DruryChris2_400pxStanley Cup champ Chris Drury, back before the Little League World Series sucked…

I remember as a kid how awesome it was to watch the Little League World Series on TV. Here were kids my age, playing baseball on national TV! Usually it was just the championship game, where we’d see Little League heroes Sean Burroughs or Chris Drury taking on the cyborgs from Chinese Taipei. It was always a group of kids from a small town, battling an entire country — like that was fair…

But try as all of us American baseball playing kids do, we’ll take those enemy foreigners out, and we’ll do it in spectacular fashion. Burroughs even turned into a national celebrity. He took batting practice on the New York city streets with David Letterman throwing him BP. He even got off one of the all-time lines by a 12-year-old, when David asked him what he wanted to be when he grew up. “I want to be a gynecologist,” Burroughs replied. The line killed, and immediately turned into a playground punch line.

burroughsAmerican hero and Chunk lookalike Sean Burroughs.

But in a way that only ESPN can do, the Little League World Series has been killed. It’s getting to the point where if I turn on the TV and want to watch sports, I get pissed when its a Little League game. Give me softball, give me track and field, hell, give me 7-card stud on ESPN6, anything but little leaguers playing. As if it wasn’t enough to show just the championship game, the higher-ups at ESPN decided to give us the entire tournament. When they realized they got people watching that, they expanded to the United States regionals. Pretty soon they’ll be showing Wednesday nights from the Highland Little League fields.

LittleLeaguerEven this kid thinks the coverage is overkill.

The broadcast of the tournament does more and more each year to remind us what’s wrong with Little League baseball. For one, every game features the same script: Hulking pitcher who hit puberty before everyone else slings heaters from 46-feet that get to the plate like a 104 mph fastball. Batters flail until one of the guys who has armpit hair accidentally makes contact and launches a ball 100 feet over the fence, even if he hits it off the handle of his TPX. Worst still, if you’re on a team that doesn’t have a dude with chest hair, you’re forced to use a kid that actually has to pitch — which in the LLWS, means he’s going to need Tommy John surgery by the time he’s in high school because he throws 85 cutters, sliders, and curveballs to work his way through the pitching limit. After that, the game gets played with 40 strikeouts, zero margin for error, then at least 5 kids end up in tears because they just made the game-costing error and the entire school saw the play on ESPN and he’ll never, ever be able to look Becky or Jill or whatever her name is on the playground because he blew his chance at winning the world series…

David and Goliath is where the Little League World Series works its magic. It’s where we met guys like Burroughs, Drury, hell — even Danny Almonte. But ESPN has turned our Little Leaguers into celebrity ballplayers, giving us weeks of meeting these kids, trumping them up like mini-big leaguers, and reminded us how annoying and overbearing traveling team parents are, and why I’ll send my kid through Babe Ruth league instead of the circus that has become Little League baseball.

(Unless he’s got a chest full of hair at 12. Then I’m teaching him a splitter and having him grow a mustache.)

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