Monday, August 28, 2006

Some thoughts on the Little League World Series

I am an avid Little League World Series fan. I have watched all but 2 or 3 games this year and will be watching the championship game tonight (7 pm ESPN2). However, given the quality of the commentary, I am considering watching it with the volume muted.
ESPN did everyone a great service by firing Harold Reynolds as a commentator. He was a none-to-bright know-it-all who thought that his commentary was more important than the game. Their replacement for Harold, Orel Hersheiser, appears to merely be a Harold clone, however. His commentary is lackluster at best and I am not convinced he and Harold combined could light up a 30 watt bulb (that does not mean they were not great athletes or baseball players, just that their mental aptitude does not match their baseball ability).
I have a few suggestions for ESPN in announcing Little League. First, realize that these kids are 12 and 13 years old; they have been playing baseball for 7 or 8 years and are not playing in their first game on national television. They know how to run the bases, hit the ball, and field. It should not be a surprise when they make a routine play or smartly tag up when a fly ball is hit. Their baseball IQ is higher than many adults in this country. Also, many of them will be invited to play on their high school's baseball team next year (I got to play for my high school in 8th grade). They are not idiots and the commentary provided during the game is nothing if not patronizing.
Second, the easiest way to improve this commentary would be to bring in commentators who are not totally disconnected from Little League. I would not want John Madden announcing a baseball game, nor would I want Joe Morgan announcing a football game; they would be too disconnected to do an excellent job. The same can be said for ESPN's announcers: they know MLB and perhaps college baseball; they know nothing about Little League (as anyone halfway connected to it knows based on their commentary). Bring in a Little League coach or a player or someone who watches Little League more than 2 weeks in August. They could provide much more accurate insight into the mind set of the players and coaches and would not come off as completely paternalistic.
Third, quit doing the building blocks segments. It is dumb and pointless. The kids doing it have been doing the drills shown for years (as has any other 7 year old who plays baseball). Do some segments about their home town or their home town league games. Show some of the players on their regular teams before All Stars. Talk about their parents. Do something, anything besides those building blocks segments.
So, in conclusion, watch the Little League championship tonight. It should be a great game and, hopefully, Columbus will win it all. But mute the volume.

UPDATE: The Little League World Series is now over. Columbus won 2 to 1. ESPN did not bother to stick to the scheduled start time or to update the new time for the game. Just another example of the bush-league nature of ESPN's coverage. Pitiful.


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