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Richmond Times Dispatch (Virginia)


Teenagers say and do inappropriate things.

It's unavoidable.

What matters is how adults react.

And the adults who run Little League didn't react well or wisely regarding the Atlee team in the Junior League Softball World Series in Kirkland, Wash.

An inappropriate gesture by six members of the Atlee team in a photo posted on Snapchat cost them a chance to play for the championship.

What these 12- to 15-year-old girls did wasn't pretty. The photo shows them extending their middle fingers in contempt toward the Kirkland team they had beaten 1-0 to advance to the championship game.

This wasn't sportsmanship at its finest.

It also wasn't so egregious it deserved the punishment meted out by Little League, which disqualified Atlee and put Kirkland in the title game against Poland, Ohio, in a game shown on ESPN2.

Poland ultimately won the title.

Atlee not only had beaten Kirkland in the semifinals, it had beaten both finalists in pool play.

Championships should be decided on the field, not by a governing body and not because some teenagers made an inappropriate gesture, a gesture they probably see at school every day and a gesture that is fairly tame when compared to the Wild West world of social media platforms.

And let's be clear about this: The opinion here would be the same if Atlee had lost and the Kirkland players had posted such a picture.

To be the parent of a teenager is a constant battle to find a balance between understanding and exasperation.

Separating the little deals from the big deals is essential if adults are to keep their sanity and teenagers are to learn their lessons.

It's too bad Little League doesn't seem to grasp any of that. It's too bad Little League doesn't understand this is not a big deal.

It was a mistake. But it didn't involve a car accident, drugs, alcohol, racism or religious persecution. It's a teachable moment. A reprimand should have been issued and everyone should have moved on. Empathy should have been the order of the day, because almost any group of teenagers could have done this.

Little League found it to be an extremely punitive moment.

It's statement said, in part, " ... the Little League International Tournament Committee has removed the Southeast Region from the 2017 Junior League Softball World Series for violation of Little League's policies regarding unsportsmanlike conduct, inappropriate use of social media, and the high standard that Little League International holds for all its participants."

My, my, my but Little League has a grand opinion of itself. This is really rich coming from an organization that thinks it's fine to inflate the importance of children — this can't be stressed strongly enough, children — playing baseball and softball by allowing its tournaments to appear on national television.

What the Atlee girls did was not an act of respect. But it's difficult to see who was harmed.

Are the Kirkland girls and their parents scarred for life by seeing this picture directed toward them?

If so, they'd best avoid all social media forever. As is often said about politics, social media is not bean bag. You enter at your peril. And make no mistake about this: It is not for the faint of heart or thin of skin.

None of the adults who manage, coach and support the Atlee team found this photo appropriate.

"It was wrong," Atlee team manager Scott Currie said. "We're not condoning what they did. But I think the consequences were a little extreme.

"We were told about it (Friday night), and within five to 10 minutes we had all of our girls apologize in person to all the Washington girls. We wanted to do it face to face. One of their coaches had a very gracious speech about how this is what the Little League is about, learning life's lessons."

Social media are modern-day contrivances, but Alexander Pope in the 18th century wrote the lesson to be learned from this situation as well as its solution: "To err is human, to forgive divine."

Little League, and whoever thought it necessary to bring the photo to its attention, should give that some thought.

(804) 649-6444 @World_of_Woody

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August 6, 2017


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