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By Drew Markol, TSN Contributor - Archive - Email
Nobody asked me, but...
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Is it really necessary?

Do we really need to see all of the games, or any of the games, for that matter?

We're talking about the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pa. The one ESPN jams down our throats every summer when they're not talking about Tim Tebow or showing the Yankees against the Red Sox.

We see consolation games; and elimination games; just show us the championship game at the end of the tournament. That's plenty. ABC's "Wide World of Sports" did it right for a long time.

What we're talking about today are pre-teens (these kids, at least most of them we hope, are 12, although some become 13 by the LLWS) being shown making great plays and also failing. In front of millions of people.

Yes, the tournament falls at the right time of year.

It comes before the NFL kicks in and when Major League Baseball is in its dog days. And, most importantly, it brings the almighty television ratings, which means it's not going away anytime soon.

But that doesn't mean we have to see it.

They're 12 years old. Let's not forget that.

I know kids who played in Williamsport, and were plastered on ESPN, and I also know that those kids didn't win.

In fact, they lost by making silly mistakes that brought tears to their eyes and television cameras right in front of their faces.

And they'll never forget it, either, and not in a good way. Mention their names and the first reaction people give is, "Oh, yeah, they're the ones who choked at the Little League World Series."

It drives me crazy. They were 12 years old and now have been labeled for life.

Sure, if they would have won the whole thing, there would have been a parade in their honor and they would be heroes. Instead, they're the kids who didn't get it done. They failed when the big lights were on them. I'm not going to mention any names, those kids have heard it enough.

Unfortunately, every year, there are a whole lot more losers than winners. Of course, the players will hear that everyone is a winner, but if you think they believe it, please send me your deposit for the Brooklyn Bridge.

It all comes back to my original point: do we have to see it?

When parents get too involved, and then television networks want a slice, it just gets all jumbled up.

Tell me, how good does it feel when you drive by a park and see kids playing baseball? Playing baseball with no parents involved.

Playing in a park, not on an official field with manicured grass, but on a field they had to lay out.

When a problem arises - for example, a close call - the kids work it out themselves. That's how you learn; that's how you have fun.

I told my wife the other day, while we walked past a field, that it was the best thing I'd seen in months.

She asked why some patch of grass was so beautiful?

Because there was a worn spot where the mound was and a bigger spot worn away at home plate. And home plate was drawn in the dirt by a bat. It was a little crooked, but that's all part of it. Beautiful.

I'd like to talk to the kids and the teams that reached Williamsport before ESPN got so involved and ask them if they still had fun?

I'd bet they'd say it was a great experience.

A great experience the whole world didn't need to see.

Some things are better left alone.

The Little League World Series is one of them. But like so many other things, the cat was let out of the bag long ago. Fortunately, we can always change the channel. A lot of kids who don't end up with the big trophy wish we did.



Drew Markol has been a sportswriter and columnist for several newspapers in the Philadelphia area for more than 25 years.

Copyright 2012