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Those dudes with cameras at your kids’ games? That would be MLB Network

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MLB Network, the TV arm of Major League Baseball, stretches the definition of “major” in its August TV schedule. Not content to let ABC have all the fun with the Little League World Series, MLB Network has declared August “Youth Baseball Month.” From its own release:

MLB Network today announced that August will be “Youth Baseball Month” on MLB Network, with exclusive broadcasts of the final rounds of the RBI World Series presented by KPMG, New Era National Youth Baseball Championships and the Cal Ripken World Series this August. Coverage will begin on August 9 with the Senior Boys RBI World Series presented by KPMG, continue with the Cal Ripken World Series on August 21 and 22, and conclude with the New Era National Youth Baseball Championships from August 27-30 for the 10-Under and 12-Under divisions.

Hall of Famer Cal Ripken Jr. will join his brother and MLB Network analyst Bill Ripken in the broadcast booth throughout the Cal Ripken World Series. Broadcast teams for each event will include MLB Network on-air talent.

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“Welcome to MLB Network, everybody. I’m Cal Ripken, and joining me in the booth is my brother, Fuck Face.”

In case you don’t know, RBI Baseball is MLB’s inner-city program. Cal Ripken [which is a 12-and-under championship] is what used to be the Babe Ruth League. And the New Era Championships (yes, New Era is the name of the sponsor) has 10-and-under and 12-and-under national championships. So if you thought a Little League World Series was exploitative, just wait!

“As part of our 24/7 coverage of baseball, it’s important to include programming that is relevant to the sport’s younger players and fans,” said Tony Petitti, President and CEO of MLB Network. “These three marquee events are deserving of a national TV audience and we are looking forward to bringing them to MLB Network this summer.”

Translation: We can fill dead air time! Yay!

Within five years, if your kid’s league isn’t on TV, then the game just won’t be worth playing.

Bryant Gumbel wants you!

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Really, he does. I’ve been asked by a producer at Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel to spread the word that if you’ve got a young child you’re training for a pro career (your progeny — gymnastics coaches don’t count), you might get the chance to be on HBO without making drunk confessions in a taxicab. Wait, “Taxicab Confessions” isn’t on anymore? Damn, I loved that show.

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HBO’s Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel is developing a story on the current climate in youth sports in which parents are increasingly invested in the athletic pursuits of their children. We’re looking for parents of children (ideally ages 3 through 10) who have invested large amounts of time, money, and energy into their children’s sporting activities. Ideally, you’re a parent whose investment in youth sports is connected to a hope that focusing on your children’s sports activities will one day lead to a college scholarship or pro career.  The point of the piece is to illuminate the evolution in the seriousness of youth sports; this is not meant to be a judgmental story on parents’ decision-making on how to raise their children. Please contact: Nisreen Habbal, Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel. Direct line: (212) 512-1645. Collect calls will be accepted. Thank you very much.  

The producer asked me for suggestions. I mentioned Glenn Lines. I think they’re looking for someone who gives off a less creepy vibe.

By the way, why that line about “not being judgemental” might sound a little uh-oh, I believe the producer is sincere. Sure, there are overbearing parents shoving tennis rackets or baseball gloves into their kids’ hands at age 4 and looking at it as the first step to the pros. But there also are parents of prodigies legitimately trying to find ways to manage their child’s life and expectations in the face of a lot of outside pressure. This should be an interesting program. Maybe not as interesting as drunks talking about their threesomes or coke addicts begging for a fix, but on a show featuring kids’ sports, that would just be sad.

Best shot that resembles the old Michael Jordan-Larry Bird McDonald’s commercial

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Off the top of the backboard, slide off the rope support, in the basket.

Sadly, it doesn’t count, but this shot from a Pewaukee, Wisc., 7th- and 8th-grade game sure is cool. And here I was impressed one of my junior high kids hit a 30-footer before halftime last Sunday.

Written by rkcookjr

April 8, 2009 at 3:12 pm

You only write about us when we provide the pictures

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In 1977, I stood resplendent in my blue patterned, monogrammed leisure suit (made by my grandmother) in the front of St. Paul’s Catholic Church in Owosso, Mich., along with my fellow First Communion celebrants. The photographer asked us communicants whether we wanted a picture to be passed out to our families, or for the newspaper. We bellowed: “THE NEWSPAPER!”

After all, having a picture in your parents’ hands was all well and good. But being in the newspaper was validation, immortality, even if was only the Owosso Argus-Press. There we were, on page 2, to be cut out and put into scrapbooks. Who cared if our faces all were so small you couldn’t tell one kid from another? (Or one monogrammed leisure suit from another?)

I thought of this after seeing another note from a newspaper encouraging its readers to submit photos, particularly of youth sports, to be published or posted. In this case, it’s the Zanesville Times-Recorder in Zanesville, Ohio, known for being one of Forbes’ most vulnerable local economies, a stop on the Devil’s Highway, and home to the Institute for White Studies. The Times-Recorder posted its note Sunday asking readers to submit photos to be used for galleries of prom and youth spring sports.

As newspapers circle the financial drain, one of their Hail Marys (other than mixing metaphors) is to ask for reader-submitted content, which is free and an easy driver of visits to the paper’s web site, or sales of newspapers to the people whose friends and relatives are featured. It’s a test of how strong the brand name of a newspaper can be. You don’t need a local paper to get your kids’ volleyball photos online. You can start a blog, or a Flickr account. (And then have some smart-aleck blogger steal your kid’s photo off of Flickr because it’s not copyrighted material.)

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Like this, for example.

But as anyone who works a newspaper sports desk can tell you, there are sports parents who are incessant about why the local paper isn’t giving full blanket coverage to their kid’s team or sport, and their kid. “You only cover us when we [insert very bad thing here]” is a sportswriters’ cliche for the grief they get from parents.

Why do parents or fans bother? Because having someone ELSE take or post your pictures is validation, immortality. Especially as there are a million places online to disseminate your sports photos and information, getting a call from someone else who wants to do so is much more meaningful. (Plus, if it’s the local newspaper, you can be pretty sure it’s not a pedophile heavily breathing for your prom or swimming photos.)

Newspapers such as the Zanesville Time-Recorder are counting on their established brand name and ability to grant validation, immortality, to get scads of photos, but more importantly to remind readers that if they want to be remembered, posting a photo to a Facebook page isn’t enough. (Oh, and maybe the sports staff can tell angry parents that there is a vehicle available to attract the attention of the college recruiters they believe search for talent only in local sports sections.)

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An example that has nothing to do with youth sports: The Redwood City, Calif., Flickr Group is located in the center of Silicon Valley. And yet the members were besides themselves with excitement in 2006 when the local paper wrote a story about them.

Of course, this isn’t the paper sending a photographer out to shoot your kid’s fourth-grade basketball game, so it’s not like the barrier for entry is that high.

Still, even small children who never see a newspaper in the home, as well as their parents, families and friends, can get excited over getting a picture “in the paper.” Or should I say, in “THE NEWSPAPER!”

You want salacious gossip about youth soccer?

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Psst… I hear there’s a Web site called Turf Monster that talks about what soccer moms are shagging what coaches, lets you hate all over little girls teams and shows you amazingly racist comments about referees. Well, at least that’s what the Dallas Morning News said about TurfMonster.com, a soccer web site and forum based in, and concentrating mostly on, North Texas.

3054304063_5fb767b85c1Do I make you horny, TurfMonster.com message board poster?

(Believe it or not, this is Steve Jones of the Sex Pistols, pulled off of Flickr. With that gut, God save his spleen.)

If you know me, you know there’s nothing I love more than hot talk about middle-aged women and stupid referees, so I registered for the site under the nom de soccer mom “notgoingpro.” However, like Playboy, you have to crawl through a lot of boring chatter before you find any good stuff.

Not to say the reporter, Barry Horn, is a big fat liar. After all, he’s the man who brought down Micah Grimes. It’s just that TurfMonster.com, like most message boards, has a hardcore group of posters who will talk about anything and everything, most of it dull or incomprehensible if you’re not familiar with the subject matter.

The most interesting posts I saw in a cursory look at the site were the ones in which people posted odds on what youth league teams would win this week. You mean parents are taking bets on U11 teams? If so, that would explain why so many parents freak out on the sideline.

Well, sir, there’s nothing on earth like a genuine, bona fide, electrified, six-team Little League!

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Last year a group of all-stars from Rapid City, S.D., made it to South Williamsport, Pa., for the Little League World Series. Suddenly parents all over South Dakota are asking, why can’t we exploit our kids like they do in Rapid City?

From the Sioux Falls Argus-Leader:

So when Rapid City’s Canyon Lake Little League became the first team from South Dakota to reach the nationally televised World Series, [Matt] Richardson and Brian Eastman – assistant coaches in the Sioux Empire Baseball Association – decided it was time that Sioux Falls had its own Little League.

The city is on its way to having a league by next year, and other area towns are getting caught up in the excitement.

Brandon will make the switch this summer, while Dell Rapids, Harrisburg and Brookings could have leagues in place by 2010, joining Huron and several West River communities that already have associations.

“We are the largest city in South Dakota,” Richardson said at the start of the process. “We only think it’s fair that we have Little League baseball, because we have just as good, if not better, talent in Sioux Falls than Rapid City has.”

Damn right! You’re not going to let those inbred peckerwoods from Rapid City show you up! If you don’t prove your 11-year-olds can beat their 11-year-olds, then you ain’t shit, Sioux Falls!

thesimpsons-margevsthemonorail_1157690485Little League representative Lyle Lanley leads Sioux Falls supporters out of the most recent parents meeting.

This is getting to be such a divisive issue in Sioux Falls (where Little League can’t start until 2010) that the Argus-Leader ran a can’t-we-all-just-get-along editorial so there wouldn’t be the War Between the Leagues.

In this interview with the Argus-Leader, the Little League backers say they were struck that the local league had no all-star game or championship. And that the players can’t wear major-league team logos on their uniforms. And that was pretty much it, beyond the faint hope of playing on ABC.

Little League certainly appreciates the interest, what with its membership being on a long-term decline. But inviting in Little League just for World Series glory? Note to the Sioux Falls Little League backers — the kids don’t care! And if you’re worried about scouts not being able to discover the talent on your diamonds, don’t worry. Scouts will find talent no matter how remote. They don’t just wait to see whose games are announced by Brent Musberger.

How you can drool over a six-year-old and not get arrested

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You think it’s a sin that NBA teams draft players barely out of high school? How about major professional soccer teams chasing after six-year-olds?

Like this one — Madin Mohammed, already dubbed the next Zinedine Zidane because like the former French star, he’s a native-born Algerian whose family emigrated to their home country’s old colonial master. Also, he dribbles the ball like a motherfucker.

Plus, he’ll headbutt you if you say anything bad about his sister.

By the way, as impressive as young Madin is, his parents might want to read up on Sonny Pike before they start spending his professional money.

Glenn Lines: Australian for “Stefano Capriati”

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2853177069_e0d5c22d64_m1Amazing how that joke has carried on long after that Foster’s ad campaign stopped. It did stop, right?

According to famed tennis coach Rick Macci, we should know in about five years how good a tennis player Mia Lines of Wartirna, Australia can be. After all, by then she’ll be all of NINE FUCKING YEARS OLD!!!!! (Um, emphasis mine.)

From the Telegraph of London (hat tip: Parent Dish):

Mia Lines picked up a racket at the age of only one and is now gaining from the enormous experience of renowned tennis coach Rick Macci at his [Florida] academy.

Macci has coached a series of Grand Slam winners but said he has never seen a more impressive player at the age of four than Mia, who is from Australia.

“I have seen hundreds of kids come through my school in the 25 years I have been doing this and I have never seen a four year old with such god-given talent,” he said.

Stunned by the precision of Mia’s ability to read the court and also because she can hit the ball from baseline to baseline, Rick is cautiously guarded about her potential due to her age.

“It is difficult to compare Mia to players I have coached like Venus and Serena Williams, Andy Roddick and Maria Sharapova,” the 54-year-old said. “Mia’s technique is incredible and what she is doing is bringing foot-work you can’t teach to the table.

“What I would say is ask me if she can go all the way in five years and I will be able to tell you then.

“In the meantime my opinion is that she can not be any better than she is at this age.”

OK, before we get to Glenn Lines, the budding Svengali behind his daughter, let’s analyze the implications what Rick Macci, he of his beloved Maccisms that are basically ripoffs of every past coach and self-help book you’ve ever heard of, just said:

– He’s seen a lot of four-year-olds play, enough to RANK them.

– He’s not quite douchebagish enough to compare little Mia already with Serena Williams, but he thinks he can do so when she’s NINE FUCKING YEARS OLD!!!!!

maccismsblockbottomrickAnother Maccism: “If you fail to pay me buckets of dough for the privilege, you haven’t really ruined your kid’s childhood.”

OK, but now onto the man who is really going to be responsible for his daughter’s future drug habit/shoplifting spree: Glenn Lines.

Like the most notorious of tennis dads — and that’s a long and distinguished lot — Lines decided sometime between his girl’s conception and birth that she would be a tennis player, and started training her according. Stefano Capriati had Jennifer doing baby sit-ups; Glenn Lines had Mia doing hand-eye coordination drills.

Also like most tennis dads, Lines is deluded that his daughter LOVES this, and needs this accelerated training because she LOVES it so much. Perhaps that is true now, because a four-year-old is more apt to be all about pleasing dad. And I certainly would never begrudge a child gifted at anything the opportunity for advanced work. But it would be one thing if Mia had, without prompting, picked up a tennis racket at one and started hitting balls. But instead it’s Glenn Lines shoving a racket in her hands and making her hit balls.

Lines told the Telegraph that he’s such a big tennis fan, he knew all about Macci (did he know about how annoying his web site is? I mean, beyond the stupid Maccisms, every time you run the mouse over a ball it makes a racket — literally the sound of a racket swinging and hitting a ball). Apparently he’s not enough of a tennis fan to remember how careers of such youngsters as Tracy Austin and Andrea Jaeger got waylaid by injury, or how Jennifer Capriati got waylaid by teenage rebellion.

Because Mia probably doesn’t know how to read, I’ll address this message to Glenn Lines: you think you’re doing well for your daughter, but you’re not. Back off for a while and see if she stays interested in tennis. You might not be able to retired on her winnings at 15, but you’ll have a well-adjusted daughter who loves you. And you won’t have this:

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Purple haze (crotch in my face)

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Do you ever wonder why it seems so difficult to get rid of hazing in youth sports? Do you wonder why it seems acceptable to some people that athletes be put through degradation to “earn” the respect of their teammates?

Adult reaction to hazing might provide a clue. Such as some of the comments on the site of the Berthoud (Colo.) Recorder (your hometown paper for 28 years!) below a story on a high school wrestler charged with four counts of third-degree assault for hazing incidents that were alleged to have occurred in November and December.

Brandyn Wahlert, an 18-year-old senior, a state finalist last year, wasn’t the only wrestler suspended from Berthoud High for the alleged hazing. But he’s the only one who was of age to charge as an adult — and the only one back on the wrestling team with the kids he was alleged to have victimized. Did I mention he was a state finalist last year?

To be fair to Wahlert, no one has said what exactly he did. But the issue is less about him and more about attitudes toward hazing. Bias note: I find hazing to be a stupid, pointless ritual that only allows some people to get their rocks off by abusing other people in the name of “togetherness.” (The available empirical evidence appears to back me up.) I also never joined a fraternity.

My feeling is not shared. Back to the comments under the Berthoud Recorder story on Wahlert being charged. I am leaving out the ones who dislike hazing, which are plentiful. I don’t know that most of the community finds hazing to be just ducky. What I want to reflect are the adults out there who find hazing to be just another part of growing up. As long as they are around, hazing will be, too. After all, Wahlert is hardly alone. A week after he was charged, five wrestlers from Thomas Stone High in Maryland were facing misdemeanor charges in their own hazing incident.

All punctuation and spelling errors are theirs.

I,m a parent of a wrestler at Berthoud and know Brandyn personally he,s a great kid that was messing around as others on the team have done similar things but he,s the only one charged. I feel terrible this has happened. I,m sure he has learned from this and we hope he knows we care about him, good luck Brandyn. Brandyn has taught my son and others more about wrestling then some of the coaches. Everyone has made mistakes. Just remember when you were a kid. Everyone deserves a second chance don,t judge him because if you met him and been around him for years you know he,s a great good who made a mistake. …

It is so unfortunate that the media does not explain the truth about what really happened. It has been sensationalized and all the facts have not been explained. It seems that the law enforcement agencies have decided to make an unwarranted example of Mr. Wahlert at the expense of the truth. He has been singled out and I feel, discriminated against. Have the DA and the police officer forgotten what it was like to be a kid, since they are the only one’s pressing charges. None of the Wrestler’s or their parents are. In fact, they are supporting Brandyn. It seems to me that a whole bunch of time, money and energy could and should be directed towards much more important issues. Shame on You!!!! …

The Berthoud Police Dept and the media should be ashamed of themselves for letting this go as far as it has. Brandyn is a good kid and dosen’t deserve this. He was suspended for 10 days and now the police dept in their infinite wisdom is charging him. Two kids at the same high school Brandyn goes to got in a fight and one of the kids knocked the others teeth loose. The kids involved in the fight got one day in school suspension and the police were not called. Sounds kinda like they are singling him out. Hey Berthoud PD. Why don’t you focus your time and resources on something worth while. At least a little more than harrassing a high school kid. …

AS STATED ABOVE ANYONE WHO HASN,T DONE SOMETHING WRONG,OR STUPID IN THERE LIFES CAST THE FIRST STONE. MY FREINDS IN COLLEGE AND I HAVE ALL GOTTEN ASSUALT CHARGES AND HAZED KIDS. DON,T WORRY YOU,LL BE OK KID.I,M SURE YOU LEARNED YOUR LESSON.

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Going to the belly of the youth sports beast

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Your master of bloggery is taking a few days this week to pack up and move stuff from his mother-in-law’s condo in Bradenton, Fla., back to the greater Chicagoland area, as we natives like to call it. I’ll blog when I can, in between packing and loading boxes, and driving a Budget rental truck for two days.

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Approximation of the view of the drive between Atlanta and Chattanooga.

In the youth sports world, Bradenton is known as the home of the original youth sports factory, the Nick Bollittieri Tennis Academy, founded in 1978. In 1987, it was bought by, egad, a sports agency and became IMG Academies, which has attempted to extend the childhood-ruining that Bollittieri brought to tennis into soccer, basketball, baseball and golf.

That’s not completely fair. Plenty of young athletes, and pro athletes, go there for part-time training. But plenty of parents have decided that going whole-hog into travel ball just isn’t insane enough, and have uprooted their families to Bradenton so junior can train for the big-time. The IMG Academies’ alumni lists are impressive (go browse it yourself if you want a look). But realizing how few true success stories there are makes you realize that — well, maybe outside of tennis — spending big bucks for the biggest-time training in the world guarantees nothing. Just like how stupid kids emerge from tony private schools, too.

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If your child wants to learn how to deliver illegal, but gratifying right hook, screw IMG Academies. Send your kid to Yale.

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