On Wednesday, Little League Baseball stripped Chicago’s Jackie Robinson West of its U.S. championship for illegally pulling players onto its team from outside the acceptable geographic boundary.
As a citizen of the northwest suburbs of Chicago, I was happy to see the success of this baseball team this past summer. But as a sports fan who has no connections to any player on the team, I couldn’t have cared less about watching them play on television and now hearing of the cheating allegations.
Was their “crime” really that heinous or egregious? Absolutely not. It’s not as if they were allowing older kids to play on their roster and allow them to dominate in a Billy Madison-esque fashion — something that happens far too often in youth sports.
But was it wrong that the team signed up kids that were outside their boundaries? Absolutely. And by the letter of the law, they broke a rule no matter the extent or impact of the violation.
My biggest problem with the whole situation is that we have, in fact, made it a “big problem.” Why would anyone outside the south side of Chicago, other than those directly involved with children who play for Little League Baseball, have any interest in this ongoing drama?
We have a problem in this country of glorifying sports. I love sports. I think they are competitive and fun, they provide a good social outlet for fans as well as young kids. They’re a good means for physical fitness and stress relief. But they’re just a game, and we often take them too seriously.
That has never been more apparent than now, when we broadcast children’s sports on ESPN and then talk about them on the radio. I’m sorry, but for as much as I love sports, I don’t care to watch or listen to broadcasts of Little League Baseball.
In fact, I love my nieces and nephews, and I will go to their sporting events to support them. But that doesn’t mean I would enjoy listening to hours of sports talk radio about the games in which they play.
But alas, we live in a culture now where everyone has an opinion about everything. In this era of social media, everything needs to be tweeted and shared and given 15 minutes of fame.
I feel bad for the kids of Jackie Robinson West, who were innocent pawns in the deceitful plots of the adults in the room. Why the masterminds behind this violation were so desperate for fame and notoriety for winning a children’s national championship that they would break rules to do it is beyond me.
But the kids have the opportunity to learn a valuable life lesson that cheating is not the answer — something they also should have learned from Tom Brady and the New England Patriots’ Deflategate scandal — and move forward with a clearer picture on right and wrong and sports and reality.