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E-mail best indicator of PONY's legacy

August 15, 2008|By BOB PARASILITI

One of the great things about sports is that everyone is allowed to be an analyst.

Anyone from preschool teachers to Rhodes Scholars or chairmen of the boards to patrons on barstools have an opinion, a perspective, a comment or a revelation about any number of sports teams ranging from T-ball and pee-wee football to the major leagues and the NFL. Those opinions usually include how certain teams should be covered or portrayed by the media.

I would have to say that Carolyn Miller might be one of the best when it comes to seeing the true picture of sports.

I'm sure you don't know who Miller is ... I know I don't.

She doesn't rival John Madden, Joe Morgan, Doug Collins or Tim McCarver, all of whom provide color on sports broadcasts.

She probably wouldn't be confused with Rick Reilly, Jackie MacMullen or Sports Illustrated on the national print front. Nor does she have the reputation - good or bad - on the local front like Doug Sampson from NBC-25, Dan Kauffman or myself.

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Yet, Carolyn Miller's vision is true.

In reality, Miller is probably a casual fan, at best. She seems to be a busy woman who was compelled to write an e-mail to Herald-Mail sports editor Mark Keller at 2:30 Thursday morning, shortly after the Hagerstown PONY League All-Stars were eliminated from the PONY World Series in Washington, Pa.

The letter is as follows:

I am a co-owner, along with my family, in Jumper's Junction, a restaurant and family entertainment facility located in Washington, Pa.

Following the teams' loss the players, coaches, chaperones and siblings (of the Hagerstown PONY All-Star team) came to the restaurant. Although about to close, we opened up the kitchen and left the game room open.

We have many kids visit our establishment but seldom do I see a group of kids conduct themselves with such manners. In addition to the "Please" and "Thank You," the kids were personable, fun and respectful.

I commended the coaches on the teams' behavior and felt as a community you should also know.

I am sure you are already proud of this team placing fifth in the world in the Pony League but as parents and as a community you should also be very proud of the way they conduct themselves in public.

We wish the best for the team and would love to have you back again anytime, especially in the 2009 Pony League World Series!

Finally, someone who hits the nail on the head. All it took was an untainted, unbiased view of the big picture.

The view of what's really important in the whole world of youth sports is obscured the closer we get to it. It's a spin on that "forest and trees" analogy.

When youth games get to the level the local PONY team reached, television and newspaper reporters find reason to start coming out of the woodwork to cover the teams. I know the Herald-Mail has been blasted for its perceived lack of coverage or concern for the fortunes of the PONY All-Stars, but like any other situation there are reasons for the decisions that have been made and a hope that it all will be understood.

This isn't the place for that discussion. It is more than just that.

There is a perception that just because a young person plays ball, there is an inherent right to have his or her name in print or their image televised. In championship situations, league administrators, team sponsors and family members of the players forget about the benefits and message of what these players are doing due to a dying need for publicity. Somehow, oil-based liquid fused on wood pulp validates everything these kids do.

Add to the mix the idea that the PONYs were willfully being slighted because of another local youth team that is going to a World Series in Pennsylvania.

It comes down to this. The publicity that comes from hitting singles, pitching strikeouts and winning games is stuff for scrapbooks and things that make people other than the kids playing the games feel more important. For most kids, the cheers of Mom and Dad watching them in the crowd and a post-game trip to McDonald's overrides most anything that shows up the next day on the doorstep.

And if it doesn't, the wrong message is being conveyed.

Experiences like the World Series should be all about fun, memories and learning to function with others. It should be about becoming mature enough to deal with the circumstances of the game and the humility and courtesy that comes from both victory and defeat. Everything after that - like media coverage - should be gravy.

That's why Carolyn Miller's e-mail rings so true and shows the bottom-line essence of what it's all about.

And that e-mail is all any parent should need to show their child is playing for all the right reasons.

Bob Parasiliti is a sports writer for The Herald-Mail. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2310, or by e-mail at bobp@herald-mail.com.

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