I was watching the Little League World Series last night when the game was stopped for video replay to get a call correct. A few pitches later the game was stopped again. Then again. It happened frequently enough that it really started to take away from the game. During one of the long pauses I started to think about it a bit further.
For the record I am not a big fan of video review in any sport. While I am officially on the record I feel like I should also mention that I am not a sports purist by any means. I do not think that baseball, or anything else (with maybe an exception for boxing) was categorically better “back in the day.” I have never walked barefoot in the snow up hill both ways to school either. I get frustrated with the generation before my own when they tell me how much more pure baseball, or anything else, was when they were kids. In actuality it was just as bad, if not worse. Baseball simply traded cheating, league sponsored racism, and substance abuse for cheating, lots of money, and substance abuse, with only non-league sponsored racism. I am all for beneficial change and improvement in anything, I just do not think that instant replay is one. Anyways, like a well placed bunt, I am starting to roll awfully close to being outside of my original field of play.
Back to the little league game. I think our culture has become way too obsessed with idea of fairness and we may be setting our kids up to fail because of that. Video replay in baseball was non-existent when I was a kid, again I am not claiming that baseball was better then. Sometimes bad calls were made, but that was a part of the game. From time to time a game was lost because of a blown call. Or take basketball for an example. Sometimes a certain player (he who shall not be named) may hit a last second shot to win a game when he should have been kicked out of said game for stomping on Aminu Timberlake. I played on several teams that did not win many games, and on even more teams that never received a trophy. I have also been on a few pretty dominant teams as well. In short, this is a great analogy for life. Sometimes the ball bounces in our favor, other times we get hosed.
But this doesn’t mean that we have to accept this. Losing, or being screwed out of a call should be a great motivator for any athlete, just like hardship in life should be a great motivator for us as we attempt to reach whatever goals we may have. We do not have to enlist our youth in Upward basketball to shield them from the sting of defeat, rather we should encourage them to be competitive and use the moments of loss and disappointment as teaching tools. Yes it is certainly acceptable to play a sport simply for the love of the game, but if we are trying to level the playing field to the point that everyone receives a trophy, every call is reviewed, and nobody keeps score then are we really teaching our kids anything beneficial? We may actually sign up a child with the intention of letting them play a sport for the fun of it, but at the same time be inadvertently teaching them that no matter what they do they will be praised, receive an award, and treated fairly when later on in life they will realize that this is most certainly not the case.
I can’t help but think of the stories about parents that call their adult child’s college professors or even employers to dispute treatment, grades, or to just check in on them. I have no way to prove this outlandish statement, but I am going to go out on a limb and say that Upward sports started this phenomenon known as “helicopter parenting.” I am not a parent yet, though I will be one in a few months, and I understand that we all want to protect our kids, but we can do so with great risk if we are not careful. I cannot help but wonder if we as a society are handing out trophies to teams that lose and trying to make everything fair simply because we do not want to teach youth that life isn’t fair, that we are avoiding our role as adults. Now again there are certainly limits. I am not suggesting that you wake up your eight year old to listen to This Is Water by David Foster Wallace but maybe instead of handing them their ten foot tall ninth place trophy with a smile a real conversation about winning and losing would prove more beneficial.
For extra fun you can print out this post and circle all of the sports cliches. Tell me how many cliches you counted in the comments section and you will receive a prize. Not really though. Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments section.