Thursday, February 12, 2015

Let the Boys be Boys...

I was in a Wrigleyville Bar, when the JRW Little Leaguers won the US Championship, it was a crazy scene...

A bunch of 12 year olds, captured the hearts of this city, and in some respects this nation. Just footsteps from where Major Leaguers get paid big bucks to play the same game.  I couldn't believe the response from this fairly crowded bar.  Everyone was hooked.  It was cool.

Forget that this was the first all African American team to represent the US in the title game and forget that every politician was clinging to this group of youngsters.  This was pure.  This was the way the game of baseball was supposed to be.  A group of kids, coming together, playing hard, hustling, making plays, hitting homers and enjoying playing this game.  Our National Pastime. Kids being kids.  It brought back memories of playing little league myself.  It reminded me of gathering my friends on a warm summer day, scrounging together enough money to buy a rubber baseball for a game of "fast pitch" at the park.

Suddenly though, those memories were interrupted by the unbelievable news, that the JRW Little League was stripped of it's US Championship, because the league used players from outside the actual boundaries of it's district.  What?!?

Winning was that important to a group of adults, that they would jeopardize the hard work, and dedication of kids, playing a game meant for them.  What drives this?  Is it a case of not succeeding enough as a kid themselves that adults have to win at all costs?  Living vicariously through some 12 year olds?   Grow up.  This was supposed to be about the team.  There is no excuse that can ever be uttered by the "adults" in this case.  You are supposed to be the example.  You are supposed to be, well, the ADULT.

I'm not naive enough to think that cheating doesn't go on.  Trust me.  With all the baseball, football, and college basketball scandals, it's hard not to know this exists.  In those money making sports, you understand that it's about money, and usually winning translates to money for a team, a player, or a school.  What was to gain here in this case?  What was to gain by the Bronx, NY team several years ago, when Danny Almonte toed the mound at the age of "12" in 2001, when in actuality he was 14? Don't waste my time trying to explain a motive.  You cheated, you got caught and you cheated your players.  End of story.

I'm just glad that the players on the JRW team, got to enjoy the tournament and their moment in the sun.  It was cool to see a city the size of Chicago with all it's pro teams, embrace a group of kids. Even the pro teams got behind them.  Both the Cubs and White Sox had the JRW team to the ballparks to honor them.  Nobody can take that away from them.  They played those games, they won those games and showed a lot of character in doing so.  Too bad the coach and league director didn't show the same.   Just because the title has to be vacated, the little leaguers are still champions to me.  They showed a lot of class in rallying a community and city.  They were fun to watch and see interact with their heroes of baseball.  These kids don't need a trophy to prove they are winners.  

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