Moral Dilemma

Yes, this is another sports related post. But, before you go scurrying off to your US Weekly, hang here for a sec. I guarantee that even if you aren’t a sports fan, know a baseball from a hockey puck, or even give a damn, you will have an opinion on this story.

In Sports Illustrated, Rick Riley wrote about an event that happened in Utah. You can go read his account, but I’ll give you the thumbnail version.

Basically, here is the deal. 9-10 year olds little league game. Actually, this is the championship game. The league is a non-competitive league (everyone bats, no stealing, etc.) Why they’re having a “championship” game in a non-competitive league is something that doesn’t make sense to me, but I digress.

Yankees lead the Red Sox by a run in the bottom of the last inning. Red Sox are down to their last out, with the tying run on 3rd. Their best hitter is coming to the plate. Yankees coach has a decision to make. Pitch to the best hitter (who already has a home run) and possibly lose the game, or intentionally walk him? Behind him in the lineup is a kid who is a cancer survivor with a shunt in is brain and the worst hitter on the team.

Well, the coach does walk the power hitter in order to pitch to the weak link. Predictably, he strikes out and the game is over, Yankees win.

Now, I can see many different angles in this story. First that comes to mind is that that is a bush league thing to do to that kid. You know he’s weak, and you are deliberately targeting him to fail. He’s already been through hell with the cancer and you’re using that to your advantage. Do you really want to win like that?

On the other hand, I’ve long held the opinion that people coddle kids WAY to much. Way too much not keeping score and giving every kid in the league a trophy just for playing all to make sure that some kids don’t feel like ‘losers’. Kids have to learn, sometimes you win. Sometimes you lose. When you grow up, life is not going to try to protect your feelings. It will kick your head in (trust me, I know). If you have never lost anything in your life, how do you know how to deal with it? Parents think a loss is going to destroy their kid’s self esteem. It’s cliche at this point, but everyone always learns more about them self in a loss than they ever do in a win. Life is all about how you deal with adversity. Kids sports is a small way to add some ‘positive losses’ to a kid’s life.

However, does a move like this send too much of that message? Does it teach his players that its ok to ‘win at all costs’? If it does, is that a positive or a negative? Does this teach his team strategy? Constructive thinking? Compassion is important, but the kid was playing in the game just like everone else. He knew the rules. Would he want the rules changed for him or shown special treatment because he’s not as strong or as good as everyone else? What message does that send him?

It is an interesting dilemma. As you can imagine the adults are all taking sides and screaming at each other. Adults have a knack for taking a situation and blowing it all out of proportion. Who knows how long they will argue about this. Weeks? Months? I’m quite sure of one thing. Every kid involved in that game was already feeling better and moving on once the pizza party was over.

If I was the coach, I would have taken my chances and pitched to the power hitter. Kids sports is not simply about winning or losing. As long as you go out there, spend some time with your buddies, have some fun, learn a thing or two… then its worthwhile. There is always the silver lining of a loss… you’re going to learn something about yourself.

I love what the kid told his dad the next morning. It wraps up what this is all about and what I’m telling you. “I’m going to work on my batting. Then maybe someday I’ll be the one they walk.”

2 Replies to “Moral Dilemma”

  1. East Boise American Little League Girls Softball—Their motto is win at all costs. We played them in the state championship (we being Kuna). They felt compelled to pull 10-11 YEAR OLD girls from a competitive traveling “golden gloves” team, (rather than using the girls that played all season) into their Allstar team. The first game they won 20-2 against Nampa. No mercy rule in effect, pitched their best pitcher (30-45 mph). Started another pitcher against us the next day and we held them 9-3 for 4 innings, then in the 5th, they decided to put their best back in. We lost 12-10 in the 6th. No other team got as close to them as we did, and NO ONE led against them. Rather than take the chance on a loss, they played a ringer from a another league and team. Of course, they ended up winning the state championship. My point in all of this is, they are 10 years old. After the season ended for us, my daughter said to me “man, that was fun, I’m sorry we lost, but I bet we had more fun than East did”. That about sums it all up. Gee, this was rather long winded eh?

  2. Would it be any better pitching to the ringer in order to protect the other kid?

    It seems to me that the cancer has nothing to do with it. The kid is corageous for being out there, and clearly has a great attitude.

    In a non-competetive league, is it wrong to intentionally walk anybody under any circumstance? I think so. And that’s where the problem is; this happens all the time.

    If the league had been competetive, then the coach would have clearly made the correct baseball decison – and frankly done the right thing for the cancer survivor – treat him like any other player batting behind the best player on the team (with 2 outs and a 1 run lead and runner in scoring position).

    It wasn’t a competative league; the coach made the wrong decision.


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