Text size:

  • Small
  • Normal
  • Large
Formula One 2014: Complete schedule, standings, driver info

Little League now in the big league

After watching Saudi Arabia beat Venezuela on Tuesday in the Little League World Series (LLWS), I tuned in for Canada against Germany.

After watching Saudi Arabia beat Venezuela on Tuesday in the Little League World Series (LLWS), I tuned in for Canada against Germany.The 12-year-old German pitcher was struggling. His manager came out to the mound and told him: "Relax, just throw to the mitt, just play?you're not having fun out here."That was good to hear. As much as I like to watch the LLWS each summer, I have a love-hate relationship with the event. But before I get to that, we have to look at how this event has developed so much that a game between children is on national television and ESPN, the biggest sports channel in the United States.

The tournament championship game was first televised by ABC in 1963. For the next few decades, it was a novel event. I stumbled on the title game on a summer afternoon.In the 1970s, the winning sides started coming not from the US, but from foreign countries. From 1971 until 1981, teams from Taiwan and Japan won 10 of 11 titles. The sport of baseball, which Americans consider "our sport" was being dominated by others.

US teams quickly became the underdogs in the LLWS and viewers checked in each summer to see if our boys could upset the powerful teams from Asia. As this happened, ratings for the title game sky-rocketed. Still however, viewers mainly saw the two best American teams play and then the finals versus the best the world had to offer.During the past decade, sports television has taken the LLWS prime-time and with unprecedented coverage.

In 2007, ESPN expanded the coverage to include all the games. Small towns around the country can tune in to see their local team play on television. It is big league.Now comes my problem: it is not supposed to be big league.The television coverage has all the bells and whistles that a major league game has. Players are interviewed before and after the game. They show how fast the pitchers are throwing and compare it to the major leaguers. Managers are miked up to let the people at home listen in when he talks to his players.

While the access is great, it can also be disturbing. I do not see it as much anymore, but for years you would hear how managers treated this game as if it was the big league World Series. I played grade school sports and I have been subject to over-zealous coaches who berate players.I think the coaches who are in the LLWS now are keenly aware that they are under public scrutiny, so they temper their behaviour now.

Worse yet is the "cry shot". ESPN is notorious for zooming in on a pitcher who just gave up a home run. The tears start flowing and the camera captures the emotion.That is the negative. The positive is that this event has given children worldwide something to aspire to. It is not about getting on television as much as it is the ride to get there with your friends.A team from Dubai could have been playing in this year's event in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, had they not been beaten by the Saudis in Poland in June.

A fun part as a viewer is to see a 12-year-old jump on his teammates' backs after he makes a great play. The professionals rarely show that joy anymore.But the best bit is to see children doing something special as such a young age. Most of us go our whole lives without competing against the best.The children at the Little League World Series may go on to other great events in their lives, but for a few weeks every summer they get us to watch and remember when sports were just fun.

@Email:ppabst@thenational.aeYou can watch the LLWS live on ESPN America

Back to the top

More articles


Editor's Picks

 UAE rugby player Adam Telford, right, catches the ball during a Test match against Singapore at The Sevens ground in Dubai on Wednesday. UAE lost the Asian 5 Nations match 30-13 to be relegated to the third tier of Asian rugby. Sarah Dea / The National / April 23, 2014

In pictures: UAE rugby in action against Singapore

Images from the Asian Five Nations Test for UAE rugby against Singapore on Wednesday night at The Sevens ground in Dubai.

 Ravindra Jadeja of Chennai Super Kings playing a shot in their Indian Premier League win over Rajasthan Royals at Dubai International Cricket Stadium on Wednesday. Jadeja scored 36 runs not out from 33 balls. Pawan Singh / The National / April 23, 2014

In pictures: Chennai Super Kings notch win behind do-everything Jadeja

Images from Wednesday night's Indian Premier League match in Dubai, where Ravindra Jadeja led Chennai Super Kings over Rajasthan Royals.

 Karim Benzema of Real Madrid celebrates scoring the opening goal in the Champions League semi-final first leg match against Bayern Munich at the Santiago Bernabeu on Wednesday in Madrid, Spain. Martin Rose / Bongarts / Getty Images / April 23, 2014

In pictures: Benzema propels Real Madrid over Bayern Munich

Images from Real Madrid's 1-0 win over Bayern Munich in the Champions League semi-final first leg match at the Santiago Bernabeu on Wednesday night.

 Chris Gayle has been the most feared batsman in the Royal Challengers Bangalore line-up since he joined the team in 2011. Indranil Mukherjee / AFP

Parthiv continues to fill Gayle’s big shoes for Bangalore

Indian wicketkeeper-batsman will continue to open the innings for Royal Challengers with the West Indian still nursing his bad back, writes Paul Radley.

 Dana Shamlawi pulls a 4x4 car during the final day of the UAE Strongman Competition in Dubai. Delores Johnson / The National

UAE Strongman Competition takes weight training to a whole new scale

Two-day competition in Dubai attracts men and women from across the Emirates and proves it takes more than just bulky muscles to win, writes Ali Khaled.

 UAE’s Charlie Sargent tries to avoid a tackle by Singapore team members during the one-off Division 1 Test at The Sevens. The Singapore-born winger was making his debut. Sarah Dea / The National

Asian Five Nations: UAE go into rebuilding mode in Division 2

With a new look squad, including five emerging Emirati players, the UAE will hope to restructure and get into the winning habit in more forgiving climes when they drop a level in the revamped competition next season.

Events

To add your event to The National listings, click here

Get the most from The National