By Megan Wood
Last night I caught the Little League Softball World Series semi-finals on ESPN2 — two exciting games that will have Warner Robins, Georgia squaring off against Burbank, California in the finals tonight. Never mind that one of the games was a 1-0 win in which Warner Robins pitcher, Avery Lamb struck out 12 and a smart first base play held what could have been the tying run at third. Unfortunately, this heads-up ball, in the scheme of things, doesn’t count. Or count as much as if these Little League Softball players were playing Little League Baseball.
You see, while Little League this year expanded the number of televised baseball games — some 62 Little League World Series baseball games are aired on television (ESPN, ESPN2, NESN) with the championship game earning a pre-game special in HD on ESPN and a time slot on ABC on August 2 — Little League Softball had the same schedule as last year. That is, three televised games on ESPN2.(There are 27 scheduled games in the tournament).
Yet, as I watched last night, I was impressed with what I saw. These twelve-year-old girls were no joke: I had flashbacks of the NCAA Women’s College World Series as I was watching these young pitchers throw rise balls, screw balls and change-ups, and seeing hitters pounding home runs out of the park (in the first game). These young girls are focused, driven competitors. Who says their talent is less worth watching than boys their age?
One had only to listen to the video bio clips of the softball players telling the camera who their favorite players were — several University of Georgia players including Megan Wiggins and Taylor Schlopy were popular — to see the value of role models and inspiration. It matters to see athletes who look like you, playing your sport. And yet, the lesson our children (boys and girls) get from such skewed attention is that men’s sports are more important than women’s sports.
Strikingly, media coverage of women’s college softball has generally improved in recent years and the 2010 NCAA College Softball World Series was well covered when it unfolded in May. What is happening with the Little League Softball World Series?
As they watch the Little League Baseball World Series — plus numerous teasers and ads for the games — young girls playing softball can only notice that their games didn’t quite make it onto television. What is the logic in that? How does this shape the empowered girl who thinks she can conquer any challenge sport has to offer if she is constantly shown that her pursuits are less valued? While boys have the opportunity to be inspired nearly every day and night from August 10-29 by their peers, girls get two brief windows to catch their Little League Softball counterparts: last night and tonight.
If you missed last night, better tune in. Quick.