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The Scripps National Spelling Bee Championship Gains More Attention

The annual Scripps National Spelling Bee has gained more attention on the small screen in recent years thanks to a number of big screen hits. James Maguire, author of the book "American Bee: The National Spelling Bee and the Culture of Word Nerds," explores the factors behind the rise in popularity and the effects on kids.

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  • FINOLA HACKETT, Spelling Bee Competitor:

    Bdelloid. B-d-e-l-l-o-i-d, bdelloid.

  • RAY SUAREZ:

    The word means "like or relating to a leech." And correctly spelling it just put 14-year-old Finola Hackett a step closer to being crowned the queen bee of this year's annual Scripps National Spelling Bee, a competition that's always been popular but has gained more and more attention in recent years.

    This May, roughly 275 regional champs descended on Washington, D.C., for the annual event. The contestants hail from all 50 states and sometimes use their own peculiar methods to survive to the next round.

    And international competitors travel from as far away as New Zealand to throw their hats in the ring. The prize: a big trophy; big checks, totaling over $37,000; and bragging rights for a lifetime.

    Since 1994, the bee has been broadcast exclusively on the cable sports network, ESPN, but this year, as it grows in ratings, the bee makes its debut on ESPN's broadcast parent network, ABC, on its primetime lineup, tonight at 8 o'clock Eastern.

  • ANNOUNCER:

    … only on ABC.

  • RAY SUAREZ:

    The two-hour finale also includes mini-profiles of the contestants.

    SAMIR PATEL, National Spelling Bee Champion 2005: I am Samir Patel, and I am a verb-a-maniac.

  • RAY SUAREZ:

    The competition's switch to primetime was the latest in the growing buzz around the bee. It's also inspired big-screen hits.

  • SPELLING BEE COMPETITOR:

    Logorrhea. L-o-g-o-r-r-h-e-a.

  • SPELLING BEE JUDGE:

    That is correct.

  • RAY SUAREZ:

    The 2002 documentary and Academy Award nominee "Spellbound," last year's "Bee Season," based on a best-selling novel by the same name, and "Akeelah and the Bee," released this April…

    LAURENCE FISHBURNE, "Akeelah and the Bee": You want to win what?

    KEKE PALMER, "Akeelah and the Bee": I want to win the National Spelling Bee!

  • LAURENCE FISHBURNE:

    Yes!

  • RAY SUAREZ:

    … a fictional account of an African-American girl from the inner-city of Los Angeles who wins the national bee. Bee-fever has even hit Broadway. The musical, "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee," won two Tony awards last year.

    In the meantime, tonight these 13 finalists will have a chance to become a celebrity in their own right, provided they get their ABCs in the right order.

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