The final word of the Spelling Bee was...

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The final word of the Spelling Bee was...

From Comcast SportsNet
OXON HILL, Md. (AP) -- Snigdha Nandipati heard a few words she didn't know during the National Spelling Bee, but never when she stepped to the microphone. Calm and collected throughout, the 14-year-old from San Diego spelled "guetapens," a French-derived word that means ambush, snare or trap, to win the 85th Scripps National Spelling Bee on Thursday night. She beat out eight other finalists in the nerve-wracking, brain-busting competition. After she spelled the word, she looked from side to side, as if unsure her accomplishment was real, and, oddly, she was not immediately announced as the winner. Applause built slowly, and a few pieces of confetti trickled out before showering her. Then her 10-year-old brother ran on stage and embraced her, and she beamed. "I knew it. I'd seen it before," Nandipati said of the winning word. "I just wanted to ask everything I could before I started spelling." A coin collector and Sherlock Holmes fan, Nandipati aspires to become a physician or neurosurgeon. She also plays violin and is fluent in Telugu, a language spoken in southeastern India. A semifinalist last year, Nandipati became the fifth consecutive Indian-American winner and 10th in the last 14 years, a run that began in 1999 when Nupur Lala won and was later featured in the documentary "Spellbound." Wearing a white polo shirt with a gold necklace peeking out of the collar, the bespectacled, braces-wearing teen never showed much emotion while spelling, working her way meticulously through each word. Only a few of the words given to other spellers were unfamiliar to her, she said. Her brother and parents joined her onstage after the victory, along with her maternal grandparents, who traveled from Hyderabad, India, to watch her. At one point as she held the trophy aloft, her brother, Sujan, pushed the corners of her mouth apart to broaden her smile. Her father, Krishnarao, said Snigdha first showed an interest in spelling as early as age 4. As she rode in the car, he would call out the words he saw on billboards and she would spell them. In the run-up to the bee, Nandipanti studied 6 to 10 hours a day on weekdays and 10-12 hours on weekends -- a regimen that she'll need to maintain to get through medical school, her father said. "She says this is harder than being a neurosurgeon -- maybe," said her mother, Madhavi. Stuti Mishra of West Melbourne, Fla., finished second after misspelling "schwarmerei" -- which means excessive, unbridled enthusiasm. While many spellers pretend to write words with their fingers, the 14-year-old Mishra had an unusual routine -- she mimed typing them on a keyboard. Nandipanti and Mishra frequently high-fived each other after spelling words correctly during the marathon competition. Coming in third for the second consecutive year was Arvind Mahankali of Bayside Hills, N.Y. At 12, the seventh-grader was the youngest of the nine finalists. He has one more year of eligibility remaining, and he pledged to return. "I got eliminated both times by German words," Mahankali said. "I know what I have to study." Nandipati's prize haul includes 30,000 in cash, a trophy, a 2,500 savings bond, a 5,000 scholarship, 2,600 in reference works from the Encyclopedia Britannica and an online language course. The week began with 278 spellers, including the youngest in the history of the competition -- 6-year-old Lori Anne Madison of Lake Ridge, Va. The field was cut to 50 semifinalists after a computer test and two preliminary rounds, and Lori Anne was two misspelled words away from a semifinal berth. The tiny, blue-eyed prodigy said she'd be back next year. The highest-placing international speller was Gifton Wright of Spanish Town, Jamaica, who tied for fourth. This week, Scripps announced tentative plans for a world spelling bee with teams of spellers from dozens of countries. Once that gets off the ground, the National Spelling Bee would be closed to international participants. Also tied for fourth were Nicholas Rushlow of Pickerington, Ohio, and Lena Greenberg of Philadelphia. The excitable Greenberg, a crowd favorite who ran delightedly back to her chair after each correct word, pressed her hands to her face and exclaimed, "Oh! Oh!" when she was eliminated. Rushlow was making his fifth and final appearance in the bee, and this was his best showing. He got three words he didn't know -- one in the semifinals and two in the finals -- and managed to spell two of them correctly before the third one, "vetiver," tripped him up. While he was satisfied with his performance, he's sad that his run is over. "I'm a has-been now," Rushlow said.

McAdam: Despite all the talk, Ortiz is still the retiring type

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McAdam: Despite all the talk, Ortiz is still the retiring type

CHICAGO -- Will or won't he?

It's the first week of May, and already the question is being asked. Sure, David Ortiz said he was retiring after this season. But will he stick to his word or change his mind? Inquiring minds want to know.

The questions get louder with every homer hit, every run knocked in, every milestone reached.

When Ortiz homered off Carlos Rodon Wednesday night, becoming the first lefty hitter to ever do so, the chatter began again.

It's unlikely to stop much in the coming months, especially if Ortiz continues to hit at this sort of pace. If Ortiz continues to produce like he has in the first five weeks, like he did a year ago, why would he walk away from a game he can still dominate?

But that's missing the point.

Ortiz isn't retiring because he can't perform any longer. Remember, he made the announcement last November, weeks after he finished 2015 with 37 homers, the most he's had in a single season since his club-record 54 in 2006.

Ortiz couldn't have had any sense that he was nearing the end after what he achieved last year. And he can't be motivated financially, either; the Red Sox hold a $15 million option for 2017, meaning he knew he was walking away from that when he decided to quit.

So maybe, just maybe, Ortiz is retiring because he doesn't want to play any more.

He may still love the game and enjoy the lifestyle, but he's played professional baseball for the last 23 years, or more than half of his life. That's a lot of plane rides, bus rides and time away home and family.

And even though he's essentially been a DH for virtually all of his Red Sox career, there's still a physical price to play. The Achilles injury he suffered several years ago still affects him.

It was telling that Ortiz was out of the lineup for both games in Atlanta, a National League city where the Red Sox can't use the DH. In the past, he would have started at least one game at first base. But this time he pinch-hit in the first and didn't appear at all in the second.

Then there's the matter of the hype surrounding The Long Goodbye. Three franchises -- including the White Sox Thursday night -- have held ceremonies to honor Ortiz's last visit to their ballpark. In the coming weeks there will be pregame tributes in Kansas City, San Francisco, and Minneapolis, with many more to follow.

It would be pretty awkward for Ortiz for shrug his shoulders, announce he's had a change of heart, and give back those gifts.

There are planned promotions at Fenway, with sponsors cued up to take part in various events.

Ortiz has also agreed to be the subject of a season-long documentary by a production company that followed him around on Opening Day, the home opener at Fenway and will be around periodically throughout the season. What happens to that project? Does it become an inside look at the next-to-last season for David Ortiz? Would anyone watch "A Behind-the-Scenes Look at the Year David Ortiz Gave Careful Consideration To Retiring Before Changing His Mind?''

And while it's true Ortiz has developed a good relationship with president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski in a short period of time, and Dombrowski would undoubtedly welcome Ortiz back next season, it's highly unlikely Dombrowski's presence could bring about a change of heart.

After all, Ortiz has had a very good relationship with John Farrell and enjoys playing for him. So if Farrell, whose history with Ortiz dates back to 2007, can't sway Ortiz, it's highly doubtful Dombrowski could.

Mostly, this talk has surfaced because of the Sports Talk Industrial Complex, a business that traffics in conspiracy theories and is in dire need of debate and hot takes 24-7.

Noted player evalautor Sigmund Freud, however, once sagely noted: Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.

And sometimes, a retirement is just a retirement.

Nothing more, nothing less.

Curran: Shula will be remembered in New England as an angry old man

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Curran: Shula will be remembered in New England as an angry old man

Don Shula landed in the hospital this week and, fortunately, the 86-year-old former Dolphins coach was treated and released

But the news served as a reminder of two things. One, Shula’s getting really old. Two, the time will come when it’s time to pay proper tribute to his coaching career and also point out that the petty potshots Shula’s lobbed at the Patriots since 2007 have colored New England’s opinion of him.

All politics are local,” the great Tip O’Neill once said. Sports, too. We view things through our parochial prism, asking, “What does this (person/event) mean to me?”

The first thing people think about in this six-state region when it comes to Shula isn’t his 36 years as an NFL head coach, record 347 career wins, two Super Bowl titles, six Coach of the Year awards and his team’s perfect season in 1972. The first thing they think about is the times he’s ripped and discredited Bill Belichick and the Patriots. Few people under 40 will remember watching Shula coach in the 1984 Super Bowl. Few under 30 will remember him coaching in the NFL, period (he retired after the 1995 season).

That’s reality. And it’s too bad, because Belichick has always spoken on Shula with reverence. And the respect, at least for a while, was reciprocated.

More than a decade ago, as the Patriots prepared for the Carolina Panthers in Super Bowl 38, Belichick was asked about what he remembered about the 1972 Dolphins.

“They won all their games," Belichick deadpanned, before adding, “They had a pretty good coach. I tell you what, they had a pretty good coach (Shula). One of the coaches that I was fortunate, when I came into the league, he was coaching in the division I was in. I think Don is obviously one of the all-timers and should be."

While Belichick’s primary coaching idols were his father Steve, legendary Browns and Bengals coach Paul Brown, and Navy coach Wayne Hardin, Belichick closely followed Shula as well.

Growing up a Colts fan in Annapolis, Belichick said, “[Shula] was a guy I probably saw more of than anyone else. And who better to look at than Don Shula?"

Shula reciprocated.

"I just think he's done a tremendous job," Shula said back then. "One of the great coaching jobs of all-time was (in 2001). He brought them out of nowhere, with a young quarterback. The way they won, instead of sitting on the ball at the end like [announcer John] Madden wanted them to, they showed confidence in [quarterback Tom] Brady and the system, and they won in overtime. And then you look at what they did (in 2003) . . . They somehow find a way to win. Close games, they find a way to do it. And the other thing you admire is, they had so many injuries and you never heard a complaint. All they did was line up each week and win. The emphasis was on getting the next guy ready to play, and playing the next game.

"That starts at the top, Belichick, the coaching staff, the organization. Everybody is talking about parity, and they don't know what to expect, but (the Patriots) have gone to the Super Bowl two out of three years. That speaks volumes about their organization, their coaches and their players."

Shula’s tune changed, not surprisingly, in 2007 when the Patriots began to stalk the 1972 Dolphins perfect season.

In early November, Shula said the Patriots videotaping of opponent’s coaching hand signals in the first game of the season and in previous years “tainted” them. "The Spygate thing has diminished what they've accomplished," Shula said. "You would hate to have that attached to your accomplishments. They've got it."

Shula tried to walk his comments back two days later. "If they run the table, and they win all the games, then they are doing it within the rules of the National Football League," Shula said. "And there shouldn't be any asterisk to it. That would be the accomplishment that they made. It would be the best in all of sports."

But less than a month after that, with the Patriots bidding to get to 12-0, Shula was a guest in ESPN’s Monday Night Football booth when the Patriots played in Baltimore.

It was one of the most memorable games of the Bill Belichick Era and Shula rooted openly on national television for the Ravens. (This live blog recap is hysterical.) Bill Simmons described Shula’s appearance by writing, “Don Shula's interminable 'Monday Night Football' cameo during the Pats-Ravens game was the interminably long cameo by which all other interminably long cameos should be measured: I didn't find anything that he said to be interesting; he openly rooted for one of the two teams; he wouldn't even leave when Mike Tirico thanked him for stopping by 25 different times . . . ”

While the pride of ownership in being the lone team to have a perfect season is understandable, the annual champagne-popping and chest-puffing of those Dolphins had jumped from cute to obnoxious years before. Reactions among the ’72 Dolphins when the Patriots finished the regular season 16-0 were evenly split between genuine and grudging respect.

“My heart is dead set against it,” said ex-Dolphin Bob Kuechenberg. “The '72 team is uniquely immortal in American sports and I don't want us to lose that special place. We will forever be immortal, and if they win every game in front of them, then they will join us among those ranks.”

Belichick stayed consistent in his respect for Shula. He mentioned having had dinner with Shula in the offseason prior to 2007. He said in December of that year, "I was a big fan of Coach Shula from when he was at Baltimore and his association with my dad, going all the way back to when they were in Ohio . . . The team they had was an awesome team and they were fun to watch.”

The whole thing lay dormant for nearly seven years until a Florida columnist sat down with Shula in January 2015 on the occasion of his 85th birthday. During the conversation, Belichick’s name came up. 

“Beli-cheat?” Shula replied.

Two weeks later, league operations officials seized footballs they believed the team removed air from prior to the AFC Championship Game and Deflategate was born.

In May, at an event kicking off the Dolphins 50th season, Shula lobbed another grenade.

“We always tried to live by the rules and set an example that it was always done with a lot of class, a lot of dignity’’ Shula said. “Always done the right way. We didn’t deflate any balls.”

That cemented Shula’s place on the Patriots fans’ enemies list and sent them off dredging up the occasions when Shula or his team line-stepped in what was unarguably a time when getting the valued “edge” was a lot easier and accepted.

Which brings us to now, where Shula seems at odds with the only current coach who belongs in the pantheon of great coaches alongside him and the others. Shula, Belichick, Brown, Chuck Noll, Joe Gibbs, Vince Lombardi, Tom Landry, Paul Brown and Bill Walsh. Rank them how you like but those are the best there’s been.

Does Shula really have that little respect for Belichick that, at the mention of his name, he seeks to discredit him? Or has he just been playing the hits for the Miami media when he’s had the chance?

At 86, I suppose the opinion of him in New England isn’t a daily concern of Shula’s. And it’s his prerogative to say whatever he likes. His coaching legacy is safe. But broadsides of Belichick make it hard for people up here to think first of his coaching acumen when Don Shula’s name is in the news.