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Little League becoming too big

Posted by Eric Fisher On August 13

The story of Mo’Ne Davis and the Taney Dragons is inspiring.

And that sort of makes me a hypocrite.

For those who somehow haven’t heard, Davis is a 13-year-old girl who has pitched the Dragons, who represent Philadelphia, into the Little League World Series.

Davis is an inspiration to girls who still must overcome stereotypes and other obstacles to participate in certain sports, including baseball. The Dragons may also inspire inner-city kids all over the country to play baseball – or at least to continue to play baseball instead of giving it up for basketball or football.

My appreciation for the Dragons, who open the Little League World Series Friday (3 p.m.) against South Nashville (Tenn.), presents a problem for me. Why? Because I don’t like the Little League World Series. More specifically, I don’t like the Little League World Series being on television, and I haven’t been shy about saying so for many years.

I’m sticking to my guns.

I’m not convinced there should be an international baseball championship for 11- and 12-year-olds (13-year-olds can continue to play if their birthday isn’t before a specific date). But I am certain it should not be televised.

The Little League World Series should be about kids having fun. It should not be about creating stars before these kids reach high school – or, in some cases, middle school.

Before anyone mistakenly assumes I’m against competition, let me disabuse you of that notion. I believe sports competition is good for kids. Learning the importance of teamwork is invaluable. It’s also beneficial for kids to learn to deal with disappointment, whether it’s in the form of a strikeout or an error, instead of constantly being told they’re terrific and receiving trophies just for showing up.

But they shouldn’t have to learn those lessons on national television.

As cool as it was to see Davis hurl a 3-hitter Sunday as the Dragons devoured the Newark (Del.) Nationals, 8-0, in the Mid-Atlantic Region final, I wondered how much fun it was for the Nationals to be embarrassed on national television (ESPN2). I wondered about the kid who fielded a ball and made the type of errant throw to first base – not even close – that kids sometimes make in Little League.

Shouldn’t he have been allowed to make that mistake in relative obscurity instead of on national television?

I don’t need to see 12-year-olds embarrassed on national television. I don’t need to see them cry when they lose. I don’t need to hear coaches, knowing their instructions and encouragement are being picked up by microphones, seemingly putting on a show for the television audience as much as they’re helping their players.

If local newspapers or broadcast outlets want to do features on the Dragons, I’m all for it. (We’ve included the Dragons in our first-and-10 update here at PhillyPhanatics.com. and I congratulated them in my Fish ‘n Chips column.) I even understand national media doing features on Davis because of the uniqueness of a girl being one of the stars of a team that reaches the Little League World Series.

Despite the intrigue surrounding the Dragons, however, I don’t think it’s right for kids of this age to be competing on national television. There’s enough pressure on them without having their successes and failures broadcast around the country.

That’s why I stopped watching the Little League World Series. This year, although I’m rooting for the Dragons, will not be an exception.

On second thought, maybe I’m not a hypocrite after all.

 

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