The little league world series has come to an end and as I sat on the couch slyly wiping the water that welled within my eyes before anyone could notice realizing the magical run by the Jackie Robinson West little league team from Chicago fell short against a powerful South Korean team 4-8 , the feeling of sadness and letdown was quickly replaced by the replaying of the memories that highlighted this years little league tournament. There was the dominating performance of Mo’ne Davis the lanky young female from Philadelphia who set the world on fire with her 70 mph fastball , dazzling eyes and illuminating smile. Then came the youngsters from the south side of Chicago the all black team of young boys that wanted nothing more than a chance to represent the United States and bring home the title. Their accomplishments were the reason I tuned into watch the series, these young ball players captured the attention of the media and celebrities across the country. Watching the tournament brought back memories of my time in little league back in the 1970’s and the trip we made to the hallowed grounds of Williamsport, PA to watch the tournament.
I remember wishing I could be on that field playing in front of all those people representing the New England region. Instead my peers and I sat in the bleachers and kept ourselves amused. The performance of Mo’ne and the Jackie Robinson team was one for the ages. You could see the pride of all Americans from different racial, social and economic backgrounds appreciate the odds they overcame to first make it to the tournament, yet alone experience any success. The timing could not have been planned better, given the recent racial tensions punctuated by the debacle in Ferguson, MO. For a moment at least these young people took our minds off the tragedy and tension that is tearing away at the fabric of this great nation. I have to profess that as I looked at those innocent faces of both the Philadelphia and Chicago teams; I couldn’t help but wonder what the future held for these bright and gifted young athletes, what will their world look like in 10 years ? will they have a chance to compete in this world? how many of those young black boys from both cities will reach adulthood or meet a tragic end staring down the gun barrel of peers and law enforcement officials? The answers are yet to come, sure they will be honored as heroes when they return to their respective cities as well they should, but once the fanfare fades they will have to face the reality of returning to a normal life whatever that means to each. Given the recent spike in violent deaths in Chicago one can only imagine what those young men have witnessed.
My hope is the incredible run of both teams will help spark more interest from inner city youths to return to the diamonds to play Americas favorite past time, that would be a nice site to behold
I tip my cap to all of the teams in the tournament that traveled from around the world, each with their own set of challenges, the smiles and tears as they played their hearts out reminded us they were just youngsters enjoying the moment. We as adults could learn a valuable lesson from these young athletes on how to demonstrate true sportsmanship it starts with respect.
(photos courtesy of multiple news services)