Thursday, August 25, 2005

Little Leaguers On ESPN? Ain't No Worse Than The Obnoxious Parents

One of my fellow bloggers and regular readers, Brian DeCaussin (thanks, Brian, btw), who runs the very good "Beyond the Boxscores" blog, ranted on something the other day that I commented on at his site but has stuck in my craw.

Brian feels that the 12 year-olds who play in the famed Little League World Series in Williamsport, PA shouldn't be televised, or at least certainly not on Big Daddy ESPN. He cited the pressure it places on the kids.

I respect the hell out of that opinion, but I need to let you know why I feel strongly against it.

First, I know a little about Little League -- I was a player, as most of us boys were, and I covered the Junior League World Series for 13 year-olds in Taylor during my days in television production. I directed JLWS games on local cable TV from 1986-1993, and so I know the excitement these youngsters feel when the cameras are present. Many of them would come to our production truck and poke their heads in, awed by all the monitors and the graphics and the videotape replay machines. You could tell they were juiced up about it -- and some of them weren't even going to be playing in the games scheduled for broadcast.

As I commented on Brian's blog, I think the added pressure comes from the loudmouth parents who attend the average game at your local diamond. In my playing days and afterward, I have seen ridiculous displays of berating and humiliation inflicted by parents on their kids, other kids, and the umpires. I have seen friends of mine reduced to tears and swearing to never play again. And none of that, I believe, comes from the presence of television cameras.

If anything, ESPN televising the games means these kids will have an opportunity of a lifetime -- literally -- to perform on national television. As long as the coaches do a good job of deemphasizing the broadcast and focusing their players on the task at hand -- which is doing the best they can do -- then once the game begins, little Johnny should pretty much forget about the "one-eyed monsters" recording his every move. And the experience should be one that will be treasured for a lifetime.

However, I do understand what Brian is saying -- basically, kids at that age can be very emotional and the presence of a national TV network could jumble their nerves more than may already be occurring. But I still think the excitement -- positive excitement -- of playing on national television would mostly override that.

For more about this, check Brian out at

1 comment:

Brian said...


There just isn't anyway you can convince me that the kids or the coaches are going to "forget" the cameras are there.

It's a bit like have television cameras in the courtroom. You cannot tell me people don't act differently knowing they are on tv.

It's also my understanding that ESPN is doing its level best to make these games melodramatic. Shot of 12 year old striking out, cut to shot of 12 year old's mother looking upset.

Plenty of shots of our youngsters, those on the losing end, doing their very best Freddie Patek impression. Nothing ilicits emotion like seeing a boy cry.

I'm just waiting for the first 12 year old to have his Bill Buckner moment on international television.

It's one thing to make an error in front of your friends and family, it's another realizing that the world has seen your worst moment.

As for the obnoxious parents, yep, they pre-date television coverage, but putting these contests on the same network as MLB, in the same time slot, with the same announcers, while providing updates right along with NFL and MLB scores, translates into equal value. (Remember, we aren't talking about level headed folks, here.)

I, personally, hate to see these individuals given anymore reason to think LL games are actually important.

I'm with you on the wide-eyed amazement of youth and the fun it could be, but I think the downside of the coverage is minimized and the events, in spite of their entertainment value, simply are not newsworthy.