America’s pastime

Bruce Van Dyke says Little League ain’t all it’s cracked up to be

Those who watch ESPN have seen footage of the kid from the New York team playing in the Little League World Series “calling his shot” a la Babe Ruth, which means he stood outside the batter’s box and pointed his bat at the centerfield wall. He was wordlessly bragging that the ball would soon find itself somewhere over that wall. It was a very cool gesture when Ruth did it back in the 1932 World Series. Since then, every player who’s tried to call a shot has guaranteed that he will look like a total muttonhead within the next 60 seconds.

But after this punk pointed his bat at center field, the pitcher sure enough heaved a meatball up to the plate, and the punk whacked it off the fence in center. (Technically speaking, the kid failed to call the shot. Pointing the bat at center field means you’re going over the fence, not bouncing off it.)

The double, though, was good enough for this arrogant little snotbag to feel that he had adequately backed up his daring boast. Now if he had calmly stood there on second base wearing a sly grin, he would have been cool in the extreme, and I’d have given him his due. Alas, he chose to indulge in an embarrassing display of self-congratulation, roaring at the pitcher, “That’s what I’m talking about!”

Well, swell. How nice to see that pre-teens are still fully capable of acting like classless little turds.

Questions arise: First, was it a coincidence that this boastful twerp hails from New York City? No, of course not. It’s nearly unimaginable that a 12-year-old from Oregon or Iowa would engage in such braggadocio. What was cool about this kid’s stunt was that he, in his own tiny way, informed America that it’s OK to passionately dislike New York again. For that, he deserves our thanks.

Would we see nice kids turning into classless little turds if they weren’t on national television? No, of course not. Would this kid have bothered to “call his shot” if he knew that the only people watching him would be the people in the stands in Williamsport, Penn.? Would the kid have indulged in such antics if he didn’t sense that a bunch of beer-pounding ‘necks were sitting in bars all over the country rooting for him to do something out of the ordinary so they could momentarily stop boring each other to death? Obviously, not.

Is it weird that grown adults are sitting around watching prepubescent lads boot grounders and flub pop-ups on ESPN? Yes. Quite.

A few decades ago, we were taught that it doesn’t matter if you win or lose; it’s how you play the game. Why do I get the feeling that that corny old notion hopped on a one-way train to Squaresville sometime during the ‘80s? Now, winning isn’t enough. You gotta win and make the highlight reel.