I’m not the first person to say that the Little League World Series needs to stay off of television. Convinced their coverage of the LLWS is greater than the Superbowl, I believe ESPN has more than half of their payroll out in Williamsport covering those games. Shame on them. How can they dedicate such a significant block of their programming schedule to air this? Because of their stupidity, I can’t watch Around the Horn! If you want to televise just the Little League World Series Championship game, that’s fine by me. It gives the viewer something out of the ordinary for a change. We all know that the United States will be represented in the finals, so why should we care about the elimination games? The only people that really care about the LLWS are the players, parents, and coaches…maybe the local towns where these teams originally come from too. Outside of that, who’s really interested in this stuff? Correct me if I’m wrong. Do the hardcore sports fans, or more specifically the hardcore baseball fans, grab a bowl of chips and a six-pack of beer, and spend their whole Saturday afternoon watching a bunch of 12 year olds play ball? Where’s the entertainment value? What’s there to gain? Sure, these 12 year olds are talented, but why should we care?
In addition to airing the actual game, ESPN goes beyond just the play-by-play rhetoric. Is it necessary to do one-on-one interviews with players? Are these players going to say anything profound? Absolutely not. Their answers have zero content. If a player is interviewed after hitting the game winning home run, we already know what this kid is going to say. Obviously, he’s going to be happy about it. His lackluster answers mean nothing to us. The truth is we don’t care what the average 12 year old kid has to say on national television. Their parents can care as much as they want, but we don’t. I also find it irritating to have an ESPN reporter interview one of the parents during the game. Once again, viewers should expect the obvious. The parents are going to rave of how great their kid really is. Then again, it could be entertaining to watch one of these hardcore baseball parents verbally lambast their child. I see it so many times while umpiring Little League games; trust me, it wouldn’t surprise me to see it on national television.
Another thing that bothers me is when ESPN runs through the team roster. Each player speaks in front of the camera – they give their name, position, and favorite player. Once again, it’s excessive air-time for kids that don’t deserve to be in front of a camera. Do we really care about these kids’ favorite players? One kid said his favorite player was R.A. Dickey. Dickey has had a decent, not superb resume until this year. Nobody thought Dickey would be this good so late into his career. This kid probably turned on ESPN one day, saw Dickey’s numbers being spewed all over Sportscenter, and decided that was going to be his favorite player. I bet you a million dollars this kid had no idea Dickey was sexually abused as a child. Give me a break! Furthermore, they do this same team roster introduction style with the international players too! For instance, the Panama team was speaking Spanish when sharing their name, position, and favorite player. ESPN failed to give subtitles! What’s the point?!
Let me add one other thing worth mentioning. Here’s a video of the Huntington Beach Little League Team. They won the 2011 LLWS. This is the most boring presser you’ll ever see. If you thought Ken Macha was bad, think again. This was a 16 minute post game press conference! What could reporters possibly talk about for 16 minutes!!! Good God! (By the way, the head coach needs to go on a serious diet). http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=79stQ3uu4Jg
Televised coverage can take a toll on a player. For example, every sport has winners and losers. You’re going to have your players of the game, as well as the players that cost you a championship. While the victorious players have something positive and exciting to look back on, the kid who made the poor throw or didn’t catch the pop-up, which led to the other team scoring the winning run, will be humiliated for the rest of their lives. Why? It was because they were on national television. It hurts enough to be that one player at fault for losing the game, but to have the cameras zoomed in on a kid’s teary-eyed face squatting down in a fetal position? This isn’t healthy for anybody. Adults are more likely to handle that kind of pressure, rather than children. It’s embarrassing. That kid's memory will forever be tattooed with that ugly moment.
Plain and simple - Kids should not deserve that type of respect/face-time. All this coverage does is makes their egos BIGGER or their self-esteem weaker. In my opinion, their stores need to be bigger off the field than what they do on the field. Tell me something I don’t know. I’ve watched some of the LLWS this week; ESPN has had a couple of features on specific players and the hardships they’ve faced growing up. I’d be more interested in that…but then again, save those stories for local television. While interning for Fox 6, I went in the field with Tom Pipines several times to cover some heart-warming and inspiring stories about kids and teenagers, and the challenges they’ve faced as athletes and/or the excess awards they received for their success. Viewers are more interested in those stories from their local communities. That’s my opinion.
I’m not saying we should gut the Little League World Series. I think it’s pretty cool to have some of the best youngsters from around the world play baseball against each other. As they mature as baseball players, the LLWS will bring back fond memories, great tests, and learning lessons. I’ve umpired Little League for the last five year; my philosophy is this - Little League is a ‘learning league’, not a ‘competitive league’. If these kids want to play baseball, they should start in Little League. They learn fundamentals, signs, strategy, making contact, catching, throwing, sportsmanship, winning, and losing. From watching the LLWS, it’s evident that these qualities lack with every single player involved. The more they mature as baseball players, though, the better off they’ll be.
ESPN needs to back off. It’s time for me to change the channel.