Spellczechs (and others)

The stories behind hard-to-spell athlete names

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In the beginning, there was . . . Tim Biakabutuka?

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I’ve always been a bit of an eclectic, nerdy geek.  My idea of fun in grammar school was to add numbers in my head faster than the teacher could do it on the chalkboard. My mother taught me to play Scrabble at an early age, and some 35 years later, I spend most of my vacation time playing in Scrabble tournaments around the country and studying word lists (no definitions please).  I’m the type of person who never met a pun she didn’t like, and takes pride in being able to recite the powers of 2 beyond any customary need (2 to the 22nd is 4,194,304 for those of you curious).

Sports has always been a big part of my life.  My dad was a Yankee fan, and so I became one, even if we DID live a mere 10-minute train ride from Shea.  I’ve blogged about sports, played softball and basketball, participated in fantasy leagues, and spent entirely too much time watching Joe Morgan opine on baseball.

I have a good friend named Jeremy. We met through Scrabble, and found that we had a mutual love of baseball.  We came up with our own variation of Scrabble, in which the last names of baseball players would be acceptable, and if challenged by your opponent, you would have to state the player’s first name, with Baseball-Reference.com the final judge.  CALZONE doesn’t fit on the board?  Well then, how about one-time Brewers slugger Sixto LEZCANO?

A few weeks ago, Jeremy showed me a newspaper ad for an all-sports spelling bee to be held on June 3rd at the ESPN Zone in Manhattan.  Now, I enjoy watching the kids apply their supple, still spongy brains towards the Scripps National Spelling Bee. But, the last spelling bee I took part in came back at P.S.152 in Queens, and nowadays my synapses aren’t firing quite as frequently.

Still, the thought of a sports-centric bee was intriguing.  No need to remember the proper spelling of laodicean, a word I’ve never had a need to use, nor seen in anything I’ve read.  I could limit it to “words” like “Yastrzemski” and “Krzyzewski”, people/words I’m still reading/using today.  There probably couldn’t be that many sport-related spelling savants . . . I couldn’t conceive that I’d be competing against a bunch of word nerds still living in their parent’s basement not able to go out and play until they nail the correct spelling of the entire South African team World Cup roster.

So, when Jeremy suggested we apply for this contest, I said “sure … why not!”  I didn’t know if we were going to be selected, since they were limiting the competition to about 50 spellers and I was sure the New York metro area could muster up 50 brave souls to do just about anything.  I also didn’t know when we would hear from them if we were selected.  So, I kind of put the Bee out of my mind.

Flash forward to Tuesday, June 1st. I receive the following e-mail:

Dear Contestant,

Congratulations!   You’ve been selected to participate in ESPN Zone’s 3rd Annual Sports Spelling Bee.  The Spelling Bee will take place at ESPN Zone in Times Square on Thursday, June 3rd at 7:00pm.  ESPN Zone is located at 1472 Broadway on the corner of 42nd Street.  Contestants must check in at the registration table on the Mezzanine Level between 6:00pm and 6:30pm.  Contestants who arrive after 6:30pm may be disqualified.  You will need a valid picture ID as you must be 18 years of age or older to participate.

You will be asked to spell the names of sports figures (coaches, players, broadcasters, etc), alive or deceased. We may ask you to spell either the first name OR last name so you should be prepared for either.

You are encouraged to bring along your own cheering section.  Seating will be available on a first come, first served basis.  Please note, there will be food and beverage minimums of $10 per person per hour to be seated at a table in the Screening Room (2nd floor), where the event will take place.  Standing room may also be available at the Screening Room Bar for spectators.

Please send an email to Susan.Abramson@disney.com confirming you received this email and still plan to participate in ESPN Zone’s Sports Spelling Bee.

Thank you and G-O-O-D L-U-C-K!

ESPN Zone New York

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Written by dianagram

July 15, 2010 at 3:45 am

Posted in Uncategorized