It was truly too perfect.
A team of young, somewhat impoverished African-American boys from the inner city banded together to become the best little league baseball team in the United States. Disney is probably already working on a film adaption. Jackie Robinson West, in addition to becoming the first African-American team to win a Little League World Series U.S. Championship, also proved young, black males are participating (and exceeding) in baseball, a sport notorious for its rapid decline of African-American players.
Turns out it really was too good to be true.
Recently, the Little League International committee (which apparently is a thing) revoked JRW’s title and their wins after it was determined the team had brought in players who weren’t located within a specified district. The heroic whistleblower was a man named Chris Janes, who in addition to having a Golden Gate-sized bridge to burn, coached a team JRW defeated 43-2 during the Little League season, because apparently the state of Illinois has abolished the 15-run rule in favor of teaching kids about hard knocks and dealing with heartbreak.
Despite beating teams by margins that even Nick Saban would call excessive, JRW became national sweethearts last summer as they “shocked the world” which seems difficult when you are beating teams by 40 runs. Regardless, that short-lived summer of glowing optimism was quickly destroyed by the adults who oversea the operations of the Little League, a sore-loser rival coach, and most importantly, the coaches of JRW.
The coaches of JRW knowingly schemed their way into a World Series title. Disturbingly, I’ve noticed many sportswriters denouncing the revoking of JRW’s wins. “Don’t punish the children”, they cry to the heavens. “It’s not a big deal!” they plead to the skies. Interestingly, these are the same sportswriters who claimed the New England Patriots have “destroyed the integrity of the game” and “deserve to have the book thrown at them” because they used a couple of under inflated footballs during a game. Meanwhile, they are defending a team who knowingly rostered several players from an unrelated area code. If a football inflated one PSI below the minimum requirement is an “undeniable competitive advantage” I would love to hear how one of these sportswriters would describe the advantage afforded to a team fielding a six-foot three 210 pound 13-year old who can throw 83 miles per hour and hit 350 foot home runs.
Yeah, I’m not totally heartless; I’ll acknowledge the kids were either oblivious to what was happening, or told very staunchly to just shut up. But the parents? When their scrappy, but error prone second basemen was replaced by a kid who looks like Justin Houston surely some questions must’ve been raised.
The role the coaches played is even sadder. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a fan of Friday Night Tykes because it shows people no matter how stupid you might be, you will never be as stupid as a parent who is swearing at an 8-year old for missing a tackle. But, the problem with shows like Tykes is it glorifies the reality of a ridiculously overzealous coach. Keep in mind, this is a reality television show; producers aren’t intervening, offering to give these insane coaches treatment, or counseling kids. They sit back, hope the two coaches get into an altercation and a kid goes to the hospital.
And now people want to complain because the Little League committee is “punishing the kids” because they took their title away. I was a decent baseball player when I was younger, although I never came close to winning a Little League World Series, but I can tell you with absolute certainty that title meant infinitely more to the parents and coaches than it did to the kids. Sure, they had fun and they accomplished something amazing, but most of those kids, right now, are doing what most 13-year olds do; struggle to talk to girls, make stupid life decisions which affect life and limb, and think about playing their next sport. A 17-year old kid isn’t going to walk around bragging about winning the Little League World Series three years ago, because he’s still young and hasn’t hit his athletic prime, meaning he doesn’t want to “peak” as a 13-year old. Besides, bragging out past athletic feats which were accomplished in high school is reserved for 37-year old guys who own class rings, and that fact is 100% true.
I’ve also seen several sportswriters ludicrously claim punishing the kids is sending the wrong message. I’ll allow you to process the stupidity of that statement. Basically, some are stating that punishing kids for being part of an enterprise that was knowingly and intentionally falsifying their team “isn’t the lesson we should be teaching.” Apparently, cheating and altering the rules to get what you want is encouraged and shouldn’t be punished. The lesson they want these kids to take away is “don’t worry, because even though you guys were part of a team which cheated its way to a thing it wanted, we aren’t going to punish you”.
Again, I want to clarify my stance; I don’t think the kids should be blamed. But consider this fact: if you work at a restaurant and your manager is caught serving rotten chicken to customers, can you really blame the FDA for wanting to shut the entire restaurant down even though some of the employees aren’t guilty of anything? If you said yes, you can blame them, have fun getting salmonella.