People act more like cartoon characters than we believe.
Take, for example, a recent episode of The Flintstones. Bam Bam and all the other little chips-off-the-block of Bedrock were getting ready for the big Little League baseball game. Coaches from both sides were busy fine-tuning their players, and parents devoted much of their time at work talking about the game. Nothing in Bedrock took precedence over that ballgame.If you hadn't guessed by now, Fred Flintstone was the umpire. And if you hadn't guessed by now, he had a conflict. Bam Bam was on one team coached by Barney Rubble, and Mr. Slate, Fred's boss, coached the other team - which included his son as well.
The game came down to the final out, a close play at home plate. What was Fred going to do? If he called the kid out, his boss was probably going to fire him, and if he called the kid safe his neighbor would probably never talk to him again. Fred couldn't take the heat, he told everybody he would have to think about it overnight and announce his decision the next day.
At home that night Fred got a call from every parent, a visit from Barney and a visit from Mr. Slate. Fred had better make the right call or else.
Sound familiar? Well, it ought to, because it happens about every year at this time at almost every baseball park. I've seen it and (I'm ashamed to say) I've been a part of it many times.
Like the Flintstones' story, organizers, coaches and parents seem to forget who youth baseball is supposed to benefit. Some coaches will do anything to ensure that their team is the best. Winning is more important than being fair to every player. The all-star team has priority over the rest of the league. Parents seem to forget that it's only a game, sitting in the stands arguing every call and yelling at those who make an error.
If I'm not mistaken, youth baseball is supposed to teach our children (all of our children) baseball skills, teamwork, good sportsmanship and how to get along with other people. Most of all, it's supposed to be fun; that's why it's called a game.
Are our leagues doing that or are they teaching kids about the inequality and unfairness of our world? When Fred and all the parents met at the ballpark the next day there was something missing: the players. They were discovered a little while later playing baseball in the sandlot behind the Hole-in-the-Stone Hotel.
"What are you kids doing?" Fred asked.
"We don't want to play in your league anymore; you parents take it too serious," some young pebble replied. "We want baseball to be like it used to be - fun."
If you're a parent or a coach who has forgotten the real reasons for youth baseball (or other youth sports), remember fast. Otherwise you might find your child skipping the games in favor of some other activity that commonly takes place behind buildings.
(Jim Rayburn, Springville, is a staff writer in the Deseret News' Utah County bureau.)