I won the school spelling bee in eighth grade. It had been less a goal than a personal expectation since I first became eligible for the spelling bee, so when I finally pulled it off, I honestly wasn’t too excited. I was just relieved that I managed to pull it off in my last chance after flopping* in each of the four years prior.
* Especially after the seventh grade debacle. You know how the classroom bee is supposed to be all easy words at the outset? I got “spittoon” as my very first word. I somehow knew the word, minus one detail; I guessed it had one T, so I was immediately eliminated, as were the eight kids after me who got handed a word they’d never even heard before. The winning word for our class that day was “princess.” I still wonder if my seventh grade English teacher did it to me intentionally.
I mention all that because my relief in victory stands in starkly funny contrast to the perpetual Pickens County spelling bee champs: Clemson fans.
Clemson fans tend to be happy people. Older fans are happy because anyone who still enjoys football after a decade of Tommy Bowden must be in a pretty good mental place. Younger fans have never had to experience any sort of sustained football misery. But regardless of age, none of them are ever happier than when they get to play spelling bee.
It’s the same word every single time. Seven letters. And yet they’re so happy to get it right, turning it into this real dramatic thing that deserves to be celebrated.
In a way I admire it. It’s a remarkably cheery way to approach things. And yet... with all that excitement... it almost suggests that they never expect to get it right. (Much like Florida State fans, who have a daunting 12 letters to spell but also throw in a WOOOO to celebrate not failing.)
Because of that, I still hold out hope that one day the entire Clemson fanbase will, in unison, stick a P in there and immediately realize that they goofed. You simply can’t convince me that it’s impossible. Not when there’s so, so much pride that stems from being able to spell this one word.
And hey, Dabo Swinney and company should be proud. They just won a big game against a ranked opponent! It brought them up to... uh. Hm. That’s weird. This says Clemson has the same record as Tech. In November. That hasn’t happened in a while. Definitely not since Dabo started getting paid $11.5 million a year.
Didn’t Dabo just go on a long spiel saying he had never failed at anything in his life? He may be jumping the gun a little bit, because if Clemson loses one of their next two games, they’ll fail to finish above .500 in the ACC this year. He also failed to comport himself like a man who’s paid $11.5 million a year when lashing out against a radio show caller who makes a lot less than that.
Poor Tyler from Spartanburg. Maybe Tyler was right, and pride does come before the fall. If we’re lucky, that’ll be true this weekend in a football sense.
And if we are truly blessed, it’ll also be true in a spelling sense.