Posted by: Opey | June 1, 2007

Can You Spell “Lame”? E-S-P-N *Ding*

Ah, something has finally really caught my ire. As I was at work, listening to ESPN radio as I often do to get a leg up on the world in terms of sports news, I overheard a segment on “Mike & Mike in the Morning” where they said they would be covering the National Spelling Bee. I thought, ‘Maybe this is just a set up for some joke or satire.’ But then as the radio programs changed, every single host led their programs with news about ESPN’s coverage of the competition. WHAT? OK, I initially had a similar reaction when ESPN began covering poker, but that seemed to have enough steam to continue on into subsequent years, even though I still think it doesn’t belong on a “sports channel.” I even got into watching darts of FSN and ESPN, for the short time those channels aired that “sport.” Spelling, now that has crossed some line in the sand. I decided to check it out to see what the coverage was all about. As I turned the madness on, I was greeted by Mike & Mike, one of which who fits in with the spelling crowd, and one that doesn’t. As I agonized over the commentary (Really, how much can you talk about spelling?) they then turned it over to Stuart Scott for some sideline reporting. Can you spell Booyah? In my opinion, many of these kids are maladjusted enough as it is by their parents actions. They are often home schooled or heavily drilled in the spelling arts. Now, we stick them in front of not only cameras, which has been done before, but now we have analysts and sideline reporters scrutinizing their actions. And in typical fashion, ESPN has to maximize the drama coverage. The odds on favorite to win the event at the beginning of the competition, Samir Patel, faced an early exit. He then appealed his elimination.  Of course this was breaking news on ESPN and ESPN radio.  ESPN has to learn to come up with some original analysis or programming to fill these spots taken up by poker, spelling, fishing, etc.  These are not sports.  At best they are competitions, and worst, luck of the draw games.  In the case of the Spelling Bee, there is the added factor that the competitors are young children.  The boy who won, Evan O’Dorney of Danville, California, was quoted as saying, “My favorite things to do were math and music, and with the math I really like the way the numbers fit together,” he said. “And with the music I like to let out ideas by composing notes — and the spelling is just a bunch of memorization.”  Many of these kids probably don’t even want to do this type of thing, but their parents pressure them and then stick them under the lights and put them in front of a microphone for the world to see.  Let kids be kids.  Enough with the high levels of pressure we put on kids today.  It’s simple: Let kids to kids things and leave them alone when they do it.  Along similar lines: ESPN, the sports network, should stick with sports, preferably ones that most people watch.

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