What is Little League For?
Or Rather Whom is it For?
by Brian Farenell
(c) 30 August 2001
The Little League World Series (LLWS) ended last week.
A team from the Bronx got all the attention because
one of their pitchers was so dominating. He gave up
like 3 hits total in 4 games (1 perfect game, 1
no-hitter). So he and his team got all the hype and
huge media attention. They lost in the US Championship
to a team from Florida, in a game where the star
wasn't pitching. They were made heros anyways, given
keys to the city by the NYC mayor, on the cover of the
I read an article in the paper last week that a team
in Staten Island spend $10,000 on private
investigators to try and show that the Bronx pitcher
was actually older than is allowed for his team's age
level (Bronx beat Staten Island in a regional
tournament). All throughout the LLWS, the announcers
kept spewing their usual nonesense about how Little League
is untainted and a pure form of the sport and they
play it because they love the game, blah blah blah.
During the one of the games, one of the announcers
mentioned the private investigator thing in passing.
He did so matter-of-factly and then they went back to
their yapping about LL's purity. They did all this
without the slightest hint of irony, as though they
didn't realize the hypocrisy of the event in relation
to their pablum.
All this doesn't surprise me, but it disgusts me.
Think about it. They spent $10,000 on a vindicative
investigation. What are these parents teaching their
kids? To be sore losers. That if you don't win, it has
to be a fix, the other guys must have cheated. Do
these parents have no shame? Instead of giving that
$10,000 to a homeless shelter or even to improve the
Little League facilities in their own town, they chose
to do something vindictive. Even if the allegation is
true, is it worth spending that enormous sum of money
on something which should be of little consequence to
Now, reports indicate the Bronx pitcher may have
actually been 14, although apparently official
documents conflict to his actual birth year. The Bronx
LL people a're as pathetic as the Staten Island parents.
Adults rigging a game like this and manipulating kids
for the sole purpose of giving themselves glory.
However, some people believe that because the allegations proved to
be true in this particular case, that the private investigation was justified. I
disagree. One argues "If it were your kid and they were cheated out of
something, wouldn't you fight for them?" This is a self-serving argument.
Kids lose a baseball game and then move on to other things. I'd be shocked
if any of the Staten Island kids were pushing for their parents to pay for
the investigation. But the parents use this self-serving argument to hide the
fact that they feel as though it was they themselves who lost out, not so much
their kids. The parents are the ones who obsess about these sorts of things. Kids
lose a game and move on. Who has more maturity in this regard?
We automatically assumed the Bronx people were guilty even before we had
any facts. Maybe it's because despite all the pablum and official
rhetoric, we actually realize that organized youth sports are about kids second and
adults first. I think it's also due to the fact that we are too quick to build up heroes who
aren't really heroes and then just as quick to tear them down because they are human
and fail to live up to the unreasonable ideal we attribute to them. Most people who
reach "hero" status in this nation do so as a result of hitting a ball far or having a beautiful
singing voice. These are fine qualities but they are amoral and do not reflect positively
or negatively on one's character.
The offficial rhetoric is that youth sports builds
teamwork, instills discipline, promotes sportsmanship,
etc. But kids aren't stupid. They learn from actions
not words. The Little League creed that is said
communally before every game finishes, "...I will play
fair, and strive to win. But win or lose, I will
always do my best." But if they see parents
(supposedly adults) screaming hysterically at teenage
umpires or their coaches manipulating rules or
outright cheating or that one particular player is
obviously favored by the coaches and parents, what are
the kids going to learn from: the words or the
If I were dictator-king, there would be no organized
youth sports before the age of 12. Most parents are
good but there's a vocal minority who are jerks.
They don't have a clue. They try to live their
sporting fantasies through their kids. They justify their
mania with the self-serving argument that they "just want
the best for their kids." Even when their obssession does
damage to their child. Unfortunately, this minority ruins it for everyone, not just their
own kids; and the good parents often say nothing to
shush these types. In fairness, people who've been in
music or theatre or dance might be able to attest that
this cut-throatedness is not unique to sports.
Anyone who's ever been to a youth sports game knows
that the generally speaking, the kids are the ones who
have the best perspective, far more than the coaches
or parents. I'm speaking broadly, of course, but I
believe this to be the case. Kids play hard and
compete hard and get dirty and then after the game,
they go have a slushie with their friends on the other
team. Who would your role model be: them or the
parents in Staten Island?
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