Every year, as the Scripps National Spelling Bee comes closer and closer, the predictions begin. Articles are posted on news sites, former spellers are interviewed about their favorites, and a group of current and former spellers holds their own "fantasy spelling" competition on the Internet, modeled after fantasy football. The consensus among virtually everyone in 2017 was that there were three favorites: Shourav Dasari, Siyona Mishra, and Tejas Muthusamy, and yet none of them won. Shourav Dasari and Snehaa Ganesh Kumar were both favorites in 2016--neither won. All of this is not to say that those chosen as favorites aren't great spellers, of course, but the fact is that the bee is unpredictable and the unexpected is more likely than the expected. So why is the bee so unpredictable?
First of all, you don't always know how hard everyone is working. While previous bee records are certainly relevant, they're not everything. There is always someone relatively unknown who has been studying intently throughout the year. They may not have had a chance to show off their spelling skills in previous bees, but that doesn't mean that they will necessarily be any less of a force in the bee that's being predicted. Prediction isn't possible with these types, as (evidently) they don't always have a record to look at.
Secondly, as hard as anyone can try, the bee's word list can never be perfectly even. Harder words are used in the same rounds as easier ones. Luck is an element. No matter how good of a speller someone is, there are always words that they might not know. Nobody has ever successfully memorized every single word in the dictionary, although some have come close. The favorites might get unlucky and get those words. There's definitely a debate on how fair this is, but if luck weren't an element, would the bee really be the bee?
The third element: nerves. The best of the best have succumbed to the pressure that's on them during the bee. Despite having studied for hundreds and hundreds of hours, sometimes stress and tension are enough to take a speller down.
Why do you think the bee is unpredictable? Do you think the bee should be predictable? Why?