This is a special time of year for Little League baseball teams both here in Tehachapi and across the United States. Boys and girls, proud to represent their hometowns, competing on All-Star teams against their neighbors, hope to extend their seasons just a bit further. At least from what I’ve seen out of the Tehachapi teams this year, our kids are as proud as ever to be put into that position, identified by their coaches and peers as the most elite.
I can’t help but remember the final recorded interview from former Tehachapi Mayor Ed Grimes, who recounted his Tehachapi All-Star experience as child. He described his “12-year-old knees shaking” as he took that field in Bakersfield with “Tehachapi” across his chest. What a sense of pride that 12-year-old and countless others in that same situations feel when selected to represent something they cherish, a community of which they are a part.
It’s too bad other national organizations can’t get this sort of pride put into their so-called “All-Star” teams. This was certainly the case with the recently completed FIFA Women’s World Cup, won yet again by the United States, but rarely was the accomplishment on the field the focus of this squad. Led by “captain” Megan Rapinoe, her blatant disrespect for our country, our flag and what we stand for made for more of a story than the dominating run her teammates made in France.
Rapinoe decided to use the World Cup stage for a few reasons: One, to shed light on the pay gap between the U.S. Men’s National and Women’s National Teams. This pay gap certainly isn’t new in soccer worldwide, but then again, I don’t control what USA Soccer pays their players, and neither do any of us watching at home. She also used this stage to prove she wasn’t in this for the red, white and blue, but for the purple in her hair, plain and simple. It’s one thing for an athlete to pull these stunts when playing for private franchises, but when you’re supposed to be representing an entire nation, it’s an insult to us all.
It’s unfortunate her antics overshadowed a darn good soccer team. Maybe she was trying to line her own pockets with endorsement deals as a result? I hear Nike is hiring players who share her viewpoints; hating the United States seems to be a sought-after value from a brand built by good old-fashioned free market capitalism. Instead of "Just Do It," their new slogan should be "Oh The Irony."
Meanwhile, next month the country will turn its eyes to watch 10- to 12-year-olds compete in the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Penn. The tournament brings eight American and eight International regions together for a shot at a world championship. It will possess the one thing the FIFA Women’s World Cup lacked: character. These kids will translate what started as civic pride into the opportunity to represent their nation, and they will do so proudly.
The Little League Pledge, which is displayed at their facilities both here in Tehachapi and all over the nation, states: “I Trust in God, I Love My Country, I Will Respect its Laws. I Will Play Fair, and Strive to Win, but Win or Lose, I Will Always Do My Best.”
Seems like this should be the only “national team” we should be paying attention to given this summer’s soccer antics. What a concept: to teach young people the importance of trusting in God and country, something organizations like USA Soccer have obviously abandoned. Leave it to a group of kids to teach the so-called adults what that is all about. Hopefully, the “grown-ups” are watching.
Corey Costelloe has covered NCAA, professional and local sports for more than 20 years as a reporter and broadcaster. A THS graduate, he now resides in Tehachapi. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. The opinions expressed are his own.