlimactic. I need passing out. Sage Steele needs to take a class with Jim Nantz.

9:38pm: Jon: ‘Guetapans’. She knew it all along. With that slight smile right around the ‘p’.

9:38pm: Sean: A true Joe Buck effort from the broadcast team. Even as we followed along with the spelling and saw it was right, there was a moment where I wondered if she actually won.

9:39pm: Sean: And then they almost interview the wrong girl!

9:39pm Greg: NOOOOOOO. OK was that racist?

9:39pm: Jon: Wow she can’t even tell one Indian girl from another. A near Chris “All Y’all Look Alike” Tucker moment from Samantha Steele.

9:40pm: Jon: I KNEW she knew it.

9:41pm: Greg: I am blown away by the cheapness of networks these days. FOX already uses the baseball music for NFL games. Now ESPN uses their NBA music for the Spelling Bee. Are we running out of generic tunes? Anybody looking for a job?

9:42pm: Sean: The old National Hockey Night theme was available. Huge missed opportunity for The Worldwide Leader.

9:43pm: Jon: The only word I got right before they showed it was ‘rouille’ and that’s because I thought it’d be like ratatouille. That was a fairly anticlimactic finish. I guess they can’t all be nail-biters.

9:48pm: Sean: The late rounds proved to be every bit as challenging as ever. All the talk about offense on the rise this season… I think what we saw tonight tells us that defense still wins championships.

9:49pm: Jon: Snigdha went first in the final rounds, you have to think that’s a disadvantage, and yet she still came out victorious.

9:50pm: Sean: Disadvantage? Not at all. The elite savor the opportunity to put the pressure on the opponent early and often. Snigdha really found a rhythm in the second half and made shot after shot after shot. Relentless, really, and one of the all-time great performances.

Ed note: Josh was having problems with his internet, and so he decided to (self-admittedly) add his drunken ramblings to the end and told me to integrate them at my whim. Well, I think his thoughts act as a pretty good epilogue for this Live Blog so I’m just going to keep his stray thoughts together for the end of this post.

10:35pm: Josh: I watched the last hour on silent whilst fucking with a new computer, only to find out that I was just dealing with the shittiest wireless card in man’s last 5 years. And drinking a pitcher by myself-so account for that while editing. That said, my brain said:

I’m pretty sure the “arm-around” girl was not nearly so attractive in my day or round exit. Also, where has ESPN been hiding this fresher, fuller Erin Andrews clone?

A sketch for every child in the last few peoples is just the most Disney-ESPN thing ever. I’d rant about it more, but I have work to do. Dr. Jacques looked absolutely mortified after he appeared, and all the families just look confused.

When my version of Baseketball goes big enough for ESPN to buy in, the league/competition/whatever keeps the right to name announcers, video production crews, and definitely monolgue producers.

AC, given its perilous financial situation, should really look into getting broke 20somethings into spelling bees. Hell, anything bees. Put up a prize, and they’ll obsessively compete, and ESPN can cover it. They’ll all wear decidedly non-cute backwards baseball caps, as opposed to the little tophat flip Astaire routine one of those Indian girls did.

(I really don’t want to know the contents on the voiceovers).

I didn’t realize no homeschooler had won it since George what’s his name-in ‘01. He was there my year-his family had someone in it like 12 straight years.

The homeschooler that won my year was named Sean, (he was white(!)), his e-mail was like Mac Geek something, and the two 8th grade girls there (and maybe a freshman-sister ringer) who knew how to rock a haltertop and could shake it about blew his brilliant head up the night he won.