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Spelling Bee Picks & More Tuesday Sports Biz

Who Will Win This Year's Spelling Bee?

Those who know me or have followed my work in recent years know that, besides specializing in sports business, I know niche sports better than anyone in the country does. It started with my love of the competitive eating circuit and carried over to becoming the top handicapper in the country on the National Spelling Bee.

Last year, while I was still at ESPN, I gave the betting public the top eight spellers. My No. 3 pick Katherine Close won it all and my other picks fared pretty well. So if you want to know who to root for this year, you have it all here for you.

Let me just say that it's very hard to predict the winner in the Spelling Bee because the words are so random, but trust me when I say that one of these kids is going to win. The Bee starts tomorrow, but it really commences on Thursday when ESPN picks up the coverage from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. ET with the Finals being broadcast live in primetime for the second straight year, from 8 to 10 p.m. ET on ABC. If you are scoring at home, I've included the number that my favorite spellers will wear so that you will know who is who.

One more note before I bring you the list. This year's finals is going to be broadcast by Mike & Mike (Greenberg and Golic), a hosting pair long overdue for an event like this one. The two can only hope to do play-by-play for something remotely close to this, the best moment in Spelling Bee history. Three years ago, eventual runner-up Akshay Buddiga fainted, then got up as if nothing happened and spelled the word "alopecoid," which -- by the way -- doesn't come up in spellchecker.

So here's my Top 10 list:

1. Samir Patel, No. 247

Samir Patel
source:
Samir Patel

Patel is like the Peyton Manning of the Spelling Bee and, just like Peyton, I have to think this is his year. He's the only participant in this year's Spelling Bee that has been to this event five straight times. Patel really disappointed last year -- people who bet on him and ABC, which couldn't feature him in its primetime broadcast when he tied for 14th place.

But the Texan does have the skills and the confidence -- tying for third in 2003 and second in 2005. We should note that Patel is still angry that he was given what he believed to be a much harder word ('roscian') than the eventual winner received ('appoggiatura') in 2005. We also love the fact that, like many athletes, Patel is apparently all about the money -- in this case, a $30,000 first-place prize. "If it wasn't for the prize, I probably wouldn't be doing it." Patel told Gannett News Service.

I also put him on top because stats don't lie. The boys have won six out of the last seven Spelling Bees and five out of the past eight winners have been of Indian decent -- which makes them the equivalent of the Kenyans in marathons. A Texan has also won the Spelling Bee at least twice every decade from the '60s on. Texan Sai Gunturi won it in 2003 and Patel could make it two. The stat that goes against me? Patel is homeschooled, which was all the rage in 2000, when homeschoolers took first, second and third place. But five out of the last six winners have gone to standard elementary school.

2. Kavya Shivashankar, No. 102

Who Will Win This Year's Spelling Bee?

Those who know me or have followed my work in recent years know that, besides specializing in sports business, I know niche sports better than anyone in the country does. It started with my love of the competitive eating circuit and carried over to becoming the top handicapper in the country on the National Spelling Bee.

Last year, while I was still at ESPN, I gave the betting public the top eight spellers. My No. 3 pick Katherine Close won it all and my other picks fared pretty well. So if you want to know who to root for this year, you have it all here for you.

Let me just say that it's very hard to predict the winner in the Spelling Bee because the words are so random, but trust me when I say that one of these kids is going to win. The Bee starts tomorrow, but it really commences on Thursday when ESPN picks up the coverage from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. ET with the Finals being broadcast live in primetime for the second straight year, from 8 to 10 p.m. ET on ABC. If you are scoring at home, I've included the number that my favorite spellers will wear so that you will know who is who.

One more note before I bring you the list. This year's finals is going to be broadcast by Mike & Mike (Greenberg and Golic), a hosting pair long overdue for an event like this one. The two can only hope to do play-by-play for something remotely close to this, the best moment in Spelling Bee history. Three years ago, eventual runner-up Akshay Buddiga fainted, then got up as if nothing happened and spelled the word "alopecoid," which -- by the way -- doesn't come up in spellchecker.

So here's my Top 10 list:

1. Samir Patel, No. 247

Kavya Shivashankar
source:spellingbee.com
Kavya Shivashankar


I normally would not have put a second-time speller in this spot, but I was so impressed with Kavya last year as she was the youngest speller in the final 13. I liken her to a young Patel in 2003 and I feel more controlled by picking her since she writes words down on her hand with an air pencil. The stat that goes against me here is that the 11-year-old Shivashankar wears glasses and the champion hasn't worn glasses for five out of the last six years. Here's to hoping Kavya got contact lenses in the offseason.

3. Jonathan Horton, No. 5

Who Will Win This Year's Spelling Bee?

Those who know me or have followed my work in recent years know that, besides specializing in sports business, I know niche sports better than anyone in the country does. It started with my love of the competitive eating circuit and carried over to becoming the top handicapper in the country on the National Spelling Bee.

Last year, while I was still at ESPN, I gave the betting public the top eight spellers. My No. 3 pick Katherine Close won it all and my other picks fared pretty well. So if you want to know who to root for this year, you have it all here for you.

Let me just say that it's very hard to predict the winner in the Spelling Bee because the words are so random, but trust me when I say that one of these kids is going to win. The Bee starts tomorrow, but it really commences on Thursday when ESPN picks up the coverage from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. ET with the Finals being broadcast live in primetime for the second straight year, from 8 to 10 p.m. ET on ABC. If you are scoring at home, I've included the number that my favorite spellers will wear so that you will know who is who.

One more note before I bring you the list. This year's finals is going to be broadcast by Mike & Mike (Greenberg and Golic), a hosting pair long overdue for an event like this one. The two can only hope to do play-by-play for something remotely close to this, the best moment in Spelling Bee history. Three years ago, eventual runner-up Akshay Buddiga fainted, then got up as if nothing happened and spelled the word "alopecoid," which -- by the way -- doesn't come up in spellchecker.

So here's my Top 10 list:

1. Samir Patel, No. 247

Jonathan Horton
Bill Clark/Gannett News Service
Jonathan Horton

This four-time regional spelling champ really has impressed me over the years as he has grown up before our eyes. The problem I have with Horton, who finished an impressive sixth last year, is that he isn't that outwardly confident, which concerns me. "He hates being called the favorite, because no one really is," his mother Michelle recently told The Arizona Republic.

This is what Horton himself told the East Valley Tribune: "I think this is the best chance I've had so far. I also have an extremely good chance that I won't win." I don't like the way he says that, but I can't deny that he has great credentials.

4. Evan O'Dorney, No. 11

Who Will Win This Year's Spelling Bee?

Those who know me or have followed my work in recent years know that, besides specializing in sports business, I know niche sports better than anyone in the country does. It started with my love of the competitive eating circuit and carried over to becoming the top handicapper in the country on the National Spelling Bee.

Last year, while I was still at ESPN, I gave the betting public the top eight spellers. My No. 3 pick Katherine Close won it all and my other picks fared pretty well. So if you want to know who to root for this year, you have it all here for you.

Let me just say that it's very hard to predict the winner in the Spelling Bee because the words are so random, but trust me when I say that one of these kids is going to win. The Bee starts tomorrow, but it really commences on Thursday when ESPN picks up the coverage from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. ET with the Finals being broadcast live in primetime for the second straight year, from 8 to 10 p.m. ET on ABC. If you are scoring at home, I've included the number that my favorite spellers will wear so that you will know who is who.

One more note before I bring you the list. This year's finals is going to be broadcast by Mike & Mike (Greenberg and Golic), a hosting pair long overdue for an event like this one. The two can only hope to do play-by-play for something remotely close to this, the best moment in Spelling Bee history. Three years ago, eventual runner-up Akshay Buddiga fainted, then got up as if nothing happened and spelled the word "alopecoid," which -- by the way -- doesn't come up in spellchecker.

So here's my Top 10 list:

1. Samir Patel, No. 247

Evan Dorney
source:spellingbee.com
Evan Dorney


Two years ago, O'Dorney -- who reportedly writes classic piano concertos and creates board games -- surprised many when he made it to the eighth round in his first try at the Spelling Bee. Last year, he bowed out in the seventh round on 'mirliton,' but I feel that if this kid gets the luck of the words, he has a got a chance.

5. Matthew Evans, No. 161

Who Will Win This Year's Spelling Bee?

Those who know me or have followed my work in recent years know that, besides specializing in sports business, I know niche sports better than anyone in the country does. It started with my love of the competitive eating circuit and carried over to becoming the top handicapper in the country on the National Spelling Bee.

Last year, while I was still at ESPN, I gave the betting public the top eight spellers. My No. 3 pick Katherine Close won it all and my other picks fared pretty well. So if you want to know who to root for this year, you have it all here for you.

Let me just say that it's very hard to predict the winner in the Spelling Bee because the words are so random, but trust me when I say that one of these kids is going to win. The Bee starts tomorrow, but it really commences on Thursday when ESPN picks up the coverage from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. ET with the Finals being broadcast live in primetime for the second straight year, from 8 to 10 p.m. ET on ABC. If you are scoring at home, I've included the number that my favorite spellers will wear so that you will know who is who.

One more note before I bring you the list. This year's finals is going to be broadcast by Mike & Mike (Greenberg and Golic), a hosting pair long overdue for an event like this one. The two can only hope to do play-by-play for something remotely close to this, the best moment in Spelling Bee history. Three years ago, eventual runner-up Akshay Buddiga fainted, then got up as if nothing happened and spelled the word "alopecoid," which -- by the way -- doesn't come up in spellchecker.

So here's my Top 10 list:

1. Samir Patel, No. 247

Matthew Evans
source:spellingbee.com
Matthew Evans

Last year, I liked speller Bonny Jain because he was obviously a major genius -- having already won the National Geographic Geography Bee. Well, we find the same in Matthew Evans, who not only has a handle on the Spelling Bee. Earlier this month, Evans won the Reader's Digest Word Power Challenge, America's premier vocabulary competition. As an aside, Matthew's favorite word is 'bewussteinslage,' which means a "state of awareness."

6. Maithreyi Gopalakrishnan, No. 45

Gopalakrishnan is returning for her fourth go-around, which I like. Her high of 37th isn't very encouraging, but I like her 23-letter name. She told The Rocky Mountain News that her favorite word is 'pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis,' which refers to a type of lung disease.

7. Lina Bader, No. 226

Bader finished 30th last year after being stumped on 'ichneumon,' a tough word that bears a resemblance to my favorite dinosaur (icthyosaur). This is Lina's fourth time in Washington D.C., and I always like the family history. Her brother Mohammed made the national finals in 2001 and 2002.

8. Tia Natasha-Elizabeth Thomas, No. 12

It's a little known fact that this 12-year-old hasn't made it close to the championship these past three years because her local bees are written tests not oral ones. So things change when she gets to the nation's capital. But she has spelled under the lights enough that I think she has the skills.

9. Kunal Sah, No. 260

I call Sah my sentimental favorite because he's the best story in the contest this year. Sah now lives with his uncle and aunt at a motel in Utah, after his parents were sent back to India a month after Sah competed in last year's Spelling Bee, as a result of being denied political asylum. Sah believes that if he wins, he can get his parents back. Plus, we're not going to lie; we love the fact that the eighth grader already has a pretty solid mustache.

10. Jasmine Shaquielle O'Neal Willis, No. 232

We know nothing about this girl other than the fact that her parents obviously wanted to honor Shaquille O'Neal by bestowing something close to that for her middle name. Although the name Shaquille hasn't been among the top 1000 baby names in the U.S. since 1996, it was actually in the top 500 in 1993 (180), 1994 (235), and 1995 (457), according to the Social Security Administration. If Jasmine wins, which I don't think will happen, we'll call her the "Little Aristotle."

The Wright Stuff?

Who Will Win This Year's Spelling Bee?

Those who know me or have followed my work in recent years know that, besides specializing in sports business, I know niche sports better than anyone in the country does. It started with my love of the competitive eating circuit and carried over to becoming the top handicapper in the country on the National Spelling Bee.

Last year, while I was still at ESPN, I gave the betting public the top eight spellers. My No. 3 pick Katherine Close won it all and my other picks fared pretty well. So if you want to know who to root for this year, you have it all here for you.

Let me just say that it's very hard to predict the winner in the Spelling Bee because the words are so random, but trust me when I say that one of these kids is going to win. The Bee starts tomorrow, but it really commences on Thursday when ESPN picks up the coverage from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. ET with the Finals being broadcast live in primetime for the second straight year, from 8 to 10 p.m. ET on ABC. If you are scoring at home, I've included the number that my favorite spellers will wear so that you will know who is who.

One more note before I bring you the list. This year's finals is going to be broadcast by Mike & Mike (Greenberg and Golic), a hosting pair long overdue for an event like this one. The two can only hope to do play-by-play for something remotely close to this, the best moment in Spelling Bee history. Three years ago, eventual runner-up Akshay Buddiga fainted, then got up as if nothing happened and spelled the word "alopecoid," which -- by the way -- doesn't come up in spellchecker.

So here's my Top 10 list:

1. Samir Patel, No. 247

David Wright
AP
David Wright

Most of you know that Vitaminwater was purchased by Coca-Cola for $4.1 billion. The folks at Glaceau always pitched the media on the fact that the players believed so much in their brand that instead of a standard endorsement deal, many of the players accepted a stake in the company as the investment.

Well, the New York Post is reporting that David Wright of the New York Mets had a .5 percent stake in the company, which would make Wright's payment on the deal $20.5 million. Wright denied that he'd make that much, but sources tell us that out of all the players that took a stake -- David Ortiz, LaDainian Tomlinson, Brian Urlacher, Tracy McGrady -- Wright got the biggest chunk.

If he does make that much off the deal, I believe it will be among the largest single payouts for a single endorsement deal in history. Tiger Woods makes more than $20 million a year from Nike, as does Michael Jordan. From 1999 to 2003, George Foreman received annual payments of $22.7 million in cash from Salton for the rights to use his name on their electric grills in perpetuity.

Ultimate Embarrassment

Although UFC has been big for years, it's hard to deny the fact that the biggest brand in mixed martial arts was enjoying its pinnacle this weekend with the mainstream media publications like ESPN The Mag and Sports Illustrated giving MMA the cover in recent weeks.

But I think the sport, being called the replacement to boxing, laid a big egg on Saturday night as its champion Chuck Liddell went down in 1 minute and 53 seconds to Quinton Jackson on Saturday night. And that wasn't even the shortest fight of the night. Some guy named Houston Alexander knocked out his opponent Keith Jardine in 48 seconds.

If I were a first time UFC consumer who bought Pay-Per-View for $39.95 and saw this happen, I'd never order UFC again. Some choose to see it differently, believing that Jackson -- nicknamed the "Rampage" -- is more marketable and has a better personality than Liddell. That makes the victory at this point in the sport's development even more important.

Bonds & Hall Of Fame

Barry Bonds made news over the weekend by saying that he doesn't know what he'll donate to the Baseball Hall of Fame when he breaks the all-time home run record. "I'm not worried about the Hall," Bonds said. "I take care of me."

Here's a message to Barry that I'm sure he doesn't want to hear: you actually don't own your jerseys and helmets. That's property of Major League Baseball and the team, unless you are buying them before you put them on before every game.

NFL Steps Down

You might have read that the NFL is no longer trying to trademark the general phrase, "The Big Game," thanks to opposition from the likes of Stanford and Cal and even many corporations. But that doesn't mean anyone who is not an official sponsor of the NFL or the Super Bowl will be able to use "The Big Game" at will.

Sources tell CNBC that the league will likely re-file for a trademark, but this time will register the mark only in reference to the Super Bowl, which was the intent all along. Even without the trademark, the league asserts that it has shown -- through cease-and-desist letters -- that it already owns the right to enforce the association.

Pick a Vice

With Dario Franchitti winning the Indianapolis 500 in his Canadian Club car, it marked the fifth time in the past six years that an Indy 500 winner has had a "vice" brand closely associated with his car. Gil De Ferran (2003), Helio Castroneves (2002) and Sam Hornish Jr. (2006) all drove in Marlboro cars, while Dan Wheldon (2005) had Jim Beam as his associate sponsor, receiving secondary billing only to Klein Tools. Canadian Club is a whisky that is part of the Beam portfolio of drinks.

How a Spurs-Pistons Finals Would Rate

I'm thinking the Pistons will go up 3-1 tonight with the Spurs already leading three games to one. You might remember that I commented that a Pistons-Spurs Finals would be a doozy, but I should note that ratings for both teams on national television have actually increased since the 2004-05 season. Ratings for the Spurs appearances are up 38 percent on ABC, while Pistons games on the network are up 6 percent.

Questions? Comments? SportsBiz@cnbc.com

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