By W.G. Ramirez
I’ve seen and heard too much whining and crying during the Little League World Series.
Remember – there’s no crying in baseball.
Now if I could just get the Mountain Ridge Little League All-Star team to teach that philosophy to its supporters back here in Las Vegas.
You didn’t think I was talking about the kids, did you?
The kids who shied away from talking smack as they pulverized their opponents in the West Regional in San Bernadino, while remaining humble en route to Williamsport – one of just 16 teams in the world to do so?
The kids who continually talked about taking it one game at a time, and the team aspect, as they opened the Little League World Series with an impressive 3-0 start that saw them outscore their opponents 33-5?
The kids who whenever being interviewed, simply said they hoped they could play good enough to get to the next round?
All week, Las Vegas shined bright in the shadow of Chicago’s remarkable Jackie Robinson West Little League and Philadelphia’s Mo’ne Davis. Our boys representing the Silver State were ambassadors like we’ve never had before. I know Las Vegas Review Journal columnist Ed Graney wrote a story describing Mountain Ridge as Vegas’ second-most successful team behind the UNLV Runnin’ Rebels of the 1990s, and that may be true – based on success.
But it’s going to be hard to compare a better group of athletes to be labeled ambassadors for our city. For my city.
The Rebels were grown men. These are 12 and 13 year olds who showed the type of dignity and poise in front of a national audience I’m sure UNLV coach Dave Rice would hope his Rebels display. They displayed the type of personalities and grace most parents dream their kids have walking into McDonalds. Okay, at this age, maybe Starbucks.
But you get the point.
It was the type of sportsmanship you’d hope Johnny Manziel may have watched and learned from at some point the past week.
And along with their spirited play, jovial personalities, brilliant smiles and laughter came the overwhelming support from Southern Nevada. In droves. Politicians, business owners, professional athletes like Bryce Harper and Greg Maddux and what seemed like Clark County’s entire population embraced what was taking place in Little Town America, a place with an apt-named motto: “The Will Is In Us.”
Heck, for most of the week, Las Vegas embraced everyone in the most watched youth tournament annually. From Cumberland Little League manager David Belisle, to Mo’ne-mania and yes, even Jackie Robinson Little League West.
Then Mountain Ridge lost. And that’s when you got ugly Las Vegas.
Shame on you.
You took to social media and literally tattered the very fabric of youth athletics – sportsmanship.
In true Southern Nevada-fashion, a loss brought out your fair-weathered ways. Forget for a moment the joke of a TV rule that eliminates the double-elimination factor, that’s a side note to what I saw on the Internet. Comments about kids choking. Remarks about a VOUNTEER coach who sacrificed work hours as a firefighter. And simply a blatant disregard for all the positive things you praised these kids for the previous two weeks, since they were in San Bernadino.
Seriously. Shame on you.
As of 11 a.m. on Sunday, 208 comments on Ed Graney’s story about Mountain Ridge’s loss to Chicago. Now I didn’t go through all of them, but I’d say one of every seven or eight included “Great job Mountain Ridge,” while the rest littered my screen with something not worth the space on my Blog page. Talk about ugly.
People arguing with people about having an opinion, while others questioning the validity of Ed’s points in the aforementioned story about the team ranking No. 2 all time. Focus people. These are 12 and 13 year old kids.
Yes, ESPN and ABC does a good job to make you think you’re watching Mike Trout and Derek Jeter, and, this year, Jennie Finch. But they’re not. Sheesh, if you can predict five of these kids that played in Williamsport will go on to be professional baseball players, well more power to you. This was their time. This was their spotlight. This was their cup of coffee on their field of dreams.
In one fell swoop, you spilled their coffee.
Don’t get me wrong, there were so many of you who stayed positive throughout the week, and after both losses the past two days. You’re exceptional supporters of these young men, and I applaud you. But when it comes to social media, you just can’t hide ugly.
Now, let’s address the TV issue.
The rule sucks. Point blank. But get over it.
The rule has been in place, and the kids knew it. Coach Ashton Cave knew it. And when Chicago recorded that final double play, you saw tears of anguish, a hurt none of us will ever know because we’ve never been to Williamsport. They have. And they knew what came with participating in this event.
And as much as I agree with everyone’s disdain for the rule – it really doesn’t make sense to not have an ‘if’ game – I have to wonder what would have happened if the roles were reversed. If Las Vegas came through the losers’ bracket, and won the U.S. Championship, I am almost certain that not one person in Southern Nevada would have exclaimed: “This is an outrage! This is double elimination dammit. Chicago should get an ‘if’ game!” No, I believe you all would have said: “That’s the rules!”
It’s one thing to vent and say ‘hey, this rule isn’t fair,’ but Las Vegas, you know how to take ugly to a new level. Is that really the message you want to send to these kids, who epitomized the type of dignity and poise you’d hope they would have on social media? To come up with excuses for a loss? Blaming umpires and TV executives, when you knew going in you had one job to do. From the game I watched, those boys left it on the field. They did their best. And that’s what needs to be said.
One of the quotes in Ed Graney’s story from coach Cave talked of him losing his brother last year, that that is real loss. It put the game in perspective. For the record, a junior-to-be from Arbor View who knows many of the same kids and circles my son knew prior to graduating died over the weekend. Speculation across social media was suicide, but not confirmed. I feel for the pain she must have been going through, but also for her parents. That’s real loss. Last week I wrote about longtime coach Leon Doss and his battle with cancer. I was informed late Saturday night he was admitted to the hospital and his daughter, Hayley, is headed to Las Vegas to prepare for his departure. That’s real loss.
It puts the game in perspective – TV rules and all.
And if you can’t see that, well, shame on you.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a team from Chicago to cheer for in the Little League World Series championship game.