By now, you’ve probably already seen the video of Tulsa little leaguer Isaiah Jarvis comforting Pearland, Texas little league pitcher Kaiden Shleton who was visibly upset over beaning Jarvis in a recent championship game. If this was the majors, they’d been fighting on the mount with the other players coming in for a brawl.
In college, I went to a Georgia Southern University vs. Georgia Tech basball game on a Sunday nonetheless where a batter from GSU was beaned. Some Tech fans sitting in a row front of me were mocking the beaned batter. One of the fans mocked him for “taking one for the team.” There was no fight on the mount. But the players definitely didn’t hug it out or shake hands. That was 1999 because I remember it was when that whole Monica Lewinsky/Bill Clinton impeachment was going on.
I’ve covered sports and there were times when you’d think it was Thunderdome and they were literally calling for blood. South Park once parodied how young people hate Little League baseball because parents in the stand fight with Randy Marsh causing fights to the point he’s taken away bloodied and even half-naked in handcuffs. I’ve heard things on the sidelines from both players, coaches, fans and everyone else. They really don’t understand it’s just a game.
Fall sports are to begin in a few weeks. Even if they offered me 10-20 times what I was making when I left Wagoner over eight years ago, as well as giving me five or six weeks vacations and 10 paid sick and personal days each quarter, I would never cover high school or youth sports ever again. The “children” are usually the coaches, adults and especially the fans. I remember one time I was covering a game and I glanced over and saw my ex stand up, gather her things and walk over to the visitors side. I went and talked with her and she said she just could listen to the fans scream and holler ugly things anymore.
A popular comment on social media is to say how in 1966 Al Bundy scored four touchdowns in a single game for Polk High School. The gag is most people relive their glory days in sports and never let it go. That was the case with movies like Napoleon Dynamite and The Best of Times in which aging men are still looking back to that era when they were in their late teens.
A lot of people playing sports when they’re younger or in school hardly go to college on scholarship. And those that do hardly ever go pro. It’s a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of the student body. With all offense to Vincent Lombardi, but winning isn’t everything, it’s not even the only thing. Too much competition is the one thing that could ruin a good time. The reason young people don’t play outside as much as they used to is because their parents started seeing dollar signs and trophies. It’s their time to live vicariously through their children and their kids are going to do whatever it takes.
The Sandlot doesn’t have the big game. I mean, they do play the stereotypical better team, but that happens halfway through and it’s over in a muinute. No, it’s just a group of kids who enjoy playing baseball every day of the summer. But Tiger Woods wins the Masters at 21 and people are expecting their kids to practice and focus on their sports and nothing else. Some parents see their kids athletic abilities as a retirement annuity for them. Yet, they should be letting them just have fun.
Isaiah could’ve trashed talked Kaiden. He could’ve given him the evil eye or made some aggressive gestures. Instead, he went to go comfort Kaiden who was upset. Getting beaned in the head with a baseball, even if you’re wearing a helmet, can hurt. Thankfully, Isaiah wasn’t injured. But in a world where people are taking CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy) more seriously, it can have lasting effects. NFL players in their early to mid 30s literally have brain damage and have functions of dementia/Alzheimer’s Disease patients more than twice their age.
I don’t doubt Dr. Bennett Omalu took a lot of criticism for people thinking he was criticizing football. It is a dangerous sport. Yet, we pump millions if not billions of money into it each year for no other reason than entertainment. This entertainment comes at the health risks of many people. I’m sure Dr. Omalu got criticism for that he was making younger people weak and soft. Or should I say that he was making younger men weak and soft.
People could’ve mocked Kaiden and I’m sure there were those that did online. But Isaiah seeing he was upset went to talk with him to tell him it was ok. It’s funny how coaches and parents talk of sportsmanship but then expect players to rip each others’ heads off and shit down their necks at the same time. We need to quit telling young childen one thing and then expecting them to do the exact opposite.
We also need to stop expecting young men to bottle in their emotions. You don’t create “weak and soft” young men by telling them to express their emotions. You create young men who will see the world through different eyes. And hopefully they can make some changes as they get older.
What do you think? Please comment.