by CODY DRAPER, Staff Writer
There were two big, feel-good headlines from the 2014 Little League World Series last summer. The first was female pitcher Mo’ne Davis, who was lights out on the mound and became a media sensation off the field. The second was the team from inner city Chicago, Jackie Robinson West, who went on to win the United States bracket before falling to South Korea in the championship game.
Unfortunately, one of those stories has lost its luster, following the revelation that Jackie Robinson West intentionally cheated by using players from outsides its boundaries. As a result, all of their wins from last year have been officially vacated in the record books.
This is hardly the first time an incident like this has happened. Honestly, I’d be surprised if smaller violations from lesser known teams don’t occur regularly. This isn’t even the first time a scandal has resulted in a team vacating wins following the Little League World Series.
The 1992 championship team from the Philippines had their title taken away after it was discovered that some of their players were over-aged or taken from other districts; in 2001, a team from the Bronx forfeited their wins after their star pitcher was found to be too old. This misbehavior is just another example of teams skirting the rules in order to gain an advantage, and it certainly won’t be the last time someone gets caught red-handed.
What bothers me is that, in my opinion, the punishment doesn’t fit the crime. Sure the manager of the team and the head of their Little League district may have been removed from their positions, and sure the illicit wins have been stricken from the records, but that doesn’t change what happened.
The team from Chicago still enjoyed their ill-gotten 15 minutes of fame; they were the ones who got to visit the White House and meet the President. What good is it to declare the previous runner-up, the team from Las Vegas, the new 2014 U.S. Little League champions? They may have been legit (if they were, who really knows), but it is a hollow commendation.
Who are the victims of this deceit? How about the honest teams who Jackie Robinson West beat throughout the Little League World Series? Have they learned about fair play, or about what it actually takes to get ahead in life? Don’t forget about the players who were denied a chance to play for Jackie Robinson West despite living within the district, those kids who lost their spot to a more talented player from out of town. They are definitely victims, ones who I didn’t even consider when this story first broke.
I also feel sorry for the kids from Jackie Robinson West, the ones who were taught that you should cheat to win. When parents and coaches are bad influences, how are kids supposed to learn right from wrong? In the end, it seems that children are the ones who suffer the consequences for the follies of grownups. The sad truth is that when adults gain an interest in competitive, high-stakes games involving children, unreasonable things are sure to follow.