EDITORIAL Softball team’s response was for the birds

August 10, 2017
Jim McNutt/Observer-Reporter Exterior of the Observer-Reporter building in Washington.

The expression “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush” is timeworn, unfamiliar to anyone under 40 and unclear in its meaning. It says, essentially, one shouldn’t risk what he or she already has by looking for more.

That phrase, however, was applicable to a girls’ youth softball team from Virginia last weekend.

The Atlee Little League team from Mechanicsville defeated host Kirkland, Wash., 1-0, last Friday to advance to the championship game of the Junior League World Series – a national-title contest scheduled to air on television the next day.

But winning the semifinal matchup apparently did not satisfy some 12- to 14-year-old Atlee players. So they turned to – what else – social media. Someone took a photo of six girls flipping the bird in one hand, and one team member posted it on her Snapchat account under the caption, “Watch out, host.”

“Watch out, Atlee,” would have been more appropriate. Little League International, which ran the tournament, disqualified the Virginia team Saturday morning. Kevin Fountain, spokesman for the organization, told the Richmond Times-Dispatch Atlee was ousted “for violation of Little League’s policies regarding unsportsmanlike conduct, inappropriate use of social media, and the high standard that Little League International holds for all its participants.”

Team manager Scott Currie apparently found out about the photo after it appeared on Snapchat, and to his credit made the players involved delete the post and apologize personally to their vanquished opponents.

That post, however, may have been a response to a Kirkland squad that, by some accounts, wasn’t exactly a paragon of sportsmanship Friday. Chris Mardigian, a coach on Currie’s staff, told the Washington Post the host team harassed his squad. Then in the last inning, with her club down a run but mounting a rally, a Kirkland runner on second base was ejected for stealing signals from Atlee and relaying them to the hitter. A coach got the thumb over that as well. Atlee turned a double play to secure victory.

Currie was irate when the disqualification was announced. “It’s a travesty for these girls,” he said Saturday afternoon. “Yes, they screwed up, but I don’t think the punishment fit the crime.”

Punishments to both teams did, indeed, fit their respective crimes. Kirkland stole signs and lost a baserunner and coach at a crucial juncture; Atlee was tossed from the tournament for brazenly posting a vulgar picture and taunting message.

The greatest travesty is that two groups of 12- to 14-year-olds were the focal points in this boorish behavior, and, in some instances, perpetrators. Why would six people of any age, especially adolescents, even pose for a photo with middle fingers extended? Why would anyone put that online for countless others to see? Why would either team taunt the other?

And what about adult oversight? But as any parent or guardian can attest, you can’t always control what kids do.

In an age when taunting and trash talking, lamentably, are swiftly displacing sportsmanship, Little League International made the correct decision to disqualify Atlee. Kirkland took Atlee’s place in the championship game, then poetic justice was served: Kirkland lost.



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