The great national nightmare known as the Little League World Series is finally over….Thank you Baby Jesus.
Now don’t get me wrong, I love Little League baseball. I love kids getting out on ball fields all over the country and playing America’s game. I love that kids get out of the house and play such a great game. I just have a problem with ESPN’s glorification of 11-12 year-olds and the picture they paint of these kids.
television ratings show I am in the minority when it comes to the televising and promotion of LIttle League baseball. Baseball fans eat this stuff up. But, as I watch the idolatry of 11-12 year-olds by ESPN, I have to think, no wonder we have a nation of children who feel entitled with egos the size of the Grand Tetons. I just don’t get why this is so popular.
Proponents say it is great seeing kids play the game on such a big stage. They also cite the purity with which the game is played compared to their big league brethren. All fine arguments. I just believe my argument against trumps that contention.
I think it is a horrible precedent to set when you have adolescents who are playing on a national stage when the games should be for the simple love of the game. There is a huge difference between playing baseball competitively at the age of 14 and playing it at 12. At 14, you are in high school, you are playing on a diamond that is 60’6 and 90 feet between bases. Its real baseball. Little League is where you learn the game, it’s not where you have possible life-alterning moments. I am not naive. I remember the days when the networks would televise the Championship Game. I have no problem with broadcasting JUST the title match-up. But, now we have ESPN televising the Little League Regionals. Think about that for a moment. A major network televising regional games from around the country for the right to play in the World Series. Its horrible. While the kids may have a blast with the television coverage I fear for that first child who has a Donnie Moore or Buckner-like moment and costs his team a chance to go to the World Series or costs his team a Championship. Picture it, a ball dribbles up the first base line and goes through little Johnny’s legs allowing the tying and winning runs to score and his team is eliminated. Little Johnny will not only have that memory, which is part of the game. But, he will also have it frozen in time, for all to see. It could be a life defining moment, and here he is at the ripe old age of 11.
I have called the broadcasting of Little League baseball on the networks a veiled form a child abuse, and I am sticking by this take. I think it is so wrong to put kids in this position. Let them live, have fun and enjoy the game without the bright lights and former major leaguers pontificating on how if little Harvey works on his slider he will be the ace of the Mets rotation in ten years. It’s just unfair to the kids.
I would venture not many people love baseball more than I do. Having broadcast Chico State baseball for the past 16 years and eating and sleeping the game, it is my passion. Let anyone who knows me tell you about my life’s obsession. But, what the mothership (ESPN) does to these kids is shameful. I always feel relief when a Little League World Series has come and gone without a little kid having been fitted with goat horns, and having to live that down for the rest of his life. All because a bunch of suits in New York saw market share and an advertising fiscal bonanza.
The long national nightmare is over……The Little League World Series is over.