I love sports.
"The human drama of athletic competition."
I love buzzer-beaters, Hail Marys, two-outs-in-the-bottom-of-the-9th, overtime, it-all-comes-down-to-this. I love standings, stats, rankings, brackets, playoff scenarios, tiebreakers, box scores, the bubble, the improbable run to the title.
All of it.
And I hate "youth sports." Hate, hate, hate, hate, hate.
Anything before high school varsity is kids games ... not sports. And I hate the notion that we can somehow move all of the trappings and consequences down to the level of children, and even bring TV along for the ride.
I hate the delusion that "it's about the kids" when most of it is about grownups wanting power or ego-stroking or, sometimes, cold hard cash.
I hate the notion that somehow future college scholarships might be riding on soccer games played by 9-year-olds.
I hate the concept that you need to have "select" teams because second-graders -- second-graders! -- might be stunted in their development by having to share playing time with the less-adept.
I hate what parent/coaches do to little lives by keeping kids on the bench in order to "play to win."
Did we manage before everything had a league and a tournament and a uniform and a photo day ($15 minimum order, of course) and a treats schedule (careful about peanut allergies) and a coach and a referee and a trophy?
Yes. Playgrounds and backboards attached above the garage door seemed to work all right. Were kids cruel? Oh, you bet. But it was kids; there was no veneer of authority that comes with scoreboards and uniforms and clipboards.
Thus ... I hate the Little League World Series most of all.
I hate that everyone acts like it's all Norman Rockwell Americana Cracker Jack Cotton Candy Bubble Gum innocence.
This is kids ... and this is on ESPN. That's not an innocent combination.
After what I've seen parents do to win meaningless basketball games in an elementary school gym in a midwestern suburb ... I'm supposed to beleive that it's all sweetness and light when folks are trying to get their kids on ESPN?
So it turns out that there's cheating? Cue Claude Raines ... shocked! shocked!
I feel for the kids who had their title stripped due the actions of the adults, but -- big picture -- adults shouldn't be staging "championships" for middle school kids in the first place, and turning them into televised extravaganzas.
And we shouldn't let them get away with it by letting them call it "sports."
Kids games are not sports.