Top youth sports stories of the year, part one
Dec. 31, 2009, will be a momentous occasion — the one-year anniversary of when I began blogging about youth sports. You expected something else?
Being as I started this blog elsewhere, taking this moment to look at the top 10 youth sports stories of the year is not only a cheap way to create a little content, but it’s also a chance for you all to see what my fingertips have obsessed over since Dec. 31, 2008. I’ll break this up over two days: five today, and five tomorrow. And then the regulation youth-size ball drops on a new year of new youth sports wackiness.
10. “Beware the Green Death”
Poor Michael Kinahan. Here he was, trying to inject a little humor into his introductory note to parents as a coach of 7-year-old girls’ soccer in Scituate, Mass., and instead he loses his gig and becomes a worldwide cause celebre. Then again, if you didn’t know the guy, and you got a letter like this, you’d do a little cause celebre-ing yourself. Among the highlights:
… According to my wife, my emails get too wordy, so for those of you read too slowly, are easily offended, or are too busy, you can stop here. For the others……
OK, here’s the real deal: Team 7 will be called Green Death. … I only expect 110% at every game and practice. We do not cater to superstars, but prefer the gritty determination of journeymen who bring their lunch pail to work every week, chase every ball and dig in corners like a Michael Vick pit bull. Unless there is an issue concerning the health of my players or inside info on the opposition, you probably don’t need to talk to me. …
Some say soccer at this age is about fun and I completely agree. However, I believe winning is fun and losing is for losers. … The political correctness police are not welcome on my sidelines. America’s youth is becoming fat, lazy and non-competitive because competition is viewed as “bad”. I argue that competition is good and is important to the evolution of our species and our survival in what has become an increasingly competitive global economy and dangerous world. … I expect that the ladies be put on a diet of fish, undercooked red meat and lots of veggies. No junk food. Protein shakes are encouraged, and while blood doping and HGH use is frowned upon, there is no testing policy. And at the risk of stating the obvious, blue slushies are for winners.
…[I]t is imperative that we all fight the good fight, get involved now and resist the urge to become sweat-xedo-wearing yuppies who sit on the sidelines in their LL Bean chairs sipping mocha-latte-half-caf-chinos while discussing reality TV and home decorating with other feeble-minded folks. I want to hear cheering, I want to hear encouragement, I want to get the team pumped up at each and every game and know they are playing for something.
Lastly, we are all cognizant of the soft bigotry that expects women and especially little girls, to be dainty and submissive; I wholeheartedly reject such drivel. My overarching goal is develop ladies who are confident and fearless, who will stand up for their beliefs and challenge the status quo. Girls who will kick ass and take names on the field, off the field and throughout their lives. I want these girls to be winners in the game of life. Who’s with me?
Go Green Death!
Lesson to you coaches out there: parents are humorless, and they will forward you witty emails to the media.
9. Leaving early for a pro career — real early
In many nations, young players leave home at young ages for professional sports academies, or apprenticeships, or junior leagues that are clear in their status as hothouses of future pros. America is not one of those nations. We, unlike the rest of the world, like to pretend our young athletes are students first and just happen to be in sports for the pure joy of it. (Michael Kinahan would like to have a word with you about that.)
So that’s why it became a big deal when Jeremy Tyler of San Diego went pro after his junior year — of high school. He went to play basketball in Europe after high school competition for a 6-foot-11 dunking machine was a little unchallenging. Meanwhile, Bryce Harper of Las Vegas one-upped Tyler by declaring he would leave high school after his sophomore year, get his GED and play at a community college so he could get into the Major League Baseball draft earlier.
Will they be successful? Who knows? Who cares? As far as the American student-athlete complex goes, few are even remotely talented enough to try this, whether Tyler and Harper succeed or fail.
8. The bankruptcy of Count Me In
Never heard of Count Me In? Then you didn’t have an affiliation with a youth sports organization that got its money sucked up by the Seattle-based company. Count Me In was sued and sent into bankruptcy by some of the organizations that sent it $5 million that the company never returned. How did that happen? Count Me In sold league-registration software. So someone would register for a league, pay the fees, and Count Me In would forward that money to the league. Except that it ran into financial troubles, and didn’t. One New Jersey soccer club that sued Count Me In and founder Terry Drayton said it was out $142,000.
As it turned out, in May a savior emerged for Count Me In: Terry Drayton. He formed another company that paid $200,000 to buy Count Me In out of bankruptcy. Drayton says he still plans on paying everyone back (if he hasn’t already). Being a self-described serial entrepreneur is never have to say you failed.
7. H1N1 screws up the sports landscape
Swine flu ensured in many areas that your little piggie stayed home from the game. H1N1 hysteria was especially evident when it first broke out in the spring, with school districts across the country canceling sporting events. Most notably, the organization running Texas high school sports created a scheduling clusterfuck when it postponed all activities in the first two weeks of May, a timeframe that included the state track and field championships. When H1N1 broke out again in the fall, cancellation fever didn’t follow (even though there were postponements here and there). Instead, the emphasis was on making sure the illness wasn’t spread at events, which threatened to make the post-game handshake an endangered species.
6. Kids and/or parents and/or fans fight at games
This isn’t necessarily newsworthy. I figured I should include it because whenever I post video of youth sports fights, people flock to it like sports porn.
Later: the top five youth sports stories!