The Dish: Boys Do Cry

The Dish: Boys Do Cry

Let me preface this by saying: I don’t have children.

But if I did, I’m pretty sure just about the last thing I’d want them to do is play in the Little League World Series.

Don’t get me wrong: I think youth sports rock. And as recently as, say, 10 years ago, playing in the LLWS probably would’ve been an awesome experience. But after what I saw in the championship game between Georgia and Japan last weekend, I’m ready to picket in Williamsport. And naturally, all the evils in this particular situation (as in so many others) come down to ESPN.

They need to stop covering this event. Just stop. There’s absolutely no reason that Orestes Destrada needs to be doing characterize stories and promos looming over a four-foot-tall catcher with a scowl on his confront, pretending he’s a grownup. There’s no reason Gary Thorne needs to be evoking his hernia (after all, isn’t that what Gary Thorne sounds like the moment he gets a little excited?) when a poor shortstop boots a grounder. There’s no reason why Steve Phillips — who couldn’t hack it as a major-league general manager and, if I’m honest, seems to have found his level evaluating 12-year-olds — needs to be questioning the “stuff” of a little kid. It adds to an air of pressure and negativity that now clearly permeates the kids’ experience at the LLWS.

Don’t give me any crud about how it makes them tougher, or how the kids want that level of exposure, so the world should give it to them. There are some things that 12- and 13-year-olds aren’t ready for, and public humiliation on national TV is one of them. Why not just line the kids up for a free-throw-shooting contest with their little sisters suspended over 100 shining knives? Make the free throw, Johnny, and little Sally lives. Otherwise….

Need proof I’m right? Watching the final last weekend was an exercise in tears. These poor little kids were so completely wound up, they were crying while they were on-base. In the final inning, down one, Japan’s leadoff hitter got on base, and as he watched the next batter take strike one, he began to bawl. By strike two, he was hiding his confront in his uniform sleeve. Japan was nevertheless in the game. They had a authentic chance to win, and this kid who got a hit is weeping on first base. The third kid up was crying before his at-bat, and had to be consoled by his coach after taking a first-pitch strike. Then the tables turned; when the American pitcher hit the fourth batter, putting runners on first and second, his team gathered around him and he could barely keep a straight confront as his eyes shimmered with stress. There is no reason for any of this.

Oh, sure, would the kids feel pressure if this tournament wasn’t televised? Yes. Absolutely. But I don’t think they’d view it as negatively as they clearly do if ESPN would do the right thing, and crawl back to Connecticut with its Playmaker between its legs. Seeing that little boy weeping on first base, before the game was over, made me vow to never watch the LLWS again.

Two games that stand out to me for this first weekend of 2006 college football are California at Tennessee and, of course, Florida State at Miami. What should fans look for in those huge matchups?

BoDog Bookmakers, With the first game of the year being pivotal for both Florida State’s and Miami’s ACC title hopes, the electricity surrounding this game is inextricably amplified. Florida State fans will be crossing their fingers as QB Drew Weatherford tries to breakdown Miami’s staunch, nation-leading pass defense. With Weatherford’s reputation for throwing interceptions, Miami’s defensive-backs will be looking to grab a few errant passes from the Florida State QB. Weatherford’s saving grace, however, lays in the off-season improvements to his offensive line, which should allow him more time in the pocket to make better decisions. As for California at Tennessee, since 2000, the Vols keep up a nightmarish record of 0-6 when playing top 10 teams at Neyland Stadium, and this will be in their heads as they try to turn those numbers around against ninth-ranked California. Meanwhile, California’s coach Jeff Tedford has stated that both his quarterbacks may see game time during the season opener, so stud running back (and possible Heisman Trophy candidate) Marshawn Lynch may be heavily relied upon to run the ball.

What’s your favorite game on the Week 1 docket besides those Cal/UT and FSU/Miami?

BDB, Our other favorite game has to be Notre Dame vs. Georgia tech. It’s our first chance to see Heisman Favorite Brady Quinn showcase his talents this year.

What’s your prediction for Terrell Owens in Dallas this year? Huge season or giant bust?

BDB, With the talent that Terrell Owens has, it’s ridiculous his head isn’t right. Drew Bledsoe has the big arm, but he can manager moody receivers as he has in the past with the likes of Terry Glenn, Keyshawn Johnson and Eric Moulds? We’re expecting big things this season regarding the T.O. situation in Dallas; either 15+ touchdowns from T.O. or a huge blow-up unlike anything we’ve ever seen between two of the biggest egos in the game, Bill Parcells and the infamous T.O. With the addition of Jerry Jones to this equation, either way, its going to be an exciting year in Dallas.

Do you watch any of the Little League World Series when it’s on TV? What’s your impression? Do you think kids that young should be placed under that kind of national pressure?

BDB, After catching some of the recent Little League World Series action, I have to say I am more than impressed. The skill level and competitive excursion of these 11-12 year olds is simply astonishing. Most of these kids have finely honed skills combined with mechanics that have been developed by demanding off-season training programs. Not only do their skills mirror those of major leaguers, but their attitudes do in addition. These kids are there to win, and I think the pressure of the national spotlight is something they really have fun with and thrive on. At the end of the day, the mound is nevertheless 46 feet from home plate and the base paths 60 feet apart, and that is what these kids are concentrating on.

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