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Fish ‘n Chips

Posted by Eric Fisher On August 20

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The success of the Taney Dragons, with Mo’ne Davis on the cover of Sports Illustrated, has led some to question whether I should re-evaluate my position that the Little League World Series shouldn’t be televised.

I took that advice. After re-evaluating my most recent column, in which I explained my long-held belief that the Little League World Series should not be on national television, I am … not changing my opinion.

There’s no denying that the success of Philadelphia’s Dragons is an uplifting story. Davis’ unique position as a girl in a starring role for a team in the Little League World Series has garnered national attention. Her appearances on national television talk show and the cover of Sports Illustrated may inspire athletes, female and male alike, around the country – if not the world.

In the case of Davis and the Dragons, the national media spotlight may be beneficial. But one positive example doesn’t negate all the negative consequences of televising 12-year-olds playing baseball.

The Dragons’ 7-6 comeback victory over Pearland East (Texas) on Sunday was due, in part, to two errors. The Pearland right fielder airmailed a throw home, allowing a run to score. An error on the shortstop allowed the winning run to score.

So while the Delaware Valley was celebrating the Dragons’ fighting spirit and remarkable comeback, a young kid was dealing with making an error to allow the winning run to score. That’s a tough situation for any athlete. It’s even more difficult when you make that mistake on national television.

Learning from mistakes is an essential part of sports. Kids need to learn how to deal with failure, treating it as a learning experience instead of as a judgment on themselves as athletes or, even more importantly, as people. But there’s no need for a 12-year-old to have to learn that lesson in front of a national television audience.

Maybe a segment of our reality television-addicted society enjoys the drama and emotion of the Little League World Series. But I don’t need to see the camera zoom in on the teary-eyed players on the losing side.

After the Rhode Island team lost, the team’s coach delivered a postgame speech to his dejected players. I don’t know the coach, so I can’t tell you if he would have delivered the same speech if there weren’t cameras beaming his speech around the country. I have my suspicions, though.

What I know for sure, however, is that the dejected Rhode Island players, some unable to hold back their tears, shouldn’t have had to share their disappointment with a national audience. To make matters worse, ESPN replayed the speech on SportsCenter, further exploiting these kids’ emotions (although I’m sure the defense would be the “inspirational” words of the coach served as a lesson for how to deal with disappointment).

The Little League World Series is big business. Televising the Little League World Series is about ratings. To get those ratings, young kids are exploited. Their emotion is the attraction.

And for every jubilant Taney Dragon this past week, there has been a sad opponent who had to deal with losing on national television.

As much as I enjoy the Dragons’ success, and have no objection to local coverage of their adventures, the Little League World Series does not belong on national television.

The positive aspects of the Dragons’ success is not worth the price of embarrassment and humiliation the losing side must endure.


THIRD TIME’S THE CHARM: The Eagles need to play better Thursday against the Steelers than they have in their previous two preseason games. I don’t care about the final score. I want to see the first team play better, both on offense and defense.

The starters usually play very little during the fourth preseason game, so they need to look better against the Steelers to instill confidence in those who are beginning to hedge their bets regarding the Eagles taking the next step up the ladder in Chip Kelly’s second season as head coach.


CONFUSING SCHEDULE: My criticism of soccer is sometimes dismissed as my failure to understand the game. I understand soccer, but I admit I don’t understand soccer schedules.

The Union’s loss to Houston last Friday has been attributed, in part, to having “tired legs” after playing FC Dallas three days earlier in the semifinals of the U.S. Open Cup. I won’t even get into my disdain for using penalty kicks to decide a match, which is how the Union defeated Dallas. My concern this week is the schedule.

Can you imagine the Flyers playing in a separate tournament during their regular season? Would the Eagles schedule a mid-week game that doesn’t count in the NFL standings? So why is it accepted that MLS teams compete in the U.S. Open Cup during their season?

The Union will host the championship game of the U.S. Open Cup on Sept. 16. But will winning the Open Cup seem so great if the Union miss the playoffs due to “tired legs?”


PLAYOFF POSITION: The loss to Houston hurt the Union’s playoff positioning. Their momentary stay in fifth place in the Eastern Conference, which is the final playoff position, ended when they were passed by New York and tied by New England following their loss to the Dynamo.

As of Wednesday morning, the Red Bulls (28 points) are one point ahead of the Union and Revolution. The Union have played one more game than either team. The Union also have played one more game than both Houston and Chicago, which are just two points behind them.

The Union are back in action Sunday against visiting San Jose. The Earthquake are tied for last place in the Western Conference, but, before anyone makes the mistake of thinking they’ll be a pushover, they have just three fewer points than the Union while having played three fewer games.


MANZIEL’S MATURITY: Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel didn’t help himself by flashing the middle finger at the Redskins bench during a preseason game. Browns head coach Mike Pettine delayed his decision on naming a starting quarterback, which he had said he would make Tuesday by one day … and then he named Brian Hoyer the starting quarterback. Having covered Pettine when he was a high school coach, his decision did not surprise me one bit.


COLLEGE CREDIT: Is college football truly about to begin? Where did the summer go?


BASEMENT BLAHS: Entering Wednesday’s games, the Phillies are in last place in the National League East, 17 games behind the first-place Nationals. The people who believed the Phillies were going to compete for first place in the NL East were clearly delusional.

Eric Fisher, who has been covering sports for nearly 26 years, was not fooled into believing the Phillies would be contenders.


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