The pinnacle for the real boys of summer
Normally I don’t write about sports; I don’t consider myself knowledgeable enough to write authoritatively. But today, I make an exception for the one sporting event that catches my attention at this time every year: the Little League World Series.
It has only been in the last few years that I developed an interest in watching baseball and the boys of summer—these real boys of summer—are the reason why.
Because I have ties to the San Diego region, I was happy to see the team from Chula Vista, Calif. win last year’s world championship but I rarely have a favorite in these contests. My preferences are any team from California and, if not, then the winner of the U.S. championship.
Watching these games is indulging in a real slice of Americana; the league’s been around since the 1930s and millions of boys and girls have participated in it. Baseball is America’s pastime and this is where most major league players get their start. In fact, fans of all professional sports teams are usually unaware that a lot of the players in their respective sports are former Little League players.
Because it’s a true World Series, it is always interesting to see the diversity of the boys who compete. It’s one of the few American exports that have been able to cross cultural and geographic boundaries successfully and with little controversy.
But the thing that draws me to the LLWS is that these kids put the human in the
“human drama” of sports. When sportscasters yammer on and on about it, they are usually referring to highly paid professional athletes in the midst of their current turmoil, whether it is trouble on the home front or the next contract negotiation. But to watch a Little League team put their entire everything—effort, energy and passion for the game—toward winning and later walking away in defeat, is the ultimate face of human sports drama.
Barring injury, an undesirable trade, or retirement, the bigger boys of summer will be back the following season. They have big expensive, multi-year contracts that say so. For the real boys who make it to the LLWS, this is it: their moment in the sun to make their marks and put their names (and their city or country) in the record book. This is their moment of sports fame and glory… just like the bigger boys that they try to emulate.
When baseball scholars talk about the game in the purest and most reverent terms, they never refer to the LLWS; it’s always the big boy legends that get their acclaim. They don’t talk about these little boys who, while learning lessons in teamwork and good sportsmanship that will last them a lifetime, play the game because they truly love it without any immediate benefits like a paycheck.
I am always happy to see the faces of the winners, no matter where they come from, exhibiting the look of pure and uncensored joy and excitement when they are rewarded for their effort. But it is equally heartbreaking to watch those who go down in defeat because they, too, put forth the same effort and will to win, but just weren’t able to get the job done on the day that it counts the most. It’s a major life lesson for them—there must be losers to counterbalance the winners—but heartbreaking nonetheless.