The Little League World Series is over, only this year it just wasn’t the same, because the world couldn’t come. It’s obvious why: COVID-19. After cancelling the entire tournament last year for the first time ever, this year Little League Baseball returned the World Series to Williamsport, but only with American-based teams due to COVID concerns.
And while it did prove to be an excellent tournament, it still lacked much of what has made the tournament special: the international teams.
You see, part of the fun of the event is in seeing kids from so many places have fun with each other. It doesn’t matter if they are from Ohio or Osaka, it’s good to see people from different cultures bonding over a shared love for baseball.
However, there is also the fact that it also just wasn’t as fun to watch. Different countries bring different styles of play, which can be interesting. Plus, there are a clearer way of determining underdogs: you may not be able to tell who the favorite in a game between Texas and California is, but when it’s Japan vs. Australia or Curacao vs. Italy, you are instantly pulled in. Sure, the favorite almost always wins, but it is fascinating to get pulled in by the drama of seeing how long the underdogs can keep pace. And regardless of what happens, the kids don’t care: they are still having fun.
But, alas, some of that didn’t happen this year. Hopefully it’ll be back next year.
It’s a sad ending for what was an inspiring story- the first team in history to win the US title made up entirely of African-Americans, coming at a time when participation in the sport by African-Americans continues to drop and racial issues were increasingly in the news. It’s all the more sad because this was the result not of any child, but rather the adults.
And, with that, the many issues people have with youth sports again have arisen. Among them being that the LLWS being on television is, according to some people, an abomination that promotes behavior like this while exploiting 12-year-olds for profit.
In many ways, they do have a point. It is wrong that ESPN, it’s sponsors, and the overall organization of Little League make large amounts of money off 12-year-olds while those 12-year-olds receive no cut or royalty from it. And, yes, having that much pressure and attention placed on a kid is a recipe for possible disaster psychologically when you are so young. The Little League World Series is far from perfect, and at the very least something should be done to compensate the kids who draw in large audiences every year (perhaps have some sort of college trust fund or hold money in escrow or something).
However, I am here to argue that those people who believe that the Little League World Series doesn’t belong on television regardless are wrong. Go below the jump for more:
If there is one continent out there that can truly be said to be untouched by baseball, it is likely Africa. Baseball is, of course, popular in North America, Asia, and parts of South America. There are small professional leagues in Europe (mainly the Netherlands and Italy) and Australia. But Africa, birthplace of humanity, is in some ways the final frontier of baseball. Only South Africa has any sort of baseball tradition, playing in the first two World Baseball Classics and producing several minor leaguers over the years, most notably Gift Ngoepe, the first black South African to play professionally, who was featured in a Sports Illustrated article a few years ago. South Africa, however, is one of the most advanced nations in Africa, and has, since the end of Apartheid, been more-or-less a country that has avoided much of the strife and war that has plagued several African countries.
The same cannot be said for Uganda, which makes the accomplishment of the Ugandan Little League team all the more special.