bad sports, good sports

Bad sports, good sports: Little League World Series champs disqualified

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When I was a kid, I enjoyed playing sports. I wasn’t a great athlete, but I wasn’t terrible either. I didn’t participate in the organized stuff to any great degree, but I played lots of different sports in my backyard with my neighbors. I did play Little League baseball for a few years. I got to play second base and I got to pitch (although the pitching opportunity was likely more due to my dad being the coach than any great skill on my part). It was a fun and innocent experience. Anymore, though, it seems like the one thing you can count on with sports for kids is that adults will find a way to mess them up. The recent Little League World Series is a great example of this.

Back in August, Jackie Robinson West, a team from Chicago, won the U.S. championship by beating Mountain Ridge, a team from Las Vegas. This came right after they had beaten the Taney Dragons from Philadelphia, a team that had created a major stir due to its female star pitcher, Mo’Ne Davis. JRW went on to lose to a South Korean team in the world championship, but the team was hailed as a championship team by everyone. This was a great story that got a lot of coverage, but I have never been a big fan of the televising of the LLWS, as it really commercializes an event that is supposed to be about the kids. When you pump something up to be as big as this thing has become, bad things are bound to happen. And happen they did.

It was reported back in December that league officials had been investigating JRW for possible violations involving the geographic makeup of their roster. At the time, they supposedly found no wrongdoing. Last week, though, that all changed. The finding was that the team had intentionally manipulated the map it was supposed to use to draw players, allowing it to take the best players from surrounding areas who were not actually eligible to play for the squad. The governing body stripped the team of its title, awarding it to runner-up Mountain Ridge.

It’s so hard to figure out what is right here. Yes, the championship was won in an invalid fashion and it makes sense to void that victory. At the same time, we are talking about 11 and 12-year-old kids here. They did nothing wrong. They played their hearts out and won on the biggest stage. This was likely a life-changing event for a bunch of kids from Chicago’s rough South Side. So much good could have come from it. Now, these kids not only have the rug pulled out from under them, but they again are left to feel let down by adults and authority figures. At the same time, kids from the Taney Dragons have to wonder if they shouldn’t have had a shot at that title, since they were eliminated by a team whose coaches cheated.

The size of the audience and the stakes in play are the reasons why this kind of things happen. Maybe Little League should just be Little League again. Lose the television contracts and the sponsors and let the kids play.

Bad sports, continued:

2) A plane carrying the Mississippi State basketball team back to campus after a game in Missouri had to make an emergency landing in St. Louis. One of the plane’s engines lost power, forcing the measure. No one was injured.

3) Apparel company Under Armour made special sneakers for Steph Curry, the star guard from the Golden State Warriors, to wear at the NBA All-Star Game this past weekend. The two pairs that were sent to the event were stolen before they ever got to him.

Good sports:

1) A little over four years after the original trees were poisoned, the famous oaks of Toomer’s Corner on Auburn’s campus were replanted on Saturday. The alleged poisoner, Harvey Updyke Jr., was indicted earlier this month for the crime.

2) The Kentucky Wildcats crushed South Carolina on Saturday to move to 25-0 on the season. They are a scary good team and have to be considered the favorite to win the championship again this year.

3) As a marathon runner, I am continually amazed by the feats of the people who really excel at this sport. The strength and will power of the elite runners is just astonishing. Hyvon Ngetich of Kenya was competing in the Austin Marathon on Saturday. She led for much of the event, but she was slammed by the famed “wall” late in the race and fell with less than a tenth of a mile to go. The medical folks got to her quickly with a wheelchair, but she refused, crawling on her hands and knees for the final 450 feet to the finish line. She still managed to finish third.

Bad sports, good sports appears early each week

Alan Spoll is a software quality assurance director from the suburbs of Philadelphia where he lives with his wonderful wife and children. He has spent his entire life as a passionate fan of the Eagles, Phillies, Sixers, Flyers, and Penn State. Recent Phillies success aside, you will understand his natural negativity. Follow me on Twitter - @DocAlan02
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