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Keller: Competitive tears are far cry from embarrassing

September 07, 2011|By MARK KELLER
  • Mark Keller, Herald-Mail Sports Editor
Mark Keller, Herald-Mail Sports Editor

One of the most immortal quotes about America’s grand old game came from a totally fictional movie character.

“There’s no crying in baseball.”

That line, spoken by Tom Hanks (as Jimmy Dugan) in “A League Of Their Own,” became the most memorable in the film and is now trotted out at the first sign of tears at a ball diamond.

But if you’ve ever watched Little League Baseball, you know that statement isn’t accurate at all.

There is crying in baseball, particularly at the Little League level. And there’s really nothing wrong with that, in the right context.

ABC and ESPN are taking hits from media members about their coverage of the Little League World Series in recent weeks, specifically because their cameras caught some players on losing teams as tears began to flow.

“Allowing the public viewing of pubescent angst under the guise of a baseball game is opportunistic, offensive and just plain wrong,” wrote Bill Plaschke of the L.A. Times.

Most people have no problem with media outlets, whether it’s The Herald-Mail or ABC, covering Little League Baseball games — or any other youth sport, for that matter.

ABC has been broadcasting the LLWS championship game for many years. More recently, ESPN has expanded that coverage, showing every game of the LLWS this year and each of the U.S. regional finals.

Over the last five or six years, The Herald-Mail has gone from covering a few Little League all-star games every summer to staffing every game of the Maryland District 1 tournament and beyond.

The interest in Little League Baseball has grown immensely in the last decade, both at the local and national levels.

Nobody minds seeing or reading about the emotional highs — the home run, the great catch, their team winning a big game.

But when tears enter the equation, the general consensus is that we should turn the camera away or put down our paper and pen.

While I understand the sentiment, that emotion is a key element of the story.

Emotions are such an integral part of sports, both the highs and the lows. Seeing that emotion helps the viewer or the reader to better understand just how important the event was to these players.

Do we want to tell these kids (most of whom are boys) that it’s not appropriate to cry?

Is it wrong for a boy to cry when something he has worked for all summer comes to an abrupt end?

I don’t think it is. Of course, I was a cry baby when I was growing up. Just ask my brother.

What’s the problem with these boys crying? It’s not masculine? He’ll get picked on by friends?

Kids pick on other kids. It’s what they do. If they’re not getting picked on for shedding a few tears as an amazing chapter in their life is closing, they’ll get picked on for their acne, or the clothes they wear, or the people they hang out with.

It’s up to parents to teach kids how to deal with getting picked on and how to respond.

We shouldn’t tell our kids to hide genuine feelings during a highly emotional time. Allowing them the chance to express those feelings is healthy.

Even if that does mean there’s crying in baseball.

Mark Keller is sports editor of The Herald-Mail. He can be reached at 301-791-7728 or by email at keller@herald-mail.com

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