Tag Archives: Little League World Series

Enough with overexposing 12-year-olds on the Little League World Series, ESPN! A bizarre, kind of hilarious new peanut butter commercial. And Bill Walton in a baseball broadcast booth is pure heaven

I’m guessing a good 95 percent of you reading this have no idea who Phil Mushnick is, and that’s fine.

Mushnick is the sports media/TV critic for the New York Post, and has been doing the job since Milton Berle was first coming up. Phil is the ultimate, ultimate “get off my lawn” man, hating anything and everything, believing everything today about sports and broadcasting is horrible, terrible, and just so much worse than they used to be.

I read Phil for perverse delight, because I find great humor in his grumpy ramblings. But it occasionally frightens me when I end up agreeing with one of his myriad rants. Which is the case today. For many years Phil has been railing against this issue, and a few times here on this blog I’ve railed about it, too.

This week is the beginning of the Little League World Series. It’s a lovely little event, as a bunch of 12-year-olds from across America and the world compete for a chance to play for a title in the little town of Williamsport, Pa.

It’s sports at its purest, just kids having fun over the summer with their buddies, trying to bring glory to themselves and their hometown. For decades, the tournament to get to Williamsport, and then the actual World Series, were hardly recognized on TV until the title game, when ABC would show it on a Saturday afternoon.

But then of course ESPN got involved, and realized people like to watch the drama of adolescent kids dealing with success and failure and all that.

And slowly, more and more games got televised. And then more, and more, and more. And this year, ESPN breathlessly announced in July, it would be showing 90 regional tournament Little League games on national television, across its various platforms.

Let me say that again; Ninety baseball games involving 11 and 12-year-old children would be broadcast on national television. That’s before the 32 games of the World Series itself, meaning 122 total Little League baseball games.

Children that age do not need to be on television that much. NOBODY needs to watch that many kids on national TV. Putting that kind of spotlight and pressure on these tiny children is just awful, and shameful.

One hundred and twenty-two games. Good Lord. Let the freaking kids be kids.

**So next today, it’s been a long time since I’ve written about a non-Super Bowl commercial in this space, but I saw this Jif peanut butter commercial Tuesday and thought it was strangely subversive and kind of fabulous.

Check this apocalyptic one-minute ad out. I’m a Skippy man, myself, but this commercial almost makes me want to switch.

**Finally, my love for the broadcasting ramblings and diatribes of Bill Walton knows no bounds. The ex-NBA legend has so much fun and creates so much confusion with his bizarre, unfiltered thoughts doing basketball games, I can’t help but want to listen to him more.

Well, the Chicago White Sox, in an inspired bit of promotion, invited the World’s Tallest Deadhead into their booth last Saturday night, to call a baseball game as a color commentator.

It, of course, went spectacularly. Thanks to Jimmy Traina’s always-fabulous SI.com column, here are a few Walton wonders.

First, his completely misreading a harmless fly ball out:

And then, his astonishment at a bunt single:

Bill Walton is a national treasure. Oh, and on another play with men on first and third and one out, when play by play man Jason Beninati said the Sox were looking for a double play, Walton asked “why not a triple play?”

I love that man.


Good News Friday: An honest, real conversation about race on TV. An awesome pep talk from a Little League coach to his son. And saluting the awesomeness of teachers

Here in the dog days of August, when we have so much racial tension in the air, and a Presidential candidate for a major political party stoking racism as much as he possibly can, it can be really, really hard to find some honest to goodness good dialogue out there.

But if you look hard enough, it’s there. I was alerted to this four-minute C-Span clip the other day on Twitter, and it’s really pretty fantastic.

“I’m a white male and I’m prejudiced,” began a caller from North Carolina to a C-Span show with guest Heather McGhee, an African-American woman who runs a public policy organization called Demos.

The caller went on to explain his biases and why he feels the way he does, and asked “What can I do to change?”

McGhee almost visibly is taken aback, but she calmly explains to the caller a few simple things he can do, such as getting to know an African-American personally, and turn off the news that almost always over-represents African-American crime.

It’s a simple exchange, but it struck me as really important. There’s no yelling, no name calling, just an older white gentlemen trying to change his ways, and an African-American woman offering suggestions to help.

If we turn down the volume just a little bit and listen to each other a little more, who knows what may happen.

**Next up today, there are a lot of things wrong with what the Little League World Series, held in late August every year in Williamsport, Pa., has become. ESPN televises WAY too much of it, and often horribly zooms its camera in on an 11 or 12-year-old crying in the dugout because of his team’s loss. The pressure on these kids is often unfair, and there are lots of way-too-intense coaches who intimidate their players.

Which is why I love happy stories like this one. Isaiah “Bugsy” Jenkins is a pitcher for Bend North, an Oregon team that advanced to Williamsport this year. Isaiah was pitching a great game on Monday when, in the fifth inning, he started to struggle.

His coach and Dad,  Joel Jensen, came out of the dugout for a pep talk. What he said was simple and beautiful. Watch the very short video above.

Good job, Coach Jensen. That’s how it’s done.


**And finally today, lots of American students and teachers are already back in school, while some, like the ones here in New York, still have a few more days of summer vacation.

So I thought it’d be nice to salute the hard-working educators who go so far above and beyond to help their students. Upworthy.com profiled 11 of them, including this biology teacher (above) who wears wacky outfits to get her students interested in learning about the human body.

Teachers are awesome.

A setback on stem cells. Ebert nails it again. And a hilarious ESPN graphic

I’m a huge proponent of stem-cell research, as it’s one of those issues I just can’t understand why people are against. After eight years of the Bush administration severely curtailing the ability of scientists and doctors to find cures for devastating diseases, I thought scientists would be able to get back to work on these potentially life-saving stem cells once President Obama approved funding for more stem cells in 2009.

So it was with anger and sadness that I read this story in the Times Tuesday, saying that a federal judge has stopped Obama’s expansion of stem-cell research, on what appears to be flimsy grounds.

This is such important work, and so vitally crucial to the health and welfare of millions. Every available opportunity needs to be there for researchers and scientists, and here’s a federal judge basically ordering them to stop working.

My beloved grandmother, the best person I’ve ever met in my life, currently suffers from Alzheimer’s. Stem cell research may be unable to help her, but it could help some of the millions in the future who’ll be afflicted.

I hope this decision gets appealed and overturned, but quick. There is no time to waste. None.

The Times also had an eloquent editorial about the issue here.

**Roger Ebert, one of my favorite writers of any genre, wrote an excellent blog today about the ridiculous Ground Zero mosque issue. Ebert cuts through the b.s. and really nails it, with 10 cogent points. Check it out here.

**Gotta love the Little League World Series, for so many reasons. Tuesday I loved it because I happened to turn on ESPN while I was eating breakfast and saw this scoreline graphic on screen:

New Jersey 0
Saudi Arabia 0

I love that. How often do you ever get to see New Jersey and Saudi Arabia square off in an athletic event? I love the possible promos for the game: “One’s got sheiks and Arabs, the other one has a guy who shakes his abs!” Tune in for New Jersey vs. Saudi Arabia!”