Scripps National Spelling Bee 2014 schedule, format & how to watch

Mark Wilson

Oh, the spelling bee is most definitely #sports.

On Thursday afternoon, roughly 10 of the world's most elite athletes will compete in one of the most grueling competitions in all of sports. I'm talking, of course, about the finals of the Scripps National Spelling Bee.

Ever since ESPN decided to broadcast the later rounds of the annual event, the Bee (as it's known by us enthusiasts) has become inseparably linked to the world of sports. And for good reason. You think LeBron James faced pressure to get his second championship ring last year? Try spelling "cymotrichous" as a 13-year-old kid in front of a national TV audience.

The format

By the time we hit the finals, the field of 281 contestants has already been whittled down to between 9 and 12 spellers through a series of preliminaries, the majority of which are computerized.

The semifinals, which will air live at 10 a.m. ET on Thursday, actually began on Wednesday with another computerized test. Thursday morning marks two rounds of oral spelling. Points are tallied for the three segments and if you have enough, you're into the finals.

The finals are strictly oral and the format is pretty simple: each speller gets one word per round and you go until there's only one competitor left standing. A misspelling and you're out, a correct spelling and you're on to the next round.

The rules

A word is read and the speller must spell it correctly. But you knew that already.

You can be eliminated for unsportsmanlike conduct in a spelling bee. For real.

Beginning immediately after the "pronouncer" calls out the word, the speller has two minutes to ask questions about and spell the word. Questions tend to focus on meaning, alternate pronunciations and language of origin.

Once you start spelling, the sequence of the letters can't be changed. So you can't pull the old, "… C … I mean K! I said K!"

All words are chosen from Webster's Third New International Dictionary.

If you're 15 years old or have passed eighth grade you're ineligible to compete. Sorry. You can stop practicing now.

The 5 easiest words to ever win the Bee

5. Incisor (1975)

4. Luge (1984)

3. Initials (1941)

2. Therapy (1940)

1. Interning (Oh come on) (1936)

How to watch

Semifinals: 10 a.m.-1 p.m. ET on ESPN 2

Finals: 8-10 p.m. on ESPN

Online streaming: WatchESPN

Helpful links

A viewer's guide to the National Spelling Bee
How it feels to win the National Spelling Bee (spoiler: really freakin' awesome)
Meet Scott Isaacs, the Phil Jackson of spelling (he's already turned down the Knicks, so don't ask)

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