This week’s Sports Illustrated is not even on newsstands yet, but there’s a column in the issue that needs to be addressed in advance. Call this a preemptive snipe.
Rick Reilly tells the story this week of a PONY League baseball coach in Utah who, with two outs in the bottom of the last inning of the league’s championship game and the tying run on third base, walked the opponents’ best hitter to get to their weakest — a cancer survivor.
Sadly, the kid struck out. Predictably, the coach of the Yankees who made the decision is public enemy No. 1 in Bountiful, Utah — which is absolute rubbish.
Friends and family cried that the mean old coach was picking on the runt of the litter, and that the game was supposed to be about fun, not winning or losing. More rubbish.
The coachof the losing Red Sox team said he would never have done such a thing, and Reilly himself opines in his column that what the Yankees coach did “stinks.” It wasn’t about the kids, Reilly alleges, it was about the coaches who wanted medals to pin on their own chests. Once again, absolute rubbish.
As any kid who has ever played organized sports will tell you, winning matters. You don’t practice and put in extra time at the batting cages and take extra infield because you don’t care if you win. You put in the effort, even as a kid, because you want your reward at the end. You want to win.
Yes, this was a 9-and 10-year-old league in which everybody gets to bat, and big innings are capped at four runs. But rest assured, they do keep score. If the league was only for fun and winning and losing were irrelevant, there wouldn’t be a scorebook, and they
wouldn’t have championship games. But they did keep score, and a champion was going to be crowned one way or the other, and if the Yankees’ coach hadn’t given his kids the best chance to win, he would have been cheating them.
It would serve the self-righteous Red Sox coach well to ease off the criticism of his counterpart, too, lest he be asked about his batting order. After all, if he didn’t want the outcome of a game to fall on the frail shoulders of a sick little boy, why was that boy batting behind the team’s best player? Perhaps it was his intention all along to put the opposing coach in a lose-lose situation. “Pitch to my best hitter who can beat you with one swing, or you’ll look like the big bully who picked on the cancer kid.”
And don’t forget the parents of the cancer-stricken boy. If they weren’t prepared for him to face winning and losing situations as a result of his illness, they shouldn’t have put him in the league. They wanted him to be treated like everyone else. He was. They cried.
Our society’s ridiculous “everybody’s a winner” mentality has to stop or competitive sports will cease to exist. No longer can we compete to win, because declaring a winner means someone else must be declared the loser. Losing means hurt feelings. And we can’t have any of those.