Do you remember when you were little, and you would play ball with your friends in your yard, and there would be no rules? What about when you played until it was too dark, and your mom had to call you to come inside for dinner, but you begged for just one more play? This seems to be a lost practice among many young athletes of today. As Dunning explains in his “Dynamics of Modern Sport”(in the anthology Quest for Excitement: Sport and Leisure in the Civilizing Process, Blackwell, 1986), the amateur ethos in the civilized world is slowly eroding away, as more and more children become a slave to the universe of highly competitive youth sports.
The best interpretation of this disappearance is the primetime show “Friday Night Tykes”, a show that follows several Texas youth football teams throughout their seasons. Now one may think “Oh, how fun, it’s going to be so cute to watch these kids compete in their little uniforms and what not”. Those who have that mindset are in for a rude awakening. The coaches are ruthless, the parents are crazy, and the hits are bone-crunching. Keep in mind, these are 10 year old kids. The sound of their helmets hitting each other’s simply makes you wince, as one hit could potentially ruin a child’s life. It really makes you miss watching innocent kids play football carefree.
Unfortunately, football is not the only sport this occurs in. It occurs across the country to thousands of young athletes every year. For instance, the Little League World Series. These twelve-year-olds win their state tournament, then are put in front of millions of people and expected to entertain us. They are given free jerseys, free equipment, and free publicity. Many Americans enjoy this baseball more than the real World Series (I for one, know I do. Who wants to watch adults?). These children are treated like pros, even if it is for only one summer. Mo’Ne Davis, the female pitcher for the Philadelphia-based team this year, may have been the most prominent case this year. She received tweets from celebrities, was under the constant media spotlight, and was even featured as the cover story for an issue of Sports Illustrated. Athletes work their whole lives to get on that cover, and she is on it at age 13? If this is not destruction of the amateur ethos, I don’t know what is.