I enjoyed watching some of the Little League World Series games. I was cheering for Mo'ne and was energized by the comebacks of the team from Chicago. I hoped they could pull off another one against South Korea. Then I sat back and reflected on what I had watched - 11-13 year old boys and two girls - who were being covered by ESPN as if they were adults. There were the entertaining side stories and interviews with families of those kids who were playing. There were inspiring moments when "miked" coaches rallied their teams on to greater efforts. There were the moments when the "boys of summer" looked like boys and girls: tears after an error or pitching wildness and broad smiles after a home run or game winning hit.
That's what bothered me, I guess. Those moments, the close ups which seemed to be an invasion of childhood privacy and exploitation of a child's game for adult viewers. Mo'ne who became an overnight sensation said it kinda creeped her out when adults approached her for her autograph. The kids in her school would never do that because they already knew her, she said. At least, she is home now and her life can return to normal. Unless she decides to so some endorsement deals. Those who know say she could make a quick one to five hundred grand if she doesn't think about it too long. Soon, she will be forgotten and the sporting public will be following football.
There were up to 30,000 spectators at some of the games. The umps were volunteers as were the coaches. Of course, the kids were not payed either. Yet, the cameras, more every year, were on their every move in HD. We saw the sportsmanship, we heard coaches encouraging the kids and groaned at some of the calls as ESPN showed in replays how the umps blew the calls. We were mesmerized at the comparisons with the big leagues, how a 70 mile an hour pitch at Little League dimensions was the same as a 90 plus mile an hour pitch in the bigs, although some experts debated an exact comparison. Anyway, we marveled at how these kids could catch up to a 90 mph heater.
Some of the comparisons went the other way, too. The former big league stars on the ESPN broadcasting team pointed out how a pitcher who had just plunked a hitter on the other team walked off the mound and shook his hand and told him he was sorry. In the big leagues the pitcher has a look of indifference when there is not a shouting match between players or an on field brawl. I love it when the teams line up and shake hands after the game. Why don't they do that in the bigs? Would anyone dare mike up the coaches? The LL coaches never failed to inspire but would big league coaches?
The LL World Series is about the last place you can watch baseball on tv as it was meant to be played. Of course, most of us can go down to the local LL ballpark and watch a game when the boys and girls of summer play. Some of us can coach, ump, or serve up hot dogs to the fans. It is baseball at it's finest. Without ESPN.