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Fred MacMurray and my three scrubs catch heckle

Rick Chandler, Tahoe Daily Tribune correspondent

Like many Americans, I am of the opinion that children should never be televised. We break this rule constantly and it leads to nothing but shameful regret: witness Barney and Friends, The Disney Channel and any Britney Spears concert.

Children are fine in real life. They’re cute and energetic and all that, but they’re omnipresent, so why do we need to broadcast their antics over the airwaves?

I’m talking to you, ESPN.



It’s mid-August, which means it’s time for the Little League World Series. This is the tournament in which broadcasters such as ESPN’s Harold Reynolds will speak endlessly on the wholesome nature of the game as played by 11- and 12-year-olds. Sample commentary: “These kids are playing just for the love of the game, there’s no money involved. This is what baseball is all about. We’ll be right back after this word from Snapple.”

There’s only one thing worse than televising children, and that’s making money off their little backs while doing so. I assume that this particular Axis of Evil, ESPN, ABC and Disney, is not pumping all of their LLWS advertising revenue back into youth sports.



If broadcasting the LLWS is such a good idea, why doesn’t ESPN go all the way? We say drop the hypocrisy and really go for the advertising cash: Kids do a lot more than just play Little League.

Here’s some other youth sports that could be televised:

— Youth basketball: Broadcasting team of Bill Walton, Marv Albert and Tom Tolbert work the championship game from Madison Square Garden.

WALTON: “That shot by little Billy Snodgrass didn’t even reach the basket! Oh my! I have never seen such a dreadful performance from a fourth-grader!”

— Hide ‘n Seek: After winning the world championship, 10-year-old Tommy Kinney receives a congratulatory phone call from Vice President Cheney, calling from an undisclosed location.

— Red Rover: Think of the excitement, and ratings, as the call finally goes out to send 260-pound fifth-grader Rusty McCounts “right over.”

–Jumping Off the Swings For Distance: They’re still buzzing about last year’s winner, 9-year-old Max Huber of New Britain, Conn., who sailed 17 feet into the back of a moving pickup.

— Marco Polo: Bobby Applewhite applies for reinstatement after last year’s shameful peeking scandal.

— Capture the Flag: France routinely ousted in the first round. Why do they even send a team?

It may be time to replace the LLWS, which, as it turns out, is not as wholesome as we were led to believe. The latest news involves the team from Harlem, N.Y., which won the Mid-Atlantic Regional last week for a berth in the Series, but is being investigated for allegedly using players from outside its district. The story broke in no less a publication than Newsday, which sent reporters to the Bronx to track down several player addresses.

(This isn’t exactly the big Afghanistan assignment the reporter had been hoping to land, but a story’s a story).

We can now retire last year’s scandal, in which The Bronx All-Star team was bounced from the Series for using a player, Danny Almonte, who turned out to be 14 years old. Seeing a larger player with more developed muscles compete against normal-sized athletes goes against everything baseball stands for — unless you visit any major league stadium in the nation.

Where did it all go so horribly wrong? Little League was once a nice, wholesome activity, a metaphor for the American way of life. It seemed as if every team was coached by Fred MacMurray, and every team Mom was Donna Reed.

And here was the great thing about Little League: Just when you were starting to get sick of it, it was over. By late July the bat bags were buried in the back of the garage and the family was on its way to Yosemite to trample rare wildflowers and annoy wildlife.

Of course, we weren’t satisfied with all that. As Americans, it’s our sworn duty to take a simple concept and ruin it.

That’s what happened when we invented the Little League World Series. Must everything in our society be driven by the need for more publicity? When we take something as good and pure as youth baseball and insert commercials, what does that say about us?

Last week’s Mid-Atlantic Regional game was actually decided when a player dropped a ball in center field, allowing two runners to score. The error was broadcast throughout the world, and the kid’s name was plastered on the ESPN site the next day. They say that kids have short memories, and that 10 minutes after the game they forget about mistakes. But that’s kind of hard to do when your big error was broadcast as far away as Africa.

Well, that’s it from me. The World Jungle Gym Finals are about to start, and I have money on the kids from New Zealand.

— Rick Chandler’s interactive sports column, Capacity Crowd, can be found at NBCSports.com


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