Thursday, February 12, 2015
Bad News for Jackie Robinson West
What's the world coming to when Little League baseball gets rocked by a "scandal" of this magnitude? The Rev. Jesse Jackson has to step in to try to reverse a decision to strip Jackie Robinson West, representing the Great Lakes Region, of its national title? It's enough to break your heart.
Of course, President Obama gets dragged into it too, as last year he honored his hometown team at the White House. He still stands behind the kids, although questions the adults who apparently recruited players outside the prescribed boundaries of the community.
Jackie Robinson West is not the first Little League team to have its title stripped. The LL has very explicit rules when it comes to a team's boundaries, not just the age limit. The state of Illinois had questioned the residency of some of the team's players last year, but the latest complaint was lodged by the Las Vegas chapter of the Little League, whose team, Mountain Ridge, is now the US champion by default.
A South Korean team beat JRW in the World series title game. Mountain Ridge lost to a Japanese team in the consolation game. The games are bracketed so that world teams play each other in one bracket, while American teams play each other in another bracket. Seems kind of unfair, but the Little League is an American invention so I guess it can set its own rules.
I remember Bad News Bears from the 70s, which made a mockery of the game. In the third installment, Tony Curtis takes over for Walter Matthau, flying the team to Japan to play the reigning world champs. The last episode was so bad it got a zero rating in Rotten Tomatoes. The Bears were recast in 2005 with Billy Bob Thornton as the irascible coach, Morris Buttermaker.
However, this is serious business, and the League doesn't take infractions lightly. Not even the President of the United States has the confidence to intercede on the behalf of his hometown team, so the Rev. Jesse Jackson is stepping into the breech. As the reverend pointed out, this need to verify residency at a time many states are calling voter rolls into question is not very good timing, but the League doesn't seem overly worried about public relations. It is the sanctity of the "community-based" game they are trying to protect. What would Jackie Robinson have to say about this?