This year's just-completed bee took place on May 30 and 31. As a lifelong fan of the event since I tried to qualify for it in 1967 and 1968, I followed Wednesday's "action" on the National Spelling Bee website and ESPN and ABC's welcomed television coverage on Thursday.
The young spellers have always inspired me with their poise and courage, but in the glare of primetime network TV, the amaze me. This year's kids shone throughout both the afternoon and evening sessions. In the afternoon, one girl dealt with the judge's mishearing her correct spelling of burelage and an agonizing 10-minute delay while they determined that, yes, she had spelled the word correctly. She finished tied for 8th place on the German-derived word urgrund after adding an extra "t" at the end.
From the afternoon round I learned how to pronounce retiarius (the "ti" takes on almost a "cee" sound). I've known and played retiarii (the plural) in Scrabble since I learned it at the National Scrabble Championship in 2002. Watching the National Spelling Bee doesn't help my Scrabble game much (most of the words are too obscure even for the Scrabble dictionary, or just too long for the board), but it does give me hope for the future knowing that these dedicated, talented and poised children will lead American society (or wherever--competitors from English-speaking countries around the world participated) when I'm old(er) and an even worse speller (relatively speaking) than I am now.