10 Reasons to Watch the 84th Scripps-Howard National Spelling Bee

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The annual competition is a celebration of intelligence, the American spirit, and juvenile meltdowns

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Molly Riley/Reuters


The finals of the 84th Scripps-Howard National Spelling Bee air tonight, live on ESPN. Just in case you weren't planning to watch, here are ten reasons you should.

10. Watching a spelling bee is good research for hustling Scrabble.

9. In a culture where people get rich and famous for making a sex tape, it's a refreshing change to see an event that celebrates intelligence.

8. The kids. That is, the contestants. Being children, they are virtually always cute, and occasionally adorable.

7. Whenever a contestant asks for a word's definition and/or its language of origin, viewers are taken on a glorious journey through the history of American English, from its origins in Sanskrit, Hebrew, Greek, and Latin, to its adoption of words from Inca, Swahili, and Cherokee.

6. Any child who is in school, and between the ages of eight and 13, can enter and win the competition, and so it exemplifies the best of the American meritocratic ideal.

5. Nostalgia. Unless you were home-schooled, you've been in a spelling bee, and your palms can get sweaty just watching.

4. Because it's a slightly guilty pleasure. A bit like watching a "tweener" beauty pageant, there's a cheap little thrill in feeling superior to the insanely nervous parents in the spelling bee audience.

3: As films including Bee Season, Akeelah and the Bee, and the Oscar-nominated documentary Spellbound demonstrate, spelling bees are the key to creating a glorious new American pluralism, where children of every race, gender, class, color and creed will live together in a spirit of peace and harmony. Forever and ever. Amen.

2. The contestants will, on occasion, COMPLETELY FREAK OUT!!!!

And the number one reason to watch the finals of the Scripps-Howard Spelling Bee tonight? At least you won't have to see the Heat crush Dallas over on ABC.

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Hampton Stevens is a writer based in Kansas City, Missouri. His work has appeared in The Atlantic, ESPN the Magazine, Playboy, Gawker, Maxim, and many more publications.

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