As we work our way toward college football, desperate for something compelling, sports-wise, to watch, the Little League World Series gets a lot of airtime.
And it’s too bad.
For an event that’s all about the kids, let’s make no mistake, The Little League World Series has a way bigger affect on the parents. Oh, there’s some joy in watching 12 year-olds play, if it’s down around the corner at the local ball field, but there’s no joy in hearing the same, tired talking points of how these kids “play for the love of the game.”
And there’s no joy on what ultimately happens when these games clog the airwaves for what is now longer than a two-week period.
By putting 10 and 12 year-olds on national TV, you’re glorifying them, and no one takes more joy in children than the parents of those children. Now hang on, no one’s saying it’s a bad idea to be proud of your kids. Of course not, but most parents, get caught up in comparisons.
Oh, those kids are on TV? I want my kids to be on TV? Oh, some kids from rural Idaho get to play ball on ESPN? Well, why can’t my kid be on ESPN, also? This isn’t normal. Youth coaches with microphones strapped to their shirts, dads turned into a poor man’s Terry Francona? Come on. This doesn’t equal great television. It leads to more dads, more youth coaches and more parents wanting their kids and themselves to be on TV, too.
Highlighting athletic achievements in one thing, but featuring a two-week show of pre-teens playing sports creates unrealistic expectations. So often, parents live through their kids accomplishments. This only enables that behavior.
The LLWS is an example of ESPN being tone deaf. Want to grow the game? Well, don’t make it seem like you have to have a specialized pitching coach, or play 80 games a summer like these kids do. Not every parent, or kid for that matter, wants baseball to be a full time job at the age of 11. Nothing wrong with playing 12 games a summer and the heading off to camp, or to piano lessons, or to just hang out at the pool. Now, ESPN has normalized this kind of youth baseball. Only, it isn’t normal. This is getting the same air time as the college game and the pro game. Shameful.
The NFL is on TV because it’s popular and makes a lot of money. Same goes, to some lesser extent, all professional and college sports.
The Little League World Series is on TV because it’s a gimmick. That’s why it used to just be one televised game. We’re not watching for any other reason than the players are young. It’s synthetic and is unrealistic view of what kids playing sports is all about.
Used to be, the championship game was on TV on a Saturday afternoon. That was enough. Now we have a week’s worth of regionals with games from all over the United States with camera shot after camera shot of parents looking on pensively. Enough. This has become the new normal, but it doesn’t have to be.
I’ve already turned the channel, but ESPN should turn the page.