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The Dish: Boys Do Cry
Let me preface this: 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 that youth sports rock. And as recently as, say, 10 years ago, playing in the LLWS would probably have been a great experience. But after what I saw at the Georgia vs. Japan championship game last weekend, I’m ready to picket Williamsport. And naturally, all the bad in this particular situation (as in many others) comes down to ESPN.
They should stop covering this event. Just stop. There is absolutely no reason why Orest Destrada should be doing stories and commercials pretending to be a grown-up on top of a 4-foot-tall catch with his face crooked. There’s no reason why Gary Thorne has to pop his crotch (after all, is that what Gary Thorne sounds like when he gets a little excited?) when the poor shortstop boots some ground. There’s no reason why Steve Phillips—who couldn’t hack it as a major league general manager and, frankly, seems to have found his level in evaluating 12-year-olds—should be questioning “data.” “from a young child. It adds to the air of pressure and negativity that now clearly pervades the experience of children at LLWS.
Don’t give me any crap 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 that 12 and 13-year-olds are not ready for, and public humiliation on national television is one of them. Why stop the kids in a freestyle shooting competition with their little sisters over 100 flashy knives? Johnny and little Sally make free throws. Otherwise…
Do you need proof that I’m right? Watching the finale last weekend was an exercise in tears. These poor children were so completely injured that they cried while they were on the base. In the final inning, with one down, Japan’s leadoff hitter reached base, and when he saw the next batter hit a single, he began to cry. With the second stroke, he hid his face in his sleeve. Japan was still in the game. They had a legitimate chance to win and this kid who got hit is crying at first base. The third kid was crying at his at-bat and had to be comforted by his coach after the first at-bat. Then the tables turned; when the American pitcher struck out in the fourth, putting runners on first and second, his team gathered around him and he could barely keep a straight face as his eyes glazed over with the pressure. There is no reason for this.
Oh sure, will the kids be stressed if the race isn’t televised? Yes. Absolutely. But I don’t think they’ll look as negatively as they would if ESPN did the right thing and went back to Connecticut with Playmaker between his legs. Seeing that little boy cry at first base before the game ended made me vow to never watch LLWS again.
The two games that stand out for me on this first weekend of 2006 are California at Tennessee and, of course, Florida at Miami. What should fans look for in this big game?
BoDog Bookmakers, BoDog.ws: While the first game of the year is crucial to the ACC title hopes of Florida State and Miami, the energy surrounding this matchup is growing inexorably. Florida State fans snap their fingers as QB Drew Weatherford tries to break down Miami’s pass defense. With Weatherford’s reputation for hitting, Miami defenders will be looking for some errant passes from the Florida State QB. However, Weatherford’s saving grace lies in his offseason improvements at the line of scrimmage, allowing him more time in the pocket to make better decisions. As for California at Tennessee, since 2000, the Vols have a horrendous 0-6 record when playing top-10 teams at Neyland Stadium, and that will be on their minds as they try to reverse those numbers against ninth-ranked California. Meanwhile, California coach Jeff Tedford has indicated that both of his quarterbacks could see playing time early in the season, so running back (and potential Heisman Trophy candidate) Marshawn Lynch can be relied on heavily to run the ball.
Other than Cal/UT and FSU/Miami, what’s your favorite week 1 game?
BDB, BoDog.ws: Our other favorite matchup 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 is your prediction for Terrell Owens in Dallas this year? Big season or big bust?
BDB, BoDog.ws: 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 frustrating receivers like he has in the past with Terry Glenn, Keyshawn Johnson and Eric Molds? We expect big things from the TO situation in Dallas this season; either 15+ touches from TO or a massive hit unlike anything we’ve seen between two of the biggest egos in the game, Bill Parcells and the infamous TO Adding Jerry Jones to the equation, either way, it’s on. It’s going to be an interesting year in Dallas.
Are you watching any of the Little League World Series on TV? What are your impressions? Do you think young children should be subjected to such national pressure?
BDB, BoDog.ws: After catching some recent Little League World Series action, I have to say I’m more than impressed. The level of skill and competitiveness of these 11-12 year olds is simply amazing. Most of these kids have well-developed skills along with mechanics that have been developed through intense off-season training programs. Not only does their skill reflect that of the major leaguers, but so does their attitude. These kids are out 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 60 feet from the base paths, and these kids care about that.
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