By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun
The story of Chicago’s Jackie Robinson West Little League baseball team being stripped of their U.S. Little League World Series title is the sad tale of an epic fail on the part of the adults.
Little League International stripped the squad of its championship because team officials violated the rules for expanding the boundaries from where they can get players without asking permission of the neighboring districts.
From all I’ve read and heard about this situation, I can’t help but feel that the only visible heroes here are the kids on the team itself who performed excellently on the field.
All of the adults—the team’s coaches and administrators, Evergreen Park Little League Vice President Chris Janes, the so-called “whistleblower” who may have played fast and loose with the rules himself, and the Little League International organization—have acquitted themselves badly.
From the start, the coaches and organizers of Jackie Robinson West, should have talked with Little League about the team’s boundaries JRW coach Darold Butler should have realized that this whole thing was going to come out at some point, especially with all the national publicity the team received. Winning should never come at the expense of integrity.
But the coach wasn’t alone in his bad behavior. The administrator for Illinois District 4 and Little League Baseball International’s should have had a better system of making sure each team is in compliance.
But that said, there will be no medals given to Janes of Evergreen Park either. After his squad got thumped 43-2 in four innings by JRW, he turned into Little League’s version of Inspector Javert in Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables, determined to go after this group of kids in the same way Javert went after Jean Valjean.
Janes sent an email to Little League Baseball that appeared in DNAinfo.com, the website that broke the story. This email implied that he would take legal action if Little League Baseball didn’t look into the allegations against Jackie Robinson West.
I guess watching his kids get mollywhopped by a group of inner city Black kids that didn’t play the so-called “traditional” way caused something to snap.
Adult entitlement is a helluva drug.
The vigor with which Janes went after this team of kids, and let’s be honest here and admit that snatching an achievement from a group of kids is what this is all about, smacks of racism to many in Chicago.
But while many were too polite to say it, Venisa Green, mother of JRW player Brandon Green, wasn’t. When you go after someone’s child, the gloves, in this case baseball gloves, tend to come off.
“It is amazing to me that whenever African-Americans exceed the expectations, that there is going to be fault that is going to be found in what it is we do,” Green said to the Chicago Sun-Times.
Now would Janes have made these allegations if JRW not beaten his team so badly or had they not won the U.S. Championship? If Evergreen Park had beaten JRW, would Janes have gone through the pains complaining about the team’s boundaries?
No, he probably wouldn’t have, said the Rev. Michael Phleger, pastor of Chicago’s St. Sabina Church. He took part in a rally in support of the team organized by the Rev. Jesse Jackson.
“Are you telling me that the same kind of obsession of stalking, going over this month, would have happened-would have been done—if the Las Vegas team had won?” Phleger said. “I’m sorry. I live in America. And I believe that racism is in the midst of this thing.”
In yet another example of how the adults screwed this thing up, ABC-7 TV in Chicago interviewed an African-American mother whose son played in the Evergreen Park Little League despite not living within it’s boundaries. Renee Cannon-Young said her son’s paperwork was all filled out for her to sign, complete with a falsified residence.
“I was told that although he was not a resident of Evergreen Park, they were going to fix that so that he could play,” Cannon-Young said.
The ABC-7 report also said it was common practice for Little League teams to recruit from beyond their designated boundaries.
Little League Baseball is supposed to be that field of dreams where it’s all about the kids and the pure joy associated with the love of the game. Instead, it has become a microcosm of all that is wrong in the world of adults.
If it has any semblance of understanding and compassion, Little League International should restore the U.S. Title to the kids of Jackie Robinson West because they did nothing wrong but play well in the game they love.
It was the grownups that broke the rules and acted like petulant children.
It’s too bad that the players of Jackie Robinson West, the kids who did everything right, are the ones made to pay for their sins.