Mark Clark: If it is not sports, keep it off ESPN

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Okay, I do know that ESPN stands for Entertainment and Sports Programming Network. But, folks, if it is not sports, it does not belong on ESPN. Period!

Last week, ESPN aired the finals of the 2019 Scripps National Spelling Bee. A spelling bee? Give me a break. A spelling bee is not sports – and if you ask me, it is not entertainment either.

Now, do not get me wrong. The kids are competing for a very worthwhile title of being the best speller in the country – perhaps even the best in the world. But, it does not belong on ESPN.




When I think of the “Entertainment” part of ESPN, I think of 30-30, SportsCenter, First Take, Outside the Lines, High Noon, NBA: The Jump, Questionable, Around the Horn, Baseball Tonight, Get Up!, NCAA Baseball and other programs of this nature. A spelling bee just does not belong among this program lineup. A spelling bee should be aired on PBS – the Public Broadcasting System.

And then when it was over – the spelling bee – there was no clear winner in the group. There were eight youngsters remaining who had not misspelled a single word. So, what does the Scripps National Spelling Bee Committee do? They declare all eight of the youngsters as the co-champion. They each got a trophy and $50,000.

No one wants co-champions. We want a single champion. Should we even have playoffs in sports anymore? In this day of everyone gets a trophy for participating, should we declare every team or individual who participated in a sport as the co-champions? You want to talk about March Madness? Just how mad would you be to be one of 66 co-champions or is it 67 or 68?

Why did Alabama and Georgia waste time with an overtime period in the National Championship football game two years ago? Heck, they could have been co-champions. Rings for everyone!




Again, in the interest of fairness, I doubt a single player on either of those football teams could come close to winning the Scripps Spelling Bee. Tell me the name of one player who could spell the name of the photodynamic South-African sheep disease Geeldikkop? How about the navel-gazing hesychastic prayer Omphalopsychite? I know I could not spell them without reading each letter from the dictionary.

Speaking of the dictionary, these eight youngsters owned the dictionary. They spelled words I have never even heard of. They spelled words that I could not even pretend to be able to pronounce correctly.

When the spelling bee began, there were 562 participants. None of the competitors was over 15 years old. By last Thursday, there were eight participants remaining. They were so good at what they were doing that Dr. Jacques Bailly, the official pronouncer of the Scripps Spelling Bee, declared to the final eight: “We’re throwing the dictionary at you and so far, you are showing the dictionary who is boss.” Yes, they were showing the dictionary who is the boss – all eight of them.

The final words spelled by each of the eight youngsters were auslaut, erysipelas, bougainvillea, aiguillette, pendeloque, palma and cernuous. Which ones could you have spelled? Me? I could have spelled exactly none of them. I do not even know what they mean. Do you?




Auslaut is the final sound in a word or syllable.

Erysiplas is an acute febrile disease associated with intense edematous local inflammation of the skin and subcutaneous tissues caused by hemolytic streptococcus.

Bougainvillea is any of a genus (Bougainvillaea) of the four-o’clock family of ornamental tropical American woody vines and shrubs with brilliant purple or red floral bracts.

Aiguillette is a shoulder cord worn by designated military aides.

Pendeloque is a diamond or other gemstone cut in the form of a pear-shaped brilliant with a table.

Palma is a commune and also a Spanish seaport in and the capital of the Balearic Islands, on West Majorca.

Cernuous is drooping, as a flower, nodding.




I will give you that these youngsters – the ones that tied for the Scripps Spelling Bee title – are quite talented when it comes to words. I bet a lot of football players would be confused if one of them was a quarterback and spouted out some of these words before taking the ball from the center. But, I do not expect that they could handle a shot to the solarplexus. They might be able to spell it, but they could not withstand the pain involved with the hit.

I will not say a spelling bee is not a competition. I will not say the youngsters are not among the smartest kids on earth. They are those things. But a spelling bee is not a sport, nor the entertainment I expect to see on ESPN. Now, what is a syzygy?

Mark Clark is a local sports writer for 

The Citizen of East Alabama.