Sunday, August 23, 2009

The Kids Are Alright

As school-age children across the USA start to reconcile themselves to the inevitability that the next academic year is beginning (for some) in a matter of days and/or hours, I feel compelled to note, in the interests of good sportsmanship and fair play, the boys of summer (subject to the rules and interpretations of the respective national governing boards) have started the process to crown the next Little League World Series Champion.

On any given day during the two weeks or so, I have NO idea who is playing and (obviously enough) no knowledge about any of the players. Here's today's schedule, and after you've looked at it, tell me if your interest and/or expectations about any of the contests was altered or changed in anyway. I didn't think so.

In a world where we pay grown men (and some women) wages that approximate the gross national product of some Third-World nations to participate professionally in a sport our children play for free, there is something about the joy and exhilaration of the competition in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, that I find a tonic for the soul.

The enthusiasm and engagement of the television announcers, some of whom as youngsters, played on these same fields in pursuit of a championship, is contagious and inspiring. If you can listen to the Little League Pledge, almost as old as I am, or even just read it, and not get goosebumps, don't bother checking your pulse, call your coroner as you're no longer among the living.

As a New York Yankees fan, this weekend is HUGE as Major League Baseball heads inexorably towards the playoffs and they and their arch-rivals, the Boston Red Sox, complete a three game series tonight in Fenway Park that will be as passionate and exhausting as any competitive sporting event in the world, but still, if you can, find the time today, or tonight or tomorrow to catch a Little League game on ESPN.

All you can be is reminded and refreshed about why you choose to follow baseball. Why, in an era of a dozen other sports all grabbing more headlines and world-wide attention, the simple beauty of a contest that, at its most basic, involves striking a small leather-bound and round spheroid with a stick, be it wood, metal or some kind of composite and doing it better than a like number of others attempting to do the same on the other team.

For a few days, eleven-year olds can serve as role models for grown men and an entire team of players, who've just been white-washed and whose run to the Series has ended prematurely and with a drubbing no one would wish on anyone else stand one behind the other along the first and third base lines after the final out and shake the hands of the team sending them home prematurely and tell them 'good game' and really mean it, because the Little League World Series isn't just about baseball, it's about life, as it should be lived.

"... I will play fair.
And strive to win.
But win or lose,
I will always do my best."
The Kids Are Alright.
-bill kenny

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