The surprisingly nice weather last week has taken my mind away from finals and has got me looking forward to the imminent days of summer. You know what that means, don't you? Three of my favorite annual television traditions are almost here.
First up is the famous competition that makes everyone watching feel like an incompetent waste of space: the Scripps National Spelling Bee. I can tell you that nothing even comes close to its ability to make you feel like a downright idiot. Do you have any idea what it's like to watch fifth- through eighth-graders, ranging from ages 9 to 14, easily spell words that I wouldn't have a chance at even with a dictionary in front of me?
Well, I guess I am a fan of suffering and torture, but I must admit that watching more than 250 brilliant young minds spell their way through almost 20 rounds of words that I didn't even know existed leaves me anxiously awaiting each and every syllable that leaves the judge's mouth.
Maybe the $28,000 prize for the winner or the nasty look the judge gives the contestant every time he or she asks for alternate pronunciations has an influence on my overwhelming interest, but I'd like to think that I enjoy it simply for the educational value. And come on, who doesn't think it's funny when a 14-year-old cries after misspelling "pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanokoniosis?" This year's contest is set to take place in Washington, D.C., the week after Memorial Day and, as usual, will be covered by ESPN to give a national audience the chance to feel like a dummy.
By now, you should feel stupid, but what better way to drown your feelings of worthlessness than with food? Hot dogs anyone?
The 93rd annual Nathan's Famous Fourth of July International Hot Dog Eating Contest will take place in Coney Island, Brooklyn, New York. You can watch it at noon on ESPN. "The Super Bowl of Competitive Eating," as it's called, is a competition where contestants devour as many wieners as they can in 12 minutes. Only the best eaters in the world qualify. That includes eaters such as Takeru Kobayashi, Joey Chestnut, Sonya "The Black Widow" Thomas, Tim "Eater X" Janus and my personal favorite, Ed "Cookie" Jarvis. And you don't need to tell me, I am fully aware that I can name more competitive eaters than professional hockey players.
If you've never seen this contest before, you're probably thinking, "Yeah man, sign me up! I could totally take out at least six." Sorry to break it to you, but the most elite eaters can finish off six in the first minute easily. And with buns, no less. The winner last year, Chestnut, consumed 66 hot dogs and buns, just edging out the legendary six-time world champion, Kobayashi, who finished with 63. So start training and maybe one day, you too could earn the right to eat for a living.
With a belly full of wieners, the last thing you'll want to do is get up from your chair. Lucky for you, you won't have to, thanks to ESPN and a number of baseball-loving middle schoolers.
The Little League World Series provides old-school baseball at its finest for fans young and old to enjoy together. We're talking about true baseball here. Baseball that is void of the flashiness and unnecessary distractions of the major leagues. Baseball that is free of steroids — well, maybe I won't count out steroids, some of these 12-year-old kids make many college athletes look like ballerinas, but at least these pre-teens play for the love of the game.
Day after day, these fifth- and sixth-graders take the field, give it their all and never receive a penny. In my mind, making it all the way to Williamsport, Pa., the home of the LLWS, is one of the greatest accomplishments in all of sports. Once it's all over, each kid has to go back home to his or her normal life in Blumpkin, Ind. or West Middle-of-Nowhere, N.Y., or wherever he or she is from, so why not give each kid his own five minutes of fame?
Well, now you know what I'll be watching this summer. Tune in next year. Same back page. Same Gibbs column.