It is, of course, a tragically stupid tale:
Little League Baseball has stripped the U.S. championship from Chicago-based Jackie Robinson West and suspended its coach for violating a rule prohibiting the use of players who live outside the geographic area that the team represents, it was announced Wednesday.
Jackie Robinson West must vacate wins from the 2014 Little League Baseball International Tournament — including its Great Lakes Regional and United States championships.
The team’s manager, Darold Butler, has been suspended from Little League activity, and Illinois District 4 administrator Michael Kelly has been removed from his position.
The organization found that Jackie Robinson West used a falsified boundary map and that team officials met with neighboring Little League districts in Illinois to claim players and build what amounts to a superteam.
As a result, the United States championship has been awarded to Mountain Ridge Little League from Las Vegas.
“Quite honestly, we had to do this,” Little League International president and CEO Stephen D. Keener told ESPN on Wednesday. “We had no choice. We had to maintain the integrity of the Little League program. … As painful as this is, it’s a necessary outcome from what we finally have been able to confirm.
“The real troubling part of this is that we feel horribly for the kids who are involved with this. Certainly, no one should cast any blame, any aspersions on the children who participated on this team. To the best of our knowledge, they had no knowledge that they were doing anything wrong. They were just kids out playing baseball, which is the way it should be. They were celebrated for that by many, many organizations, many people. What we’re most concerned about today is that it’s going to be hard on these kids. And that’s the part that breaks your heart.”
People are, as you might imagine, furious. And they should be. Yet what is it about our society that so many people waste so much energy being furious about the wrong thing?
There is much criticism of how these kids are being punished for the deeds of their elders, and that is certainly a valid point. However, the question remains: Could they have won the Series playing fairly? Perhaps the answer is yes, but we do not, cannot, and will not know.
But there is another thing that really bugs me about this, as emerged in a Facebook tantrum some random person wrote, and one of my friends unfortunately passed along:
DAMN SHAME THAT LITTLE BOYS ARE PUNISHED & STRIPPED OF CHAMPIONSHIP FOR WHERE THEY LIVE BUT YOU GOT GROWN MEN THAT PLAY PRO FOOTBALL THATS AWARDED FOR UNDER FLATED BALLS! Hummmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm
Just to get it out of the way … really? “Hummmmm…”?
And we’ll even skip risking Skitt’s Law to point out the bit about “under flated balls” … er … ah … I mean … uh … damn.
Okay, okay. Stay with me.
This team was not stripped of the championship “for where they live”. There is a reason for these rules, and that reason is clear to anyone who ever played youth-league sports. With other teams recruiting out of zone in order to boost their talent, or faking players’ ages, think about the result. Oh, good, maybe this one team did well, but a bunch of other kids are just finding out that the reason they spent so much time feeling badly about losing the game is that the other team cheated. And then along comes someone like this to cry about the shame of being stripped of a victory “for where they live”. How about for how old they are?
The kids who were rightfully on that team were stripped of a championship for the actions of their coaches. The kids who were stripped of a championship “for where they live” should never have been on the team in the first place.
So, yes, it is a shame that the kids who worked so hard for their chance, but let us also spare a thought in there for the many more who were cheated out of theirs.
Even still, this really isn’t the biggest social issue facing us, is it? That is, are we really going to get outraged about a club being punished for breaking the rules just because the players are children?
And that leads to another point that absolutely must be made: Really? You’re going with Tom Brady’s balls?
Okay, so you picked the NFL. Is there nothing else that might perhaps be more important and emblematic of a problem in the NFL than Tom freakin’ Brady’s empty freakin’ balls?
Not even for the children?
This is a matter of priorities.
Which is why Tom Brady’s balls are so goddamn important. Or something like that.
ESPN. “Little League punishes Chicago team”. ESPN.com. 12 February 2015.
Waldron, Travis. “Why Victims Of Domestic Violence Don’t Testify, Particularly Against NFL Players”. ThinkProgress. 11 February 2015.
Peterson, Adrian. “Full text of Adrian Peterson’s statement about indictment in Texas”. Pro Football Talk. 15 September 2015.