Single page view By Dan Shanoff
Page 2

Ever wonder what your faithful Page 2 staff does during the afternoon, after we've put our page to bed (c'mon, it's a journalism term!) each day?

Sure, we usually take a quick break to grab a snack or a sandwich. But then it's back to the grind, slaving away so we can continue to bring you the most serious sports commentary on the Web.

But ... Tuesday afternoon, our task was even more serious than usual. At 2 p.m. ET, we held a top-secret meeting in Bristol, with a select few people joining us via conference call. Why, you ask?

MORE SPELLING BEE MADNESS
Here's Darren Rovell's guide to picking the Spelling Bee winner, and Sportoon's take on the competition.
To conduct our First Annual Spelling Bee Fantasy Draft.

That's right. Today marks the start of the 78th Annual Scripps National Spelling Bee – a true American treasure. And in the pioneering spirit of Page 2, we resolved to bring you the most innovative coverage.

Without Mel Kiper Jr. to guide us in the process, 10 Page 2 GMs each picked five spellers for their fantasy rosters, with the winning team to come from the best total performance. Each GM took a unique approach to the draft – utilizing factors such as "ex-bee-rience" and geography, along with martial arts knowledge, Lego robotics engineering skills and "Lord of the Rings" trivia knowledge.

Results from a "Bee Combine" – (for example: "40-Yard Dash To Escape the Bully") – would have been helpful, if one were actually held.

As it turns out, Alex Smith versus Aaron Rodgers has nothing on "public school" versus "homeschool," truly the fiercest debate on the bee circuit.

With that in mind, and as time on the clock wound down, I avoided Vikings-like draft infamy by making the first overall pick of the draft with just seconds to spare: Samir Sudhir Patel of the Patel Achievement Academy (Colleyville, Texas), which apparently combines the best of homeschooling and optimism.

My reasoning: "He finished third in his 2003 debut, then plummeted to 27th in 2004. He has the experience, but also understands where he went so very wrong last year."

When Eric Neel chose Chelsey Ann Bipat from The Bahamas, it was because – as he explained – "I want to be invited to the victory party there."

Neel clearly had studied up. His selection of another erudite speller came after a perusal of the biographies at spellingbee.com turned up this nugget (embellished only a little by Eric): "On his own, he conducted a research study of more than 6,000 dialects . . . before dinner."

As the draft progressed, questions emerged:

  • "Why do you think so many competitors have learned some form of martial arts? Is it discipline ... or self-preservation?"

  • "Wouldn't it be ironic if our national champion was the speller from New Zealand?"

  • "Do they trash talk by name or by number?"

    By the time the dust settled, 50 spellers had been drafted, with more than 200 others left as undrafted free agents.

    Here's a look at the draft rosters. Follow along, or find your own speller to root for. And remember to watch on Thursday (10 to noon, and 1 to 3:30 p.m., ET) as ESPN televises all the drama.

    Continued...


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