Jasmine is a happy human bee-ing
"This is a mother dictionary."
-- Lloyd Dobler
HEART-POUNDING anticipation. The rush of competition.
Making a move out of the pack.
Taking it to the next level.
Giving it 110 percent.
Asking for the language of origin.
Reaching for the root word.
Yes, we're talking spelling bee.
Yesterday, the Honolulu Quarterback Club honored a handful of the best high school student-athletes from the past year. They put the state spelling bee champ up there, too.
"Her name," the great Les Keiter thundered in her introduction, "is J-A-S-M-I-N-E K-A-N-E-S-H-I-R-O!"
The Quarterback Club has confirmed what ESPN already told us. Spelling is a sport.
Is spelling a sport?
"It's different," said Jasmine, who will be a ninth grader at Hawaii Baptist Academy next fall. "But basically the underlying theme is perseverance, hard work." Giving credit to your offensive line. All that stuff.
And a champion is a champion. She is the state champion. The two-time state champion. The retired state champion.
(She's ineligible for further competition, after having graduated eighth grade.)
"The next spelling bee I could get into would be the senior spelling bee, when I'm like 60," she said.
-- The two words Jasmine spelled correctly at the national spelling bee, to finish 45th
"I THINK BEFORE I got involved in spelling bee I would catch the state one on TV, and I was like, 'Oh, this is boring, let's change the channel.' So I used to think it was this geeky thing. I'm a geek, but I didn't think I'd ever get into it. But after going, I realize it's so much bigger. Kids work so much harder, like they work really hard."
It sounds a lot like fantasy football.
-- Vice President Dan Quayle
IT CAN BE exhilarating up there, and nerve-wracking, and satisfying and fulfilling. It is standing at the free-throw line with the game in
the balance. It is lining up for the winning putt.
You are up there alone, everything riding on each letter of every word.
"I think the spelling bee has been good for my confidence," Jasmine Kaneshiro said.
She doesn't even see the audience now. The audience doesn't exist. It is just her and the word. Any stumble could spell D-E-F-E-A-T, but in the moment, she is at peace.
"Even before the spelling bee, but since the spelling bee, I see words," she said, breaking them down, envisioning their Latin roots. Seeing them. Competitive Zen.
The way everything seems in slow motion to an athlete in the zone.
"If I know the answer, I mean I know the word, I get like really happy -- I try not to get so happy I misspell it," she said.
"If you believe in yourself and have the courage, the determination, the dedication, the competitive drive and if you are willing to sacrifice the little things in life and pay the price for the things that are worthwhile, it can be done."
-- Vince Lombardi
IT CAN'T BE easy putting your glory days behind you, retiring, moving on. She'd spent an hour a day, sometimes two, training, practicing. Looking over word lists. Her dad coaching her, quizzing her. All for a single goal. This was her Super Bowl.
Two-time state champ. Heady days at the national bee, making friends among her colleagues, hanging with the best of the best. So much fun. It's tough, for her, to explain what it meant to be with these other kids.
"I wish I could go again," she said.
For ex-athletes, letting go is sometimes tough.
But she's looking forward to high school. She's off to summer school, soon, an advanced course at Loyola Marymount in L.A.
Then, "high school has a lot more opportunities, both academically and in sports," she said.
She'll try National Honor Society. Maybe mock trials will be her new thing. "I'm thinking of doing newspaper," she said.
No, no, stay away from newspaper.
"Isn't that your industry?"
Let's not get distracted. After meeting Jasmine Kaneshiro the question before us is this: Is spelling a sport?
Well, it's different. But basically the underlying theme is the same. Perseverance. Hard work. Rising to the occasion. Taking it to the next level. Passing out of the double team. All that good stuff.
"When I started in seventh grade I basically won because I read a lot and I have a good vocabulary," she said. "But when you go to the national bee you can't just win on that."