Sportmanship For Dummies (or, How to Behave Like a Grown-up and Get Away With It)
For a scrawny little bespectacled Air Force brat who was more than a little shy in social/cooperative situations (mostly due to having moved around quite a bit in his young life), this could easily have blown up in their faces. But they took the chance that it would be a good thing.
Fortunately, I loved it, and found myself to actually have a little talent for it. It also turned out to be a good way to make new friends in a new town, a task that my brother and I faced on a pretty regular basis.
And I was lucky enough, for the most part, to have coaches who concentrated on teaching their young charges to play hard and play fair...and then sat back and let the kids have fun doing it.
Yeah, youth league sports were good for me.
So when I hear stories of kids who didn't have such a rosy time of it---because of the actions of the ADULTS involved---it makes me all the sadder.
Kids like Danny Almonte, the Dominican 12-year-old with a thunderbolt for a pitching arm in the 2001 Little League World Series.
In the course of the series, he pitched an absolute perfect game---the first one Little League had seen in over 40 years.
In fact, his team's only loss that year was at a game where Almonte was not allowed to pitch, due to a Little League rule that says pitchers cannot start in two games consecutively.
Then it all got thrown out of the record books...because someone found out that his parents had falsified his birth certificate. He was actually 14 years old. That was too old to play in Little League.
That story was bad enough. The kid very likely didn't know there was anything wrong going on. He was just playin' baseball.
But then I found THIS story...and my blood pressure spiked.
That's right...A coach (not with Little League International, but just a local kids' league) actually wanted to win a baseball game SO BAD that he decided that a mentally-disabled child on his own team---I repeat, a mentally-disabled child ON HIS OWN TEAM---did not deserve to set foot on the field, even though league rules stipulated that every kid gets to play in every game.
But he didn't just pull the boy out of the lineup, and later face the parents with his decision like a man. Oh, no. He apparently decided he didn't want to come off as the bad guy.
So he did it the old-fashioned way. He gave one of the other kids on his team $25 to hit the boy with a baseball, so that he wouldn't be able to play.
I will say that again, for those blinking at the screen in disbelief.
The coach ordered a hit on a member of his own team...and used ANOTHER KID on his own team to do it.
What does this behavior teach the kids?
That the ends justify the means. It's okay to cheat. It's okay to lie. It's okay to use any and all tactics at your disposal to win. Fair play be damned. If you're not a winner, you're a loser.
So what do we do with the adults who do these things? How does one show these "grown-ups" the error of their ways?
Well, there are any number of legal steps one could take, and they may well be effective. I certainly hope so.
Me, myself, personally....I think the first responder to this forum about the second story has the right idea.
But then, my blood pressure still hasn't come all the way back down yet.
P.S. Oh, I almost forgot---remember the kid in the first story, Danny Almonte?
He has since stayed in New York, stayed on the straight and narrow path, and as of 2003 was the star pitcher for his local high school. (Collegiate baseball fans....Keep an eye out for this kid. He's got some pretty awesome heat.)