Spelling Bees and Holzhauer, compelling TV

June 6, 2019

Mike Wilcox Editor/Publisher

Thanks to ESPN, spelling bees are making a comeback. Way back when, I can remember them being one of the most important events of the school year. Elementary students, including myself studied long and hard at the opportunity to be a part of, and win, a spelling bee.

This year’s version of the Scripps National Spelling Bee ended in a tie. This was no ordinary tie where two contestants fought to a draw. No this year’s event that was broadcast on national television a week ago, was called after eight finalists would not misspell a word. Those in charge determined they had run out of words or the Bee has lasted far too long, or both, and declared all eight winners.

Although I wasn’t a fan of eight students sharing the top price, Scripps was very generous in giving each the winner’s take- $50,000. As an elementary student I couldn’t imagine winning that much money. Back in the day when I was winning spelling bees, we received a Webster’s dictionary. I won three with my name inscribed on the cover. Where they are now I how no clue, but you can bet, if it were $50,000 I would have kept a close eye on its whereabouts.

The fact that ESPN has enough of an audience to broadcast the competition year after year is interesting. Much like the 4th of July, Nathan’s hot dog eating competition that ESPN also broadcasts, the National Spelling Bee, is must watch TV for me. There’s something about these youngsters on the big stage spelling words I wasn’t even aware existed that is greatly entertaining to me.

I equate the spelling bee with a similar TV show, Jeopardy. You got to train hard and be super smart to earn a ticket to the Scripps Spelling Bee. The same with a quiz show like Jeopardy.

And of course I was sitting in my easy chair Monday night, when it was expected James Holzhauer would notch the title of all time earnings winner on Jeopardy. He needed only $60,000 Monday night to overtake Jeopardy icon, Ken Jennings.

He was matched up against two well-versed contestants. Only one question was missed the entire game, as Holzhauer battled wits with Emma Boettcher, a Chicago librarian and a third constestant, from Atlanta. Despite Boettcher winning three out of four of the daily doubles, and betting all in, I still expected Holzhauer to come out on top.

It wasn’t to be however. Boettcher bested everyone’s favorite game show contestant, beating Holzhauer to the buzzer on numerous occasions, and always answering the question right, thus stopping the Las Vegas sports gambler’s bid to overtake Jennings.

Like the spelling bee, it was compelling television. Heck it has been for the last couple of months as Holzhauer steamrolled contestant after contestant until Monday night. Like the eight spelling bee winners, I didn’t think Holzhauer would ever lose. He didn’t seem to have a weakness and was very fast at buzzing in the answer. However, Boettcher was better on Monday night and she had the luck that was usually with James, as she found the daily doubles and unlike others, was Holzhauer like, in “going all in” to double her money.

With the spelling bee over and eight declared winners and Holzhauer’s Jeopardy reign finished, I now will turn my attention to the hot dog eating contest. Oddly enough I also find this compelling and entertaining television as Joey Chestnut will attempt to best his own record of eating 74 hot dogs in 10 minutes- a record he set on July 4th of last year. Holzhauer couldn’t match Jennings. Can Chestnut beat his own record? Tune in on the 4th.

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