I kicked myself out of a Little League game a few weeks ago. How do you reach that state of anger when you don’t have children playing Little League? Apparently, it’s quite easy.
I went to see my friend’s son play his final regular season game. His team wasn’t very good and the opposing team was certainly better — as is always the case, the tiniest kid in their lineup could wallop the ball — and the best thing was, he and his teammates (and their parents) had no expectations. They were a warm and supportive bunch, not a crazy one among them — except me, I guess.
There was a play at third base in perhaps the second inning — the scoreboard wasn’t on and I wasn’t really keeping score, especially because “we” had been mercy-ruled in the first inning, allowing the maximum five runs. One of “our” kids was called out but was pretty clearly safe. We all chatted among ourselves and how he’d been safe, but that’s as far as it went.
There was one umpire working the game, and he was perhaps a year or two older than the kids on the field. I even said to a parent after the call, “There is no way I am yelling at a kid umpire.” After all, he was making calls at the bases from behind the plate, and those young umpires are there to learn, just like the Little Leaguers.
Then in the next inning, there again was a play at third base involving a kid from the other team. He was called out, and it was the wrong call. He was safe. But stuff happens in Little League games.
Yes, it does. The parent coaching third base for the other team expressed high dudgeon over the call, and the umpire reversed himself.
And that’s when I got mad — not at the umpire, but at the parents. Yes, it was a bad call. Yes, the call in the previous inning was bad. The difference was “we” didn’t throw a hissy about the call against “our” team. The game didn’t turn on this call. There wasn’t a playoff spot on the line — everyone makes the playoffs.
There was a lot of grumbling from “our” bleachers, not at the umpire, but at the parents who had pressured him. But it was civil, I thought. And although I thought it was a bad object lesson for both teams, and it certainly wasn’t fair, life isn’t fair, and that would be the takeaway.
And then a league official came over to tell “us” to cool it, to get off the kid umpire’s back. (Again, no one was on his back.) When I tried to explain “our” frustration — that riding a kid to overturn a bad call was perhaps the wrong message to send — he became even more patronizing in tone, and I lost my temper and said a bad word. (I didn’t yell it, and I don’t think anyone else heard me except the official and maybe five parents.) He replied, “Really, ma’am?” and that was it for me. Maybe it was a combination of attitude and the use of the word “ma’am,” but I said, “Yes,” and then I tossed myself from the game, said goodbye to my friend’s son and walked away from Little League for 2013.
I guess I don’t want to observe children learning that life is unfair, even though it is and they learn it one way or the other. But I already know it. I also don’t want to observe myself getting so worked up about a game in which none of my progeny are involved. In any case, I’m self-imposing a lifetime ban. I think it’s the right thing to do.
For more by Tracee Hamilton, visit washingtonpost.com/hamilton.