Trust the Gene Genie

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Of bees and zeds

Well, it's been a lonely walk through the wilderness, but I'm back. Washington, D.C. as always was a blast and the bee was pretty insane.

I'm a little disappointed as a matter of fact. I was kind of hoping to blog a little bit during Bee Week just because you see such insane stuff going on. But the days were busy and my Internet connection was about as reliable as a Ryan Jensen. Which is to say, not very.

So I'll give you the cliff notes version before I hit the sack. As it's been widely reported, ABC Sports broadcast the event for the first time in prime time. ESPN has carried the event for the past 12 years, but the 2006 bee was the first to be beamed on network TV.

In years past, the only time you'd see the TV cameras -- and even most of the reporters -- was during the actual days of competition, Wednesday and Thursday. But with ABC involved, cameras were every where, all the time. It was pretty crazy. And, believe it or not, the bee kids ate it up. I don't know if it's because they're starved for attention or feel a crushing desire to prove to the world they're normal just like everyone else. But the spellers played to the camera every chance they got, whether it was studying in the lobby of the Grand Hyatt or mugging for the cameras at the barbecue. They were all over it.

In fact, the cameras caught me a couple of times. At the barbecue, I was eating with Maheen's brother when the ABC camera man shows up and starts filming the two of us eating. We make a couple jokes to ourselves about it being bad enough to have people watch you eat, but to have a camera in your face, too? Anyway, I figured why not mock this guy in my own little way. You know, let him know I'm not dying for the attention. So I turned, looked into the camera and then picked my nose. And I mean I just started digging like I was going to find gold if I tried hard enough. I don't think Ahmad saw and I certainly didn't get a reaction from the camera man. Needless to say, it didn't make the barbecue montage ABC put together later that week. I probably screwed Ahamd's chances of getting on national TV.

And a word about the spellers themselves. They're a fun bunch. I would say a good two-thirds are your stereotypical spelling bee contestants. Just straight up, unabashed nerds. They revel in their geekiness and when they all get together, it's like they form some kind of hive. The core group of these kids are a collection of about 20 who keep in touch online during the off-season to help each other study and prepare for the next bee. The same groups spends the majority of bee week in the hotel lobby sitting on the couches and chairs, simulating the spelling bee. The alpha male of the group controls the computer and reads the words which the other kids then have to spell. They get knocked out when they misspell -- just like in the real thing -- and sometimes they even ridicule eachother. It's pretty funny. They're like 11, 12, 13 and 14 years old and they all act like they have the weight of the world on their shoulders.

And the lobby of the Grand Hyatt is about as wide open as lobbies get. It's open all the way to the glass-windowed ceiling with twelve floors of rooms on either side looking down. Everyone who walks in, checks out or heads to the ballrooms sees these kids sitting and studying. So, I was a little surprised, but equally entertained, by one speller -- a favorite who had already participated a couple years -- who sat studying most of Tuesday morning in his pajamas. But not pajamas like you'd think a teenager would wear -- this kids is 13, I believe. He had matching white pajamas decorated with little colored snowboarders. You know, like pajamas you see a 6- or 7-year-old wear. It kind of creeped me out after a while.

My favorite moment of speller geekdom, though, occurred when the Canadian speller -- the one who ended up taking second -- spelled a word that ended with the letter "z." Being from Canada, she of course said "zed" not "zee." All the little spellers sitting around me guffawed and snorted qas soon as they heard it, and said things like, "she did not just say 'zed'" or "I can't believe she said 'zed.'" It was classic.

So there's my week at a glance. I got to see H.L. and Randall, and H.L. and I even went out to lunch at this little dive across the street from the Department of Labor's building. It was pretty cool. Saw Mom and Dad off. They were actually going to stay with me Tuesday night (for some reason, each year the paper has booked me for the bee, they've stuck me in a room with two beds). But they ditched me at the last minute for the comforts of their almost empty apartment. It appears I'm not as cool as I used to be.

And on a final note, congrats to H.L., Steph (I'll get up to see you and Travis next year, I swear) and D, for winning a copy of The Rob Report's Perfect Songs Vol. 1. That's just exciting.


Steph said...

We'll take you up on the visit. If you let us know if you have a night free we would love to come in and see you!

My favorite part of your entry was the BBQ, sounds like classic Rob.

C said...

I think the spelling bee is a sweet deal, if you could just lose the kid you sponsor and their family for a day, you could have alot of fun.

diana said...

I'm so excited!!!! we just got the cd and it ROCKS!!! classic Rob. i love it. I've never won anything before!!!! oops, except for suite tickets to the Jazz game, that was pretty cool. but not as cool at the cd. by the way, i think 13 year olds wearing matching pjs is just wrong no matter what the print is

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