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The Dish: Boys Do Cry
Let me preface this by saying: I have no children.
But if I did, I’m pretty sure the last thing I’d want them to do is play in the Little League World Series.
Don’t get me wrong: I think youth sports are rock. And only, say, 10 years ago, playing in LLVS would probably have been a great experience. But after what I saw at the championship game between Georgia and Japan last weekend, I’m ready to picket in Williamsport. And naturally, all the evil in this particular situation (as in many others) boils down to ESPN.
They need to stop following this event. Stop it. There is absolutely no reason that Orestes Destrada should be doing feature stories and promos towering over a four-foot-tall scowl-faced catcher, pretending to be all grown up. There’s no reason Gary Thorne needs to invoke his hernia (after all, doesn’t Gary Thorne sound like he does when he gets a little excited?) when the poor shortstop picks up a grounder. There’s no reason why Steve Phillips — who couldn’t hack it as a major league general manager and, if I’m being honest, seems to have found his 12-year-old level of judgment — should question the little kid’s “stuff.” This adds to the pressure and negativity that now clearly pervades the experience of children at LLVS.
Don’t give me grief about how it makes them tougher, or how kids want that level of exposure, so the world should give it to them. There are some things 12- and 13-year-olds aren’t ready for, and public humiliation on national TV is one of them. Why not just line up the kids for a free throw contest with their little sisters suspended from 100 shiny knives? Make the free throw, Johnny, and little Sally lives. Otherwise….
Need proof that I’m right? Watching the finale last weekend was an exercise in tears. These poor little children were so completely wrapped up that they cried while they were at the base. In the last inning, one down, Japan’s leadoff hitter found himself on base, and as he watched the next batter take a single, he began to roar. Until the second shot, he hid his face in the sleeve of his uniform. Japan was still in the game. They had a legitimate chance to win, and this kid who got hit is crying at first base. A third kid cried at bat and had to be comforted by the coach after he struck out in the first match. Then the tables turned; when the American pitcher struck out the fourth batter, putting runners on first and second, his team rallied around him and he could barely keep a straight face as his eyes glistened with stress. There is no reason for any of this.
Oh sure, would the kids feel the pressure if this tournament wasn’t televised? Yes. Absolutely. But I don’t think they would look at it as negatively as they obviously do if ESPN did the right thing and crawled back to Connecticut with their Playmaker between their legs. Seeing that boy cry at first base before the game was over made me vow to never watch LLVS again.
The two games that stand out to me for this first weekend of college football in 2006 are California at Tennessee and, of course, Florida State at Miami. What should fans look for in those huge games?
BoDog Sportsbook, BoDog.vs: With the first game of the year key to Florida State and Miami’s ACC title hopes, the electricity surrounding this game is inextricably heightened. Florida State fans will be crossing their fingers as KB Drew Weatherford tries to take down Miami’s stout, leading pass defense. With Weatherford’s reputation for throwing interceptions, Miami’s defensive backs will be looking for a few errant passes from the Florida State QB. However, Weatherford’s saving grace lies in the improvement of his offensive line in the offseason, which should allow him more time in the pocket to make better decisions. As for California at Tennessee, since 2000 the Vols have held a nightmarish 0-6 record against top-10 teams at Neiland Stadium, and that will be on their minds as they try to turn those numbers around against ninth-ranked California. Meanwhile, California coach Jeff Tedford said both of his quarterbacks could see playing time in the season opener, so running back (and potential Heisman Trophy candidate) Marshawn Lynch can be relied on heavily to run the ball.
What’s your favorite Week 1 game other than Cal/UT and FSU/Miami?
BDB, BoDog.vs: Our second favorite game has to be Notre Dame vs. Georgia Tech. This is our first chance to see Heisman Favorite Brady Quinn showcase his talents this year.
What are your predictions for Terrell Owens in Dallas this year? Huge season or huge bust?
BDB, BoDog.vs: With the talent that Terrell Owens has, it’s absurd that his head isn’t right. Drew Bledsoe has a big arm, but can he handle up-and-down receivers like he has in the past with Terry Glenn, Keyshawn Johnson and Eric Molds? We’re expecting big things this season with the TO situation in Dallas; either 15+ touchdowns from a TO or a huge blowout unlike anything we’ve ever seen between two of the biggest egos in the game, Bill Parcells and the infamous TO With Jerry Jones added to the equation, either way it’s going to be an exciting year in Dallas.
Do you watch the Little League World Series when it’s on TV? What is your impression? Do you think children that young should be subjected to that kind of national pressure?
BDB, BoDog.vs: After seeing some of the recent Little League World Series action, I have to say I’m more than impressed. The skill level and competitive drive of these 11-12 year olds is simply astounding. Most of these kids have finely honed skills combined with mechanics that have been developed through rigorous off-season training programs. Not only do their skills mirror those of major leaguers, but so do their attitudes. These kids are here to win, and I think the pressure of the national spotlight is something they really enjoy and thrive on. At the end of the day, the mound is still 46 feet from home plate and the base paths are 60 feet apart, and that’s what these kids are concentrating on.
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