Thursday, August 25, 2011

Prime-time players

There is plenty to like about youth sports. It can build confidence, form long-lasting friendships, develop skills, and so forth.

But there are drawbacks too. You've heard of parents who drive their kids too hard while either living out their own frustrated dreams or trying to get them to earn a college scholarship. There's the common sense of such matters as, should there be travel teams for children under 10?

And that brings us to Little League.

The World Series in Williamsport, Pa., right now, as the best teams from around the world are competing to be American, International, and Overall champion. While I'd hate to think that a 13-year-old can have a thrill of a lifetime -- kind of makes the rest of his or her life an anticlimax -- there's no doubt that it's an exciting time.

During the last few years, all of the games on the finals are broadcast on ESPN. Some of the regional tournament games are shown too.

That idea makes me a little uncomfortable.

OK, I get the easy part. The games must get ratings, or they wouldn't be on national television. I don't know what the rights fees involved, but it must help Little League do some good things with youth baseball.

Still ... it's easy to wonder if it is a good idea to put this much pressure on children who may not be prepared to handle it. Sure they say they want to be on television now. But I think of the young pitcher who gave up a walk-off homer to lose the championship for a few years ago. Think kids will bring that up for years to come when they need a verbal weapon? Think opposing players in his area will keep it in mind if they face him down the road?

On ESPN tonight, the broadcast showed a split screen of the Red Sox-Rangers game on ESPN2, and of a round-robin game from Williamsport. Is it fair to imply that they are equal in a way in that fashion?

I'm not sure I know the answers to all that. I just know that it's not in anyone's interests to ask the question, except in the case of the kids.

No comments: