Saturday, March 27, 2010

What a night!

My goodness, what a night! The Bee was AMAZING. I hope you saw it in person, or at least on Channel 8—DCTV is running reruns starting Monday evening.

Check out Paul Keleher’s photo/video stream in the sidebar to the left of this entry. You will see the fabulous set, designed by local artist Jane Bleakley: bees zooming everywhere, and a Bee Tree to top any ever seen before. You will also see some terrific “candids” of teams and crowd.

A little recap:

Round 1 brought us veteran spellers Tom Dixon, Nancy Simms and new player Jamie Simms, in a reprisal of the long-standing Just the Neighbors team, and pitched them against Peter Lert, Carolyn Ringel and James Stuart of School Committee Team (the A Bee Cs) and the Dover Social Club (Rob Lordi, Diane Russo and Beth Webb). We must stop and acknowledge the FABULOUS PROPS brought by the Social Club (voted, I believe, the team Most Likely to Require a Designated Driver). This group started the evening off on a very festive note! This round went quickly through my “published 10” list, including the audience’s favorite word, borborygmus (the sound your stomach makes when it growls).

Round 2 was fielded by the Clerical Errers [sic], composed of Saint Dunstan’s Rector Mark McKone-Sweet, Grace Church priest Peter DiSanto (whose daughter Catherine competed in our very first Bee), and Fiona Vidal-White, MSM (that’s Masters in Sacred Music). The Church of the Most Precious Blood sent a Mulligan for this team, so we had representation from three of Dover’s churches on stage. Bee Veteran Sara Muckstadt, Dick Greene and Laura Rinaldi, a team of parents of children in Michelle Wood’s 3rd grade at Chickering, joined forces as Wood’s Word Wizards—winners (no surprise) of the Spirit Award—or maybe we called it the Loudest Cheering Section Award.

Rounding out the contestants were the AMAZING, ELEEMOSYNARY, Crack o’ Dawn Bee-cyclists (Cliff Brown, Bruce Cohen and Karen Rednor). This is the team that joined the Bee in order to thank Dover for hosting their early morning rides through our town. (Tell me, how often do you think of thanking the towns you drive through? This occurred to me as I swore at a pothole in one of our neighboring villages...Dover does have the best roads around, and I'm glad that the Beecyclists are enjoying them.) The Crack o’ Dawn riders have raised close to $2 million dollars for cancer research through their Pan-Mass participation, and by playing in the Bee, they raised over $400 for our library. The Bee Committee had been wondering if this team might show up in their riding gear, and they did not disappoint. We would have given them the Best Costume award, were it not for our deep-seated suspicion that they dress like this all the time (including the antennae), under their street clothes. This was a very competitive round—both the Wizards and the Beecyclists had been studying, you could tell—and they flew through published words like rhopalic and psittaceous (it means “parrot-like”) into the non-published expansion round words. After a mighty struggle (and a few beads of sweat from those of us running the words), the round ended on the non-published word cantaloupe.

I should talk for a minute about the non-published list. We have seen, over the years, that Dover Bee participants have an almost frightening capacity for memorization—either that, or they have vocabularies that would make ordinary mortals quail. We’d also heard a bit of feedback from past players about the off-putting aspect of feeling responsible for every single word in the published word list. In an effort to make the Bee challenging and even out the playing field between mere memorizers and genuine good spellers, I made a separate list of words that might seem easy to spell but aren’t, and held them in reserve. (These are, I will confess, words that I myself have trouble spelling—the things that always trip up my SpellCheck. It was not difficult to find a good long list of them!) I'm curious to hear what the players thought of this approach; it certainly made for a very different Bee from where I sat.

Round 3 gave us another ferocious bout of competition. The extremely cerebral Bee List Celebrities (Will Bleakley, Paul Fiore and Greg Kahoun), last year’s runners-up, faced off against one-time Bee veteran Sarah Shoemaker and Carine Tarazi of the Church Belles, a group of Dover Church Youth Group Advisors. The Cool Bees (Laura Bevilacqua, Vicky Cartsos and Imad Khan) put up a grand fight and won Best Costume Award for their exceptionally creative and undeniably cool Bee slickers and goggles. (As an aside, I would LOVE to see this group design a line of bridesmaid’s dresses. Really. The world needs this.) Team Kara, sponsored by ScrubADub, represented the Library’s Teen Advisory Board with Danielle Hall, Sharon Holiner and Nichole Huang. This round exhausted the pre-published set of words, including beauties like tintinnabulation, bdelloid and eructation (the scientific name for “burp”), blasted through the expansion list trick words like Fahrenheit and bayonet and finally crashed to a close on baksheesh (money used as a kind of tip or bribe). We were only a few words away from Panic Mode at that point—the players in this round must read the dictionary for fun.

The program announced that Round 4 had room for a walk-on team. We’d had one last year, and it was a huge hit with the audience (and the team, the Replacements, did extremely well—especially when you consider that the word list is only made available to players who register and pay in advance). This year, we were approached by a herd of teenage boys, many of whose parents were playing in the Bee, who were keen (dare I say chomping at the bit?) to challenge the older generation. There were several willing players, but we had to ask them to select only three from their pod. So, Riq Lert (son of Peter, of the A Bee Cs), Evan Wood (son of ’09 champion Pamela Mok) and Max Handler (son of Jonathan, of the Three Stewges) formed a team that they named “Insert Pun About a Bee [Here]”. They held up admirably against Perfect Attendance Winners Coldwell Banker, Wellesley (Betsy Breziner, Jean McDonnell and Laura Talmud)—Coldwell Banker has sponsored a Bee team every year, and has made over $1500 for the Library—and they even edged out the defending champions the Spellunkers (Tod Dimmick, Lori Krusell and Pamela Mok). However, despite the vaguely Oedipal overtones of their challenge, the Insert Pun About a Bee [Here] fell to Andy Epstein, Jonathan Handler and Bob Litle of the Three Stewges. Tell you what, guys: if you all come back and play again, I’ll make sure you’re not challenging your parents in the same round. You’ll probably have to face off in the championship round, especially if you all get the words in advance next time. Meanwhile, Insert Pun About a Bee [Here] won the Cleverest Name superlative, and The Three Stewges, winners of the Funniest Name category, moved into the Championship Round.

Since we took an intermission before the Championship Round at the Bee, I’m taking one here. Back in a bit.

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