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Is Spelling a S-P-O-R-T?

by Craig Edwards

Posted on May 29, 2008 at 6:04 PM

Updated Wednesday, Nov 4 at 2:41 PM

By Craig Edwards

A TV newsroom sees tons and tons of information come through every day. We get all sorts of mail, faxes, and e-mails. We also have to sift through wire stories and advisories from the network.

One such advisory caught my eye today. It was ESPN's Restrictions for using footage from this week's Scripps National Spelling Bee. The sports network paid for the exclusive rights to televise the event "throughout the universe" and is restricting the use of its video by other broadcasters.

Such restrictions are common, and just. Networks pay millions, sometimes billions, for the right to air big events. They should be able to maintain some level of exclusivity.

But this advisory did bring up one question... What on Earth is a sports network doing showing a spelling bee?

Or better... Should a sports network be showing a spelling bee?

My answer may surprise you. I'm going to say yes.

No, Spelling Bees are not a sport. But neither is poker, and that shows up on sports networks all the time (as do dominos and darts).

And sure, many of the kids participating don't have an athletic bone in their bodies.

But at their heart, Spelling Bees are competitions, much like sports. They also make for surprisingly compelling drama, just like Poker.

While they aren't sports, they are definitely cousins in the competition family, and deserve the occasional showcase on TV. Most of us see our cousins at least once a year, whether it be a holiday or a family reunion.

Besides, isn't it cool that somebody actually gets celebrated for being smart?