For those who love the purity of youth and amateur sports, August is synonymous with the Little League Baseball and Softball World Series. Now those championships are becoming synonymous with cheating.
This week a softball team from South Snohomish, Washington, was accused of deliberately losing a game in the hopes it would improve its chances of winning the title and the trophy in Portland, Oregon.
In the rules of the tournament, a loss by South Snohomish could have worked to the team's benefit because it would have prevented a tough rival, a team from Central Iowa, from advancing to bracket play. Even with a loss, South Snohomish would have advanced.
An Iowa Little League official charged that South Snohomish benched starters and ordered every batter to bunt with two strikes. The league agreed, ruling that the accusations were credible. The league said "some teams did not play with the effort and spirit appropriate for any Little League game."
And justice triumphed. Officials made South Snohomish play Central Iowa for the right to advance and the Iowans won, ending South Snohomish's run.
Last year, Little League Baseball players recruited from outside the winning Chicago team's area cost the Jackie Robinson West team the championship it had won. New Yorkers will remember Bronx pitcher Danny Almonte, who led his team to third place in the 2001 Little League World Series, but was two years too old to play.
Unfortunately, this isn't only about maniacal grown-ups, it's also about the lessons they teach the kids they coach. Is there any real joy in a win that comes from cheating? Are we teaching the lesson that winning at any cost is all that matters?