Getty Images

Nokes: Championships don't end in a tie...

Danny Nokes
May 31, 2019 - 10:46 am

First, let me begin by saying that I'm not trying to take anything away from any of the eight winners of this year's Scripps National Spelling Bee.

Clearly, these kids are incredibly smart, have bright futures and should be incredibly proud of what they've accomplished. A sincere congratulations goes out to Rishik Gandhasri, Erin Howard, Saketh Sundar, Shruthika Padhy, Sohum Sukhatankar, Abhijay Kodali, Christopher Serrao and Rohan Raja. 

That being said, the fact that there were EIGHT winners of this years Scripps National Spelling Bee is downright ridiculous. 

"Hey Danny, who won the Scripps National Spelling Bee this year?"

"Oh, eight different kids actually won."


It sounds outrageous before I even go into detail on exactly why. 

There's a reason that the Super Bowl, the NBA Finals, the World Series and the Stanley Cup Final don't end in a tie. These are championship events. There's a trophy and the title of "best in the world" on the line.

To be fair, the leagues I just referenced all feature paid professionals. They make a lot of money to do what they do.

Alright, well how about college sports?

The College Football Playoff, the NCAA Tournament, the College World Series? Nope. Still no ties allowed and we're now also talking about amateurs.

I'll even give some more ground; the leagues I've just referenced all feature athletes whereas the Scripps National Spelling Bee is somewhat a measure of intelligence instead of athleticism. Still, it's broadcasted by ESPN every single year. 

Whatever the avenue to a championship may be, they don't give out multiple first place trophies.

Here's where it gets the most ridiculous to me: There are thousands of people on social media defending the tournament format saying, "They ran out of difficult words! There's literally nothing they could do!"


I guess we don't need to have the Scripps National Spelling Bee anymore, guys. They spelled ALL the challenging words correctly!

Give me a break...

ESPN notes that the Scripps National Spelling Bee ended with co-champions from 2014-2016. So this isn't the first time the event has ended in a tie.

Here's another brilliant tidbit from ESPN, "In 2017 and last year, the bee had a written tiebreaker test of spelling and vocabulary that would be used to identify a single champion if necessary. It didn't turn out to be needed, and bee officials decided the test was too burdensome and got rid of it."

"...too burdensome..."

You mean it was too hard? You're telling me you had a tiebreaker in place that could easily separate a winner from the rest of the pack and determined it was too hard?

How about a tiebreaker crossword puzzle? Take all the words you just made these kids spell and see if they can each finish a crossword puzzle with definitions of each word as the clues. Done. I just fixed your spelling tournament for you.

The point is, whomever is responsible for the format of the Scripps National Spelling Bee deserves the only criticism here. The fact that you had a valid tiebreaker in place and removed it resulting in eight champions just doesn't make any sense.

Here's the cherry on top for me: ESPN also claims that the plan was for the first and second place prize money to be split in the event of a tie. However, what ultimately happened was all eight spellers were awarded the grand prize of $50,000 and their own Scripps Cup.

Wait a minute, so the grand prize essentially went from $50,000 to $400,000? What about the co-champions from 2014-2016? If the decision to give each winner the full grand prize in the event of a tie didn't occur until the 2019 event, shouldn't the co-champions from 2014-2016 also be given a full grand prize of $50,000?

This is laughably inconsistent and is not at all fair to past contestants that were forced to share the Scripps Cup.

It's a poor precedent set by the Scripps National Spelling Bee. In the real world, there are no ties for first place. There's only one leader in each industry.

These kids will go on to be doctors, engineers, etc. When their boss walks into the office one day and sees that their company is tied for the most valuable or is tied atop whatever category you set out to be, that boss is not going to be content with staying tied for first place. They are going to push you to do better.

The notion that there should always be a winner and a loser doesn't make the person that lost a failure. Far from it. But you're taking away from these kids when you have inconsistent rules for a contest that you're literally changing on the fly. 

Do better, Scripps.

Congrats again to the eight champions of this year's Scripps National Spelling Bee.