We're nearing that time of year again, when the snow melts away, the sun comes out from hiding, the warm air starts to sneak up on us, and millions of children around the country think, "Shit, am I gonna have to play Little League?"
I'm going to tell you something about your kids; they hate Little League. They don't want to play. And that's because Little League sucks. It's boring, stressful and it takes time away from the things they want to be doing -- like sitting on the couch and playing baseball video games.
Oh, your children might tell you they want to play organized youth baseball. But I told my friend and his wife that I was looking forward to attending their "unisex baby shower." Guess what -- I was LYING.
Your child told you that he wants to play Little League because that's what his friends are doing and he thinks he wants to fit in, and there's unspoken peer pressure. But if his friends were all getting their scrotums pierced, would you sign the consent form? See -- now this is one of those rare opportunities in which you can be both a disciplinary parent and a hero to your kid at the same time. Your child is hoping that you'll put your foot down and say "no." Your child is hoping that the family vacation or money or your genetic history of puffy shoulders or, whatever, it doesn't matter, he doesn't care -- it will prevent you from letting him play. Oh, he'll get angry and throw a tantrum. But, trust me, it's all an act. When they yell, "I hate you," that's their way of saying "I love you." Just like family dinner conversation at the Lohans.
Here's my Little League baseball story...
One of the things that you do during Little League practice, usually after steroid injections, is field ground balls. Now, the way to properly field a ground ball is to stand in front of the ball as it's rolling towards you. That way, if the ball takes a short hop over your glove, you can still block it with your body. Hence, fielding ground balls involves a lot of fast-moving hard balls smacking you in the chest or hitting you in the face. Doesn't that sound like something fun that kids would enjoy? My favorite attraction at Disneyland is the "Ratatouille Get Hit In the Chest With Baseballs" ride.
Anyway, during this one practice, our coach, who I would later find out was notorious criminal Bernie Madoff (or at least he looked vaguely similar), was hitting ground balls to us for what felt like an hour. Okay, it was probably only 25 minutes. But it felt like an hour -- sort of like watching an episode of this season's How I Met Your Mother.
All the sudden, out of the blue, I had an epiphany. I thought, "Why would I want to be stuck here doing this awful crap? Is somebody paying me for this?" So after practice, I told my parents that I wanted to quit Little League. My father wouldn't allow it. And we got into a big fight.
My father wouldn't let me quit because he wanted to be a good parent. And he figured this would teach me to follow through on things, to not be a quitter. Of course, I didn't learn any of that. Though, I did learn that rubbing Crest toothpaste on chest-bruises soothes the pain a bit.
To those parents who won't let their children quit Little League, I ask, "What's wrong with being a quitter?" Bill Gates quit Harvard to start Microsoft. John Travolta quit a dopey sitcom and went on to become a movie star. Sarah Palin quit the Alaska governorship to become... well, I'm still not exactly sure what she does.
Now I know why smokers have such a hard time quitting; they played Little League.
Children, just like adults, have responsibilities. For kids, that means doing well in school and babysitting their younger siblings. Those are things you're not supposed to quit. But equating something stupid like Little League to real obligations is to socialize children into thinking that everything they do is important. And that's why we're such a self-absorbed, self-centered, individualistic society. Well, that and Facebook.
The idea that organized sports teach children any sort of moral values is like saying that singing Karaoke teaches you how to cook. When I played Little League, there were kids on my team who started the season as jerks. Then they finished the season as bigger jerks. They didn't become better people. And to those people who argue that playing organized baseball as a kid makes you a better person, here is my response: A-Rod.
Exercise? Sitting on a bench waiting for your turn to bat is not exercise. You want your kid to be physically active? Tell them to mow the lawn. Or give them a ball -- be it base or foot or Lucille -- and drive them to the park with their friends. Not only will they get some exercise, they might actually have some fun. Remember fun? That's what kids use to experience, before adults got involved and turned "kids playing baseball" into a world of boring rules, fake sportsmanship, and fat dads screaming at 17-year-old umpires.
Do you know they televise the Little League World Series? First of all, why do they even have a Little League World Series? Who thought this was a good idea? Little League is a summer diversion. Does everything have to be turned into a world event? When I was a kid, I also killed time by gluing popsicle sticks together. Oh, hey, here comes the Chinese national youth popsicle stick gluing team. Damn, those kids look a lot older than twelve.
There are adults who actually enjoy watching the Little League World Series on television. There are adults who look forward to this. And you thought watching televised golf was dull? I have no snarky joke response to grown men who see little kids dropping pop flies as legitimate sports entertainment. And I won't bring up the creepiness factor. I can only offer my sincere advice: "Buddy, you need to get out of the house more."
Be physically active with your kids. Walk with them. Play catch with them. Teach them moral values -- not by learning how to bunt -- but through your own actions. And if you still want your sons and daughters to experience the unbearable boredom of badly-played baseball, take them to a Mets game.