Scripps National Spelling Bee: Fantasy League

This past week, ESPN televised what is perhaps the most exciting annual event in sports. No, not the Super Bowl, not the Masters, not the World Series. Instead, families huddled around their TVs to watch their favorite middle schoolers spell words that no one has ever heard of…

It’s certainly a strange phenomenon, with growing popularity due to the prime time ESPN coverage and the release of the movie Akeelah and the Bee in 2006The Scripps National Spelling Bee has become a cherished event by many in our nation, and I am no exception. There’s something about it that is just jaw-droppingly fascinating.

Ansun (left) and Sriram (right)
Ansun (left) and Sriram (right)

This year was an especially legendary year, as the spellers were so good they actually ran out of words! That’s right, Sriram Hathwar of Corning, New York and Ansun Sujoe of Fort Worth, Texas were named co-champions after exhausting the list of designated final words. What made it even more interesting is that both spellers actually missed a word in the same round, forcing them to continue the duel.

So that got me thinking. As a massive sports fan, I have been drawn into the world of fantasy sports. Using the talents of big-leaguers to gain bragging rights against friends and co-workers has gained popularity every year.

But the Spelling Bee, despite being one of the most heralded sporting events in the country, has never had the opportunity for fantasy. Until now. I have drafted the rules to a Scripps National Spelling Bee Fantasy League. Follow the guidelines below and prepare to assemble your roster of encyclopedic adolescents.

 

League Rules:

Drafting

  1. General leagues will be made up of 10 teams.  There are 50 spellers in the Scripps National Finals.  Therefore, each team will have 5 spellers on their roster. Other leagues’ roster sizes will be determined by the number of teams in the league (10 max), but the number of active total roster members cannot exceed 50.
  2. The original draft order will be random and the draft style will be serpentine (1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,10,9,8,7,6,5,4,3,2,1,1,etc.) before the final day of competition.
  3. Players will have time before the semi-final round to determine their drafting strategy.  Will you draft seasoned veterans who came oh-so-close last year?  Or are you likely to go after pedigree, drafting the younger siblings of previous champions?  As a former homeschooler, I will be seeking out the spellers who forgo the traditional schooling model to sit at home with Mom and study Latin etymologies.

Transactions

  1. Trades between teams may be done at any time after the draft.   There is no limit to the number of trades that can be made.
  2. At all times a “Free Agency” pool will be available to all teams that includes all spellers that are not currently on a team.  General Managers can add and drop spellers as they choose, so long as their roster does not exceed 5 spellers.  The Free Agency pool can be used to replace eliminated spellers up until the Championship Finals.
  3.  If a “Keeper League” is ever made available, players on a roster at the conclusion of the Spelling Bee will remain on the roster for the following year (which may make drafting the lone 5th grader more valuable).

Scoring

  1. All seedings and championships will be based on total score in comparison to all other teams.  There are no matchups or brackets.
  2. Each speller will amass 30 points for the first correctly-spelled word.  For every following word there will be an additional 5 points (30, 35, 40, 45, etc.).
  3. Additionally, spellers will earn points based on the rarity of the letters in their word.  Each letter has a point value (just as it does in the game Scrabble).
  4. The winner of the league will be determined by the score accumulated between the Semifinal and Final rounds (the 3rd day of the Scripps National Spelling Bee).

Optional Rules

A league may also choose to implement additional rules that add a new facet to the competitive atmosphere.

  1. A team is deducted 10 points if an eliminated speller goes to sit on his or her parent’s lap.
  2. A team is deducted 20 points if a speller cries.
  3. A team is awarded 10 points for every word with four or more syllables a speller uses in an interview.
  4. A team is awarded 30 points if a speller already knows the definition to his/her given word.

All I need now is a partner to help me code this thing for next year.

If a Spelling Bee fantasy league interests you, or if you have some adjustments to make to the rules, let us know!

Richard Mattox

Richard Mattox is the head editor of Smash Cut Culture and a 2013 alumnus of the Taliesin Nexus Filmmakers Workshop and Internship program. Currently pursuing a Masters in Professional Writing (screenwriting emphasis) from USC, Mattox is an avid film-junkie, a singer-songwriter, and a die-hard Baltimore Orioles fan.

  • Adam Peterson

    Here’s my problem…this is a great idea, but there’s no database that lists advance metrics. In baseball, if I wanna find Mike Morse’s UZR, I can go to fan graphs. If I wanna know Andre Igoudala’s drtg/100 possessions, I have bballref.com. Where will I ever find Jacob Williamsons’ percentage of 7 letter words guessed correctly vs 6 letter words? I’d be completely lost.

    • Richard Mattox

      I disagree! You just have to read into the stats a little more: what percentage of your speller’s study-time is devoted to German, French, Yiddish, etc. rather than just the traditional Latin, popularity rating (a negative side-effect that would give them less time to study), schooling (private vs. public vs. homeschool). You can also keep an eye out for who seems to be poised under pressure and who cracks.

      Personally I’m going all out for homeschoolers next year.

  • Matt Edwards

    I’m in.

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