Thursday, February 09, 2006


Speaking of Crybabies, Holly points me to a CNN article that points up a serious problem in the American psyche.

A youngster was involved in a spelling bee. OK, I get that. Nerds gotta have their sports too. I was in marching band, and we competed. I also competed in some of the statewide music competitions (never well). I even somehow got talked into competing in the South Carolina Latin Olympics (this involved speaking a dead language, not high-jumping over J-Lo), at which I overcame the handicaps of severe apathy and a year and a half of chronic narcolepsy in Latin class (I made sleeping in class a spectator sport, which even earned me an unsolicited cheerleader phone number, which I didn't have the stones to use) to bring home the statewide championship in Latin Derivations.

So anyway, this kid is in a spelling bee at University of Nevada, Reno. She gets a word right, but the judge dings her, because refs suck, and make stupid calls. Seahawks, you know what I'm talkin' about. Unfortunately, there is no attempt made to challenge the call at the time. After the bee, the mom points out the mistake. The organizers appologize (or not, it doesn't say) but point out that there's nothing they can do, since protests must be lodged immediately, not after the conclusion of the bee.

So far, there's nothing for America to be ashamed of here. Nerds are an important part of our culture, and nothing forges a nerd's rejection of society like the humiliation of being forced to compete in a spelling bee.

The mother requested a spell off, to at least allow her daughter the opportunity to qualify for the state bee, and possibly for scholarships. Well, it's a little pushy, but I'll allow it, I mean, the young'n did get the short end of the stick, and there's no harm in asking.

The organizers turn her down. The bee's over, and it's just too late to correct the mistake. Here's where things go off the rails. The mother is now threatening to sue. There's no harm in asking, but there's harm in suing. She describes herself as "a mother bear with her claws out."

Bears get shot for that sort of shit.

In competitions of all kinds, judges/refs/umps/whathaveyou make mistakes. In most circumstances there are explicit rules governing the protest of such mistakes. They are, nonetheless, a part of the sport/game/bee/competition. Just because life has dealt your child a bad call, you do not have the right to go on a rampage about it.

Mrs. Beckman (appologies if that's not your last name, no news story on the subject confirmed this one way or the other), the judge made a mistake. Judges do so, and to expect otherwise is ridiculous. They're not focused on your kid, they're trying to make sure the whole thing runs smoothly. No easy task with a group of bright, often socially awkward, universally nervous tweens dealing with all their fears of public speaking and competitive pressure. You, on the other hand, were watching your child with the focus of her mom. To you, she was the most important thing in the world, and all the other kids were just other kids. She had your focus, but you didn't go ask the judge to review his call. He made one mistake out of hundreds. You made one mistake out of one.

If you take this to court, I guarantee that the school district will spend more money defending itself than your child stands to gain from any scholarship she might win. Little Sara, had the call gone her way, still had to go on to win this podunk local Nevada tourney. Then she had to win state, or at least show, to get a decent chance at any scholarship. And most of those scholarships are going to be modest. We're not talking about a full-ride to Oxford or Harvard here. Probably not even full tuition to an in-state school. I'd be astonished if anyone gave a scholarship over $10k for anything but winning the national spelling bee. But defending a lawsuit could easily cost the local schoolboard 5X that amount.

So you'd be willing to intentionally throw away $50,000 of school funding from your own school district to get your kid a longshot chance at a spelling bee scholarship? And that's assuming you even WIN the case. A judge would have to be an idiot to allow it to go forward. You CLEARLY had a chance to protest the call when it was made, and didn't bother to do so. The tournament officials made a mistake, but you did not make a good-faith effort to protest at the appropriate time.

Raising a kid is hard, but this attitude of "Anything I do for my kid is OK, because I'm a parent, and we should revere parents and children are our most precious resources" crap is getting out of hand. People, your kids are a resource. Like coal, only more likely to commit crime. We don't sacrifice everyone else's coal just because you weren't watching out for your coal. Get over yourselves.


S E L F hyphen A B S O R B E D

self absorbed

What would Randy and Jason say? Dunno, but it'd probably be funny.


SerenitySprings said...

Sure the mom should've said something sooner, but she didn't. For whatever reason, she just didn't. But that doesn't mean the kid shouldn't be given a proper chance to prove whether or not she's the best. Maybe they should've started over from that point as soon as they realized the mistake they made.

While I agree that suing is a stupid move on the mom's part, I still think the kid should've been given a proper chance.

lunchstealer said...

Sports analogies in spelling bees are always a bad idea, but bad idea shares two of the same letters as my middle name!

Scholarships are decided based on spelling bees. But they are also awarded to athletes. So suppose a high-school football player gets ruled out of bounds on a touchdown catch in the playoffs. They lose the game because of it, and won't go to the state championship.

Somebody has a camcorder, and after the game is over, goes to the ref and says shows footage where the reciever clearly got a foot down inbounds, meaning his catch should have been good, and they should've gotten the touchdown.

Should the ref wind the clock back to the time of the missed call and start the game over? No. Bad calls are a part of any competition. They do their best to minimize them, but that's just the way it is.

Among other things, there are logistical concerns. Whatever venue was hosting the tournament will have staff on hand, such as lighting, sound, etc. To run the event longer may mean that they have to go on overtime, especially if there are union rules. I don't think the organizers of a regional (not state, mind you, regional) spelling bee should have to go to great expense and trouble over one honest mistake.