Imagine that you are attending a Little League baseball game to watch a little tyke relative play the national pastime. You strike up a conversation with another attendee, only to find out that he doesn’t actually know any of the children on the teams. And no, he’s not a rival coach scouting the game. He’s just some random guy. At the park. Watching children.
‘Creepy’ might be a word that comes to your mind. Yet this is essentially what millions of Americans do every August when they tune in to ESPN to watch 11, 12, and 13 year-olds play baseball on a miniature field in South Williamsport, Penn.
It would be one thing if the baseball on display were of a high caliber. It is not. That’s because it’s being played by adolescent children, and adolescent children do very few things competently. In fact, they suck at almost everything, which is why the LLWS is rife with errors, mental mistakes, and poor fundamentals that’d make great outtakes for a Tom Emanske instructional video.
Of course, any time there are championship games being lost on national television by little kids, you get crying.
But what these kids need to know is this:
Another reason the LLWS sucks — and this is one that everyone who’s ever played organized baseball as a kid can attest to — is the parents. It truly is amazing to see how seemingly normal and civil adults can, just by virtue of entering a venue where their child is playing a sport, turn into intolerable assholes who think their kid is the greatest thing to happen to baseball since the end of the Dead Ball Era. The amount of politicking that goes on off the field as parents try to hustle and strong-arm coaches into getting their kids more playing time or get them onto certain teams is absolutely insane. This probably goes triple for the LLWS given the stakes are much “higher.”
Of course, I don’t blame the kids for any of this. They’re just being exploited by ESPN for ratings, obviously, and at least for the next eight years. But as a person who played for a long time and as someone who’s watched a lot of professional baseball, you can’t tell me that the LLWS is a good product and not expect me to laugh in your face.