It was six months ago that everyone from the Chicago area was glued to their televisions, watching the Little League World Series. Why? Because one of the their own, Jackie Robinson West was playing. This amazing team went on to win the National Championship. Though they would later loose the World Championship game, they returned to Chicago with all the pomp and circumstance due a championship team. There is no question in anyone’s minds that these young men are incredible baseball players.
Fast forward 6 months and this team has had its Championship title stripped from it. It is not the result of any action that the boys took, but of the district leadership who expanded their boundaries into other district without league authorization, for the purpose of recruiting specific players. If you are unaware of these events, you can find it at ESPN.com.
Now again, let me be clear that the the young men on this team are phenomenal players and the stripping of their title has nothing to do with their performance, but the activities of those behind the scenes. I am not here to take sides in this issue. I have my thoughts on the case but that is a separate discussion. My problem is the reprehensible and unconscionable response of people to these events.
Rather than accepting the decision of the proper authorities, we find protest and attacks on those who simply try to uphold the rules. What is more, it is not enough to simply disagree with the decision, instead those who would call themselves leaders cry out that an injustice has been done, and for the most vile of reasons. And if this is not enough, the individual who first raised the questions has received death threats. Again, I am not going to get caught up here in the pointing fingers and claims of what was the right thing to do or why the issue was brought up, but I do have one issue to raise. What lesson is being taught to these young men and another young people who observe the events?
Does the response of so many really teach the lessons that should learned from this? Do they learn that when rules are broken, there are consequence? Do they learn that the consequences of actions do no simply effect the people behind the actions (in this case the district administration) but impacts those who unknowingly broke rules (those boys who were from out of the district) and those who are completely innocent (those boys who met all the requirements to play)? Do they learn to take responsibility for actions taken? Do they learn to lay the responsibility where it belongs? My answer is no! They do not.
What they do learn is that when something goes wrong, it must be someone else’s fault, as demonstrated in the accusations that it is simply an attack on them for reasons that have nothing to do with baseball. They learn that when you gain from doing something wrong, it should not be taken away from you as long as you did not do it knowingly as evidences in the claim that the boys should not loose their title despite the fact that the rules were broken (punish the adults, not the boys), after all intent is what is important. They learn that winning is all that matters, and rules take a back seat as evidences in the declarations that they are still champions in the eyes of the people of Chicago. They learn that if you complain and yell loud enough, it makes you right, even if you are wrong.
No, I feel for the loss that these young men have experienced, but the decision of Little League International is just. Maybe it is time we stopped pandering to base emotions and started using events to teach the importance of fair play. Maybe it is time we stopped glorifying visceral reactions and stopped to objectively examine a situation. Maybe we need to teach that actions have consequences. Maybe we need to remember what we were so often taught as children, “It’s not whether you win or loose, it’s how you play the game.”