Longreads

Back in 2013, for Deadspin, Drew Magary attended the annual Scripps Spelling Bee, in which 11 million kids spell off across America in a bid to become the brainy few who land onstage for the final round, and learns how such a simple contest had been sullied (S-U-L-L-I-E-D, SULLIED) by the need to keep the event exciting for ESPN’s television audience.

• The atmosphere at the bee is very supportive. I went around looking for nutbar stage parents, but most of the parents were either A) pleasant or B) too media savvy to act like insane people in front of a reporter. These parents weren’t talking to the media for the first time. The finalists who got knocked out late were all given standing ovations (genuine ones). The kids all high-fived one another when they got words right. Whatever cutthroat elements of the competition existed only existed under…

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