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Image courtesy of Scripps National Spelling Bee

Today is the national Scripps Spelling Bee 2011 final. It is going to be televised live at 8:30 pm Eastern time. I love the fact this is a event shown on ESPN! I am happy to acknowledge my nerdiness and admit that I love watching kids trying to spell difficult words – I know neither the meaning nor the spelling of 99.99% of these words. Yet, only part of my fascination is with the words themselves – I love the way each of the kids handle their moment in the spotlight; I enjoy seeing their reactions; and, I admire their willingness to step out and face the firing squad, so to speak. The personalities keep me coming back.

This is true for others sports too. I am a sports fan but for me the score and the intensity of a game are only part of the picture. The people playing the game are what hold my attention. Maybe this is typical of female sports fans, but I don’t want to make general claims for my gender. I enjoy watching sports when I know more about the players. I appreciate those players who seem to have well-balanced lives and I do find it hard to cheer professional athletes who make poor life choices. I cannot compartmentalize and see someone as a great ball player if he seems like a poor excuse for a human being in his other life! I digress. Back to the Spelling Bee.

I read an interesting blog about why we should encourage our children to watch the final of the Spelling Bee 2011. One of the reasons that the blogger, Madeline Holler, offers is that it is a one-of-a-kind event where boys and girls compete on the same stage. Here is a sport where there is no boys and girls team. Isn’t that something? When everything in our culture seems oriented to think in terms of girls or boys, rather than girls and boys this is an interesting model. I think it has bigger implications too because as long as we continue to emphasize differences, equal pay for equal work will continue to be a topic we have to discuss and debate. It is good to find commonalities emphasized because, ultimately, we are all on the same playing field.

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