Who will win? We handicap the spellers
Updated: May 31, 2006, 6:38 PM ETBy Darren Rovell | ESPN.com
The National Spelling Bee has gone prime time, and we all know what that means: Sports books are now taking bets on particular letters in the championship word and whether the winner will be wearing glasses. Folks, this is not a joke anymore.With that in mind, here are my top eight picks in this year's competition, all of whom survived Wednesday's early rounds. 1. Samir Sudhir Patel, Colleyville, Texas: This kid is amazing. It's his fourth appearance in the event and, to put it simply, he has the best credentials. As a 9-year-old in 2004, he finished third; and last year, he tied for second. He's also the most entertaining speller I've ever seen. He'll say things like "I know that one," or "Thanks, mom!" His nerves of steel should get him through the pressure of being on in prime time. Here are a few additional bits of research to support Patel's bid: (1) Boys have taken the last six spelling bees after the girls won from 1996-1999; (2) Five of the past seven champions have been of Indian descent; (3) Texas has had more winning spellers (nine) than any other state. Spelling Bee officials clearly acknowledged Patel's marketability on Wednesday afternoon by halting Round 4 just before his turn came up, meaning he can lead the ESPN broadcast on Thursday. 2. Bonny Jain, Moline, Ill.: Jain might be the most brilliant child in America today. Last week, he won the National Geographic Geography Bee by identifying the mountain range that stretches across Wales from the Irish Sea to the Bristol Channel (the Cambrian Mountains). This is his third year in the National Spelling Bee, and we're confident that he's upset enough at his 28th place finish last year to make a run this time around.
Think it's easy to stand up in front of millions of prime-time viewers and spell 'c-a-t'? Well, maybe. But how 'bout 'e-u-o-n-y-m'? Check out ESPN.com's look at this year's competition.
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