Killer Bee ... Winners

(CBS/AP)
It's a proven scientific fact: Everybody remembers the words they got wrong in their childhood spelling bees. (Who put that first 'r' in 'February?' Some help here? And what sort of hepped-up phonics explains 'circuit?')

We have long memories for spelling mistakes, but the media has some terrifying amnesia when it comes to spelling bee winners. Why does the broadcast media forget each and every year how painful it is to watch spelling bee winners when they're not, you know, in their natural library habitat?

Think about this concoction. You take an adolescent (awkward by their very nature), who is extremely bookish (awkward) and frequently homeschooled (less wise to the ways of social interaction in many cases) – and you expect them to gab away like Bill Murray on Letterman? Not gonna happen. It's more like watching "Rain Man – The Early Years."

Every year's 'up close and personal' interviews are cringe-and-wince fests, but this year's winner was perhaps the most amazing in years. The gangly and overly gesticulative Evan O'Dorney took to the airwaves this morning in a frenzy of accidental comedy.

He yawned. For long periods. On both CNN and CBS News' "Early Show." He laughed at, and not with, the hosts. He juggled while spelling 'radicchio.' And he tried to explain his routine – "I wouldn't call it a superstition," he corrected ABC's Robin Roberts – of eating a tuna sandwich as a pre-game meal.

We watch these interviews the same way we watch auto racing -- it's just we're waiting for a conversational crash instead of, you know, an actual one. And then we rubberneck away at the carnage. Check out his interview with CNN's Kiran Chetry this morning. (That's not a request. That's an order. It's the most addictive thing you'll watch all week.) He started out by correcting her pronunciation of his name, then segued into his preference for homeschooling. When asked what his mother said when he won, O'Dorney said, after a long pause, "ask my mother." And lastly, in the most painful minute of television I've seen in months – not including my Wizards in the playoffs – he repeatedly criticized Chetry for her inability to pronounce correctly the word (scombridae) she wanted him to spell. And seriously, Kiran, what's the language of origin? Tell me! TELL ME!

These annual interviews are at times amusing, at times uncomfortable, and at times bordering on a bizarre instance of picking on the smart kid. If my kid had just won The Big Bee and I were approached for an interview, I'd offer up a very easy word in response: P-A-S-S.
  • Matthew Felling

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