Friday, September 02, 2011

Little League: the last time everybody wins

On one of the sports shows this morning they debated (which is to say that two guys sat and offered their particular opinions) about whether they were more excited about the start of the college football season or the NFL season. The one who grew up in Queens, with two pro teams nearby, not surprisingly favored the NFL, where he also noted that the inclusion of pre-season gets the teams better ready for their first game; the early college games (which have already started) tend to be ridiculous blow-outs where good teams tend to schedule markedly weak opponents as essential warm-ups. The other panelist, having grown up in Oklahoma, had an affinity for the college side.

But all seemed to agree that going to a big college game was a better experience, because the way people feel about their alma mater cannot be matched by the emotion toward a group of overpaid professional athletes.

Not that the major college programs are much purer than the pros, of course.

This got me thinking about the recent Little League World Series—where the final game is literally between the best U.S. team and the best international team, making it more of a "world" series than the series that decides the MLB champion each autumn. We did watch much of the title game between the U.S. representative, from California, and the team from Japan.

Even though we were obviously rooting for the American kids (not merely out of nationalistic pride but regional as well, as they hailed from Huntington Beach, which is less than ten miles from where we live), and when they scored the game-winning run in the bottom of the last inning I did jump up from my chair, arms raised in excitement, it was impossible not to feel bad for the kids from Japan.

Although all the kids play little league baseball at a level I could not have approached when I was that age (and I did play in leagues from when I was 7 through 11), when the game is over and one team stands there defeated, and we see tears welling up in their eyes, we remember they're just kids, and kids who weren't doing it for a paycheck or to try to get drafted to get a paycheck, but because they wanted to win so badly that losing is emotionally crushing (not that there aren't plenty of adults who never develop the maturity that they were able to muster). Our hearts went out to them as much as to the victorious team from our nation.

Because they're kids, and although there's not absolute purity in almost anything these days, kids do still represent as close to purity as we have left in the world.

And what is perhaps saddest of all: There is that expiration for that; eventually all of those boys will grow to be adults, and whether they were on the winning side or not, they won't have that associated purity of heart (so to speak) in the way we adults view them. The time for that is when they're the age they are now.

Only now.

It's not necessarily fair that we lose all that empathy when we hit adulthood, but I suppose there's advantages we gain in adulthood that might compensate.

(I better stop before I make myself cry.)

No comments:

Post a Comment

So, what do you think?