Friday, August 20, 2010

Why I Love the Little League World Series

Before I get started here, let me mention two things. First, I didn't realize how early I have to be at this orientation thing today, so this post has to be pretty quick. Second, I have a trivia story

Trivia Story

Last night, a few of the other incoming Journalist folk and I took part in this grad school trivia contest. I'd say there were about 150 people there, and a lot of teams. Long story short, we're all know-it-alls and we did pretty well. My friend Nick was a stand-out, but we all acquitted ourselves well (I enjoyed his "5 Favres" from yesterday). Anyway, whenever I went to turn in the answers, I would check the scores. Before the "final question" I confirmed that we were in first place by 9 points.


The activities in these "Grad Games," of which this was the conclusion, had been a wee bit mismanaged all week. The folks in charge were trying their damndest, but it wasn't a smooth operation. Trivia had been no different. Check out the first question (going from memory here):

"Custer's Last Stand" took place in which battle of the American Civil War?

Those trivia hounds among you will of course be jumping out of your seats saying "IT WASN'T IN THE CIVIL WAR! IT WAS LATER!" Exactly. And then there was another question about the last elected president not to be affiliated with the Republican or Democratic party. The answer they gave was Andrew Johnson, but of course Andrew Johnson was never elected; he took over after Lincoln was assassinated. So that kind of thing happened all night.

Now, going into the 'final round,' I figured out that we only had to wager 7 points. If we got it right, nobody could catch us. However, my friend Andrew, putting it all together, tried to insist on wagering all 15. "He's gonna screw it up," he said, speaking of the organizer. "I know he will." He had zero confidence that the numbers wouldn't be totally screwed, and he didn't want to leave anything to chance.

Well, we got the question right (Salvador Dali was the artist inspired by a snail on a bicycle upon meeting Sigmund Freud), and the as the top 3 were being announced, we leaned back, arrogant and reassured, waiting for our name to be called as the winner. All except Andrew, who seemed nervous and unconvinced. The moment came, the room waited in anticipation...and we weren't called.

We weren't even called in the top 3. I checked with the organizer, and he immediately got a horrified look on his face while he checked his numbers. He apologized, gave us a gift certificate, and a bunch of tote bags with t-shirts and an umbrella. He told us we should have finished second, and later sent an e-mail to that effect. But we never got our moment in the sun. And Andrew, that paranoid bastard, was right.

And that, my friends, is a classic trivia punch in the nuts.

Okay so time is really limited here, so let's get to this list quick.


1. The "Purity."

Let's be honest: these kids travel around all year playing baseball, they're the best of the best in their age group, and they're 12. They probably walk around like kings in their hometown. They probably think they're awesome. Their parents are probably hard-charging and sort of intolerable. On the average, they aren't the world's most likable kids. A lot of them will become douchebags in like 2 years. They sort of have an innocent look about them, but that's deceptive. Little kids are bastards. Most of us were either bastards, or had to deal with bastards at that age. Both, in my case. You're not gonna have the same fun personalities as you do at the spelling bee. But when ESPN does the specials about the purity of the game, over music montages and pictures of wheat fields, I'm on board.

2. Instant Replay

Well done, Little League!

3. The Joy

It's fun to see little kids having a great time.

4. The Tears

It's fun to see little kids crying. (Oh don't act like you're so superior, Mr. Morals.)

5. The Trivia Factoids

My favorite was when every single player from Staten Island said their favorite major leaguer was Jason Marquis, since he came from their area. I also like trying to guess where they got their nicknames, like "Donuts." (I bet it had something to do with donuts, but then again, that could be a classic red herring.)

6. Rooting Against the International Teams

As a kid, Chinese Taipei was like the most evil team in the world for me. They often beat the US team in the title game, and I couldn't stand it. I didn't realize at the time that 'Chinese Taipei' is commie code word for Taiwan, which is the good China. I still hold some of that lingering resentment.

7. Japan's Peaked Caps

On the other hand, I love Team Japan and the way they crease their hats.

That's the kind of cultural oddity I can really get into. Obviously, they have a huge advantage when it rains.

8. No More Bully Pitchers

There were a couple of years there where some big post-pubescent goon would just throw 70mph and strike everyone out. Now, the players have gotten better, and a pitcher has to have a full arsenal. It's not good enough to just have a killer fastball anymore; these kids will tee off. You need a change, and a decent curve. It's more like real baseball now.

9. Momentum's Huge Role

When kids are this young, momentum is just gigantic. It doesn't matter if a team is down 10-0. If the crowd gets going, and a comeback is in the works, the pressure can mount to an enormous degree. You can see the other team getting deflated as the pitcher looks closer and closer to crying, and the comeback team is totally pumped and energetic. This doesn't happen in professional sports as much since the players have been their before and are better emotionally equipped to handle adversity. It still happens a little in college, but not to this degree. For kids on national tv for the first time, dealing with enormous pressure, momentum can change a game in a heartbeat.

10. The Asshole Coach

Most of the coaches are nice and encouraging, or at least pretend to be since they know the ESPN cameras are on them at all times. But there's always one guy, usually from somewhere in the south, who is so much of an asshole that he just doesn't give a shit about being on live tv. He wants to win, and his aggressive, domineering personality will not be curbed by potential hatred from a large viewing audience. It's always a blast to see him berating a kid on the mound. Who is that guy?

Have a great weekend!


  1. I'd be more into the Japanese team, if they took it to the next level by wearing THESE hats (featured prominently on last night's Project Runway, as many other loyal readers may also know):

  2. Not only would they win you as a fan, but I'm pretty sure they'd become instant favorites.