ESPN calls itself the leader in national sports coverage, but I didn't see a minute of today's first round of the Scripps National Spelling Bee on TV today. I had to catch up on the progress of our local contestants, Samir Patel and Amy Chyao, through their respective sponsoring papers (the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and Dallas Morning News, respectively). The S-T has a lot more to gush about, of course, as they lay claim to the "favorite" of this year's contest; Patel is competing in his fourth-ever Bee, having finished third, fifth and second in previous competitions (shouldn't he get a "speller of the decade" award for consistency, at least?), but both he and Chyao got through today's non-televised deathmatch just fine. As those newspapers report, the hometown spellers passed the early written test, and then Patel made mincemeant of "adiaphorism," while Chyao laid the smackdown on "canaille." Good to know that a local sports representative can get by without choking today.
Tomorrow, ESPN will air early coverage from 12-2 p.m. CST; ABC will air the finals that night from 7-9, which makes this years' Scripps competition the first-ever on network television. I might even skip watching the Mavs' semifinal game tomorrow so I can root for the spelling home team. Yes, the little Mavs need our support, but the Scripps' Finals are truly compelling television...at the very least, check in during commercials. Or just visit this link for up-to-date coverage of the rest of today's rounds. Round four's been a doozy so far... --Sam Machkovech