Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The final face-off: the Championship Round

After a brief intermission, four teams took the stage for the Championship Round: Just The Neighbors (no strangers to the Bees’ Championship Rounds); the Crack o’ Dawn Bee-Cyclists; the Church Belles; and the Three Stewges. The Championship Round seldom sees such a challenging mix of spellers—this year’s players were especially strong.

Since the Church Belles were missing a member, and there had been a large number of clearly qualified and undeniably eager teenage spellers who wanted to play on our walk-on team, I waved over to the group and suggested that they send a speller up to join the Church Belles. I’m sure I was not the only one surprised to see young Robert Lordi take the stage! True to their Youth Ministry, the Church Belles welcomed Robert to their table. One can only suppose that he proved an asset to their team, as you will soon see.

I probably overthink the composition of the rounds—OK, OK, I confess—I DEFINITELY overthink the composition of the rounds. It is so important to give the players some entertainment as well as some challenge, though—after all, they are our champion volunteers and playing for a good cause. At the same time, I cannot resist teasing some of the players with words that have stumped them in the past. It was with this in mind that we launched the Championship round with the word kohlrabi—it has tripped up many teams in prior Bees. This year, however, it merely drew some knowing chuckles from the players who recognized it from years past.

The four Champion teams easily took on prosciutto, backstein (a kind of cheese—also a word that has stumped past Bee players) and yclept (an archaic word for “named”, as in By what name art thou yclept? shouted Sir Gawain to the Green Knight). The hairshirt, or cilice, gave some teams trouble, as did laetrile (by mentioning the 1970s miracle cancer cure derived from apricot pits, I am dating myself). Finally, the word THALWEG produced a clear victor: the Church Belles.

A thalweg is an imaginary line formed by connecting the lowest points in a valley or riverbed. The “thal” part is similar to that of the word “Neanderthal”, and means “valley”. It's not a word we see often, but it was published in the Marco Polo section of the 2010 word list (copyright 2010 Friends of the Dover Library). With all the rain we’ve been having, though, it may find itself in wider use, along with some other words from the Bee Night list, like antediluvian and gaiters.

I secretly (and not-so-secretly) cheer for every team playing; although sometimes I’m biting my nails to see when the rounds will end, every one of the spellers has my sincere admiration—both for their erudition and for their community spirit. That said, it was particularly nice to see the Dover Church team win, since they have historically been great Library supporters. The Friends often hold Children’s Programs in Kraft Hall, and the Dover Church has had teams in nearly every Bee we’ve held, including the very first (when pastor John Nelson enjoyed a moment of fame as the only person in the room who could spell pharaoh).

Congratulations, Church Belles, on a job well done, and enjoy your well-earned and truly--given the stature and skill of the teams playing this year--ENORMOUS Bragging Rights!

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