Winning at all costs


August 31, 2001|By CHRIS GRANT, Sports Editor

Call it the American way — win at all costs, winning above all else, winning isn't everything, it's the only thing, nobody likes a loser. You name the adage, we're all familiar with it.

That's what makes this week's finding that the young Little League star from the Bronx, Danny Almonte, might be 14 years old not surprising, at least not to me and probably not to most of you, either.

There's a rule at the Little League World Series. All players must be 11-12 years old within a certain time frame. The rule seems simple enough, yet every year this rule seems to be broken by someone.

Perhaps I shouldn't be so hard on us Americans. After all, most of the infractions at the Little League World Series are made by countries other than ours. But this time it looks like one of our teams got caught, which, as I said before, is hardly a shock.


Of course, this all could be a big mistake. Almonte was born in the Dominican Republic and that particular country is hardly reliable when it comes to documenting births. This was well-documented in the whole Adrian Beltre fiasco the Dodgers went through a few years back.

So maybe the blame lies elsewhere — or maybe it lies nowhere at all. I'm certainly not trying to point any fingers at the people who run the team from the Bronx. They may have done nothing wrong. What I'm talking bout is the pervasive atmosphere in sports where winning is all that matters.

Now I'm in no way talking about professional sports. Those men are paid to play a game and to be the best they can be at the game they play. Thus, they need to win and should do everything in their power to try to in. No, the problem I see is when this attitude takes hold on an amateur level.

Be it Little League, high school or college, there should be more to our athletic endeavors than winning. And of course there is. Sports can teach us all about friendship, cooperation and loyalty. Athletic teams are where many of us make friendships as well as memories that last the proverbial lifetime.

While everyone who's participating in a sport should want to win, no one, from the person in charge to the last man on the bench, should make winning his or her only priority.

This makes me think of my time on the eighth-grade football team when our coaches let Bobby Botkin play despite the fact that he was constantly getting in trouble at school. Bobby was, in fact, so bad that shortly after football season ended he found the vice principal of the school at a local drive-in restaurant, pulled him from his car and beat him so badly that the man had to go to the hospital.

Now Bobby probably was the best the player on our team, that's true. I'm not sure how many games he helped us win as we weren't very good to begin with, but he certainly was an imposing figure at linebacker. However, he was constantly in detention and being suspended from school, yet our coaches would let him play every game in some sort of vain attempt to win.

Of course this happens at all levels. I can recall last year when my beloved Texas A&M football team barely disciplined Ja'mar Toombs after the "star" fullback was found to be smoking just a little too much pot. At the time I found it strange that a man like R.C. Slocum, who considers himself a "no-nonsense" coach, would tolerate such behavior.

After about a minute of thinking about it, it made perfect since. Slocum saw Toombs as an integral part of the team's success, so he let him play. Case closed.

I guess what it all boils down to is if you live in today's world, where there is so much of a drive to be the best, then no one should be surprised if there are players playing in the Little League World Series who are 20, much less 14.

Perhaps we should all take a step back from this win or else mentality and just take a second to enjoy the sport and love the game for what it is. Maybe then the essence of what the meaning of sport truly is will return to the forefront and the games can be enjoyable for all involved, whether we win or lose.

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