Last year at this time, I couldn't watch the Little League World Series. I was still living (for a couple more weeks) in the duplex next door, and I depended on the local cable system for my programming. The cable company doesn't really cater to its customers in rural areas. I guess we should be grateful to get USA and TBS, because they don't offer ESPN2.
When I moved here I got the satellite dish and the many incarnations of ESPN that come along with it, like ESPNews and ESPN Classic. The Little League World Series starts tomorrow on ESPN2, and I'm looking forward to watching as many games as I can.
This is a true "world" series, in the sense that teams represent every part of the planet where Little League baseball is played. They meet in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, and are often given uniforms with names like "Latin America" and "Far East" on them, but they really are all-star teams from single leagues in cities and towns throughout the world.
The deck is stacked slightly in favor of U.S. teams, though. In the past they've brought four U.S. teams and four International teams to Williamsport and seeded them in different brackets. This ensures that one U.S. team appears in the championship game, even if the two best teams are from other countries. Call it politics, jingoism, xenophobia or whatever, it keeps people watching and supporting the program. At least any team from anywhere has a theoretical chance to win it all. And as of this year there are sixteen teams in the LLWS, eight of them from the U.S.
In spite of all the manipulating that adults do to gain an advantage, whether it's on the field or on the bottom line, these are still twelve-year-old kids playing a kids' game. They joy when they succeed is genuine, and so are the tears when they don't. The game at this level is played with a lot of skill and a lot more emotion, and it's fun to watch.
ESPN2 focuses on the U.S. teams, of course. Over the last few days I've been watching some of the regional finals broadcast from around the country. These games are one step removed from the spotlight of Williamsport, and the losers are finished for the season. They go home, while the winners go on, so the emotion on the field and in the stands runs high. Watching parents support their children's dreams, sometimes at great personal sacrifice, can be inspiring. These kids aren't likely to forget this summer's adventure.