With the Little League World Series done and gone, ESPN is back to covering professional (that includes college) sports where the results theoretically matter. Amen!
Don’t get me wrong, all games matter – to those playing for sure and to those coaching though I suspect to a somewhat lesser degree. And they sure seem to matter to the parents/grandparents and the like, though I am not sure why. This wonderful piece by Justin Halpern paints a picture of why they should matter to the kids.
I don’t begrudge the little leaguers on ESPN’s nonstop coverage their time on TV. What could be cooler than playing on national TV? But the 24×7 analysis, game breakdowns and endless noise on Twitter and Facebook is as ridiculous as it is overwhelming. The pitcher is dominating because he is a six-foot man child. And yes, he’s gutsy. They’re all gutsy. Baseball is the toughest game out there. Worse still is the other side to the ubiquitous coverage: the risk of damaging a young kid.
In a LLWS game late in the tournament, a first baseman elbowed a batter-runner as he crossed the bag. There was no play at first so it would be hard to question intent. The Twittersphere lit up. Why? Why should anyone other than the kid involved and his coaches and caretakers care, let alone know about it? It was an unfortunate play and a stupid play. Kids do stupid things. It needed to be addressed and moved on from. Does the kid really need his mistake spread across the globe for all to see? Does he need it commentated on and analyzed with replay after replay? Does he need it forever preserved online along with the words “bush league” and ‘”punk” (that’s how it was described)? What purpose does it serve to forever shame the kid?
Before the days of the app you were lucky if your name got in the local newspaper. I’m not saying it was better in the pre-internet age though personally I still love the newspaper clipping and making the scrapbook and framing the articles. But somewhere between the instant gratification of social media and the glorification of kids sports (though the LLWS may be the most visible example, it goes well beyond just baseball), we lost perspective. We’ve lost perspective with travel sports in general with year-round play and specialization at such young ages; your kid is not going to play pro sports (it’s a numbers-thing more than anything else no matter how good they are now) so why not let them experience many sports instead of one and not run the risk of burnout before they reach high school. Bad as that is, we have a bigger issue if the travel sports mentality allows us to think a stupid play by a young kid in a meaningless game is newsworthy and that somehow it’s okay to shame the kid on social media.