For whatever reason, I enjoy watching the National Spelling Bee on ESPN every year. It's appeal and charm isn't too different from why I enjoy rooting for mid-majors during March Madness. Here we have many unknowns who hone their craft year-round just for the opportunity to show off their talent on the national stage. With their lack of notoriety often comes a genuine unbridled display of excitement and passion that's simply very rare to see when watching media-trained professional athletes.
Generally the Spelling Bee is good for at least one notable moment every year. In 2005 we had the kid who asked if the chickens had large talons, a reference to the cult hit Napoleon Dynamite. In 2004, a young man fainted on stage... and still ended up finishing second. And this year there's little question about who the most memorable figure to emerge is: It's the 15-year-old, shrieking Floridian Jacob Williamson.
In an event where children are usually complimented on their poise and composure, Jacob has shown none, and that's why he's worth watching.
Williamson, who is home-schooled, finished second at the Lee County Middle School Spelling Bee two years in a row before qualifying as one of the 12 best spellers in the country in his final year of eligibility. If he seems excited, it's because he studied eight hours a day just to qualify for this event. "I've been studying three years for this," he told The News-Press.
Now he's made it to the big show and others are taking notice:
Jacob Williamson is one of the quirky ones. Big double-fist pump and birdlike shriek after correct spelling of "euripus." #spellingbee— Ben Nuckols (@APBenNuckols) May 29, 2014
Whoa there Jacob! Jacob Williamson falls to his knees screaming when he finds out he is in the #SpellingBee finals.— Natalie DiBlasio (@ndiblasio) May 29, 2014
The Cape Corporal, Florida native is a self-described numismatist (a student of currency) and fantasy football manager (a student of suffering). Oh, and he's Tebow fan.
Some may say Jacob is acting over the top. Some may say that he's acting immature. And guess what? He is. The reason Jacob Williamson is so fun to watch at this Spelling Bee is because he's acting like a kid. And during an event in which we often see children stressed out of their minds, that's pretty refreshing.
So if you don't have any interest in watching the playoffs tonight, I might recommend tuning into the National Spelling Bee to watch Jacob shriek, squeal and maybe spell. Just maybe turn the volume down a few notches on your TV.
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