Wednesday, August 19, 2015

A Fool And A Villain - Even If He Was Right

TigerBlog hasn't even had a chance to hate the Little League World Series yet before the women's side (girls' side, actually) took over.

Did you see this story?

The Little League Softball World Series is currently ongoing in Portland. The round-robin pool play was supposed to have ended Monday before a special playoff game was mandated by Little League International, who has oversight of all this stuff.

And why was there the need for the playoff game?

Well, there was a team from Washington state, a team from North Carolina and a team from Iowa in the hunt for two spots in the next round. As the tiebreakers played out, the team from Iowa would be eliminated if Washington beat North Carolina or scored three or more runs in a loss and regardless of what happened, Washington was to have advanced.

Instead, Washington was no-hit by Carolina. A great accomplishment? Hardly.

Throwing a no-hitter is easier when the team getting no-hit is the team doing the no-hitting, as in having the coach say "hey, no hitting."

Washington wanted to eliminate Iowa, and so its coach had its players all swing at pitches in the dirt and bunt on two strikes. In other words, intentionally not get on base.

The result was an 8-0 North Carolina win, which eliminated Iowa, who said "hey, wait a minute." Little League Softball said there was nothing that could be done, and then Little League International stepped in, ordering Washington to play a special play-off game against Iowa.

The narrative is pretty obvious - slimy coach ruins it for kids.

It goes a little deeper though. If you read the comments under the story, you'll see half of them are going down that path and half are saying that the point is to win the tournament and it's not Washington's fault that the tiebreaking rules were written the way they were.

TigerBlog has seen some scenarios for things like the Ivy League lacrosse tournaments where a team entered a weekend knowing that there was a way to win and not reach the tournament or lose and reach the tournament, but TB cannot remember a single one where a team has ever gone into a game knowing that if it lost the game it would advance and that if it won it would not.

Besides, that's not what's happened here. Washington was saying that it didn't want to play Iowa, so let's eliminate Iowa and worry about everybody else.

That is the 100% absolute wrong message to send young athletes on every possible level. We're here to win the national championship but we're afraid of a team?


As it turned out, Washington lost the play-in game 3-2. Iowa advances. Lesson learned?

What is the lesson for the kids? Seriously. What can they take away from this experience?

They would have advanced had their coach not told them to throw a game. Now, as it turns out, they didn't advance.

So what are they supposed to make of that? Defy authority? Stand up to the coach?

TigerBlog isn't quite sure. He does know that the Washington coach looks like a compete villain and fool - other than the inarguable fact that, as it turns out, he was right about the Iowa team. But still a villain and fool.

What does this have to do with Princeton?

Not one thing.

But hey, it was an interesting little side note in the world of sports. And besides, TigerBlog gets to cash in the "what does this have to do with Princeton? Not one thing" card five times a year or so.

Back here in Princeton, one team is already here practicing, the women's soccer team. Opening day is a week from Friday. Egads.

Beginning tomorrow, a bunch of other teams will be here to start their preseasons. Eventually it'll be time for football practice, games and everything else.

The Little League World Series is usually a sign for TigerBlog that summer is really winding down and that fall sports are right around the corner. So is the U.S. Open tennis tournament.

And the NFL preseason. TigerBlog has hardly watched any of it to this point.

TB did talk to his friend Mike Tuberosa at Drexel the other day. He sighed when he pointed out that Drexel women's soccer has already scrimmaged twice and now opens Friday. As in the day after tomorrow.

Tuberosa - Tubes, as he is known - said that no month flies by like August. He's right about that.

In college athletics, August starts out as a simple, calm, easy-going part of summer. By the time it's over, it's back to business.

In between? There are some diversions.

Like a softball coach from Washington, one whose trip to the Little League Softball World Series didn't go exactly as he might have hoped.

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