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Why was the Scripps Spelling Bee on ESPN?
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Why was the Scripps Spelling Bee on ESPN?

On Thursday morning - as I was exasperatingly changing channels to, well, anything that wasn't over-promoting the LeBron James hype (impossible) - I stumbled across the semifinals of the 80th Scripps National Spelling Bee on ESPN. And later that same day I briefly watched the final round on ABC, followed by some of the highlights aired on ESPN, which featured the winner, 13-year-old Evan O' Dorney.

The annual competition is a two-day event in Washington, the first day including the preliminaries and quarterfinals, while the second showcases the semifinals and championship round.

Now, I realize ABC and ESPN are under the same network owned by The Walt Disney Company, which was why the competition was airing on separate channels. But when I read the ticker showing who won the championship at the bottom of the screen on ESPN, I couldn't help but ask myself: is the Scripps National Spelling Bee a sport? And if not, then why is it being sandwiched in between Major League Baseball scores at the bottom portion of my television?

For the rest of the week, all that was on my mind was that nagging question. In fact, it bothered me so much that I began randomly asking some of my co-workers what they thought about it. Then I started asking people in my neighborhood and at the gym how they felt about it. And although I did not "officially" keep track of the poll, I know that the majority agreed that it was not a sport - mainly because when the term "sports" comes to mind, people generally associate with football, baseball or basketball.

But that wasn't enough to appease my curiosity. So, I continued to pursue this seemingly relentless quest to find out whether or not standing up on a stage before millions watching and spelling words such as rhodochrosite, furfuraceous, trypanosomiasis, including the winning word - serrefine - qualified as being an actual sport.

The official definition of a sport is "the activity that is governed by a set of rules and often engaged in competitively," according to Merriam-Webster and Wikipedia. The term is also used to include activities such as mind sports, where mental acuity is a major factor. The word "sport" is also used as entertainment for the player and the viewer, and has been proven by experiments that daily exercise increases mental strength and the power to study.

Before reading that, I was a bit skeptical; however, after I read the official definition and gave it some more thought, it was a no-brainer - the spelling bee is a sport.

I truly admire these young scholars and their vast, endless knowledge of spelling words I have never heard of - nor will probably ever use, much less spell correctly. Some of these contestants are just born with exceptional intelligence, while others have worked very hard for many years to make it all the way to Washington for a shot at their one shining moment, even though it's on a soundstage rather than a court or grass.

Granted, the spelling bee doesn't attract the millions of dollars a major sport would, nor does it come close to drawing the ratings the Super Bowl obtains. Even still, the spelling bee is an opportunity to promote education for boys and girls to the average viewer while doing so in a fun and entertaining way for all ages. In fact, the Scripps National Spelling Bee is the nation's largest and longest-running educational program.

For those non-believers out there, the Scripps National Spelling Bee is proof that you don't have to be the next Michael Jordan or Tiger Woods to be an athlete - the m-i-n-d is your greatest muscle.