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Let 'em Play

Bud Collins, the wise and funny tennis commentator, has said that you know the parents of teenaged tennis players have fouled up the works — and probably fouled up the players as well - when Dad and Mom abandon their own work to manage the careers of their children. It's happened a lot in tennis.

As far as I know, none of the parents of the little leaguers from Saugus has quit a job to devote him or herself to promoting junior's advance to the big leagues. I'll assume that's a good sign.

On the other hand, I did read something about a guy who'd left his business in the hands of others so he could make the trip from Massachusetts to Williamsport to watch his son play in the little league world series for as long as Saugus lasted in the tournament.

Who can say for certain whether five hour practices are extreme for a twelve year old child? Probably only the twelve-year-old child, and if he's absorbed the all-American notion that the two most significant achievements for any citizen are first, to be on television, and second, to win, extremity won't come into his discussion of what he did on his summer vacation.

Last winter, I visited briefly with Dewan Chandler. He played basketball for Boston College some years ago, though never perhaps quite as well as his schoolboy days had indicated that he might.

He was valuable enough so that those running the basketball program made sure somebody wrote Dewan's papers and handed them on time, enabling him to remain eligible, but he was less than a star, which must have come as a surprise to him.

As a teenager, he was celebrated as the greatest player in the city. They had a day for him — Dewan Chandler day — and he told me that in a frame somewhere, there was a proclamation to that effect. he smiled when he told me about it.

"It was crazy," he said. "I hadn't done anything."

That's a perspective no twelve year old can be expected to have found, especially when professional broadcasters are favorably commenting on his patience at the plate, and, besides, the Saugus kids have done something. The achievement of reaching Williamsport and playing well there deserves attention. But the attention of a national television audience?

Maybe it would be different if I had a child on the team, but when ESPN devotes its glitzy graphics to twelve-year-olds, a little voice in my head says "just let 'em play."

This program aired on August 23, 2003. The audio for this program is not available.

Bill Littlefield Twitter Host, Only A Game
Bill Littlefield has been the host of Only A Game since the program began in 1993.

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