- The Washington Times - Friday, August 29, 2008

The adults in New Haven, Conn., have barred 9-year-old Jericho Scott from pitching in their youth league in the interest of fair play.

This is fair to everyone but the mini-flamethrower with the 40 mph fastball. This is a curious lesson to impart to children. When the going gets tough, the tough ban the one deemed too dominant.

Yet no one should be surprised by the inept response of the youth-league officials. Perhaps they hand out trophies to the more than 100 players in the league because everyone is a winner on the field and, ultimately, in life.

This is utter gibberish, of course, but we the people are trending in this direction.

We buy McMansions that we cannot afford, and politicians cry in our behalf and blame “predatory” lenders. Just like that, personal accountability is removed from the home-buying equation.

The tykes in the New Haven league cannot hit the tyke on the mound. You do not instruct the hitters to practice with greater conviction. Instead, you take personal accountability out of the competition equation and order the pitcher to play second base.

This is in the family of those youth leagues moving in the egalitarian direction. Some do not keep scores and team records out of the fear that losing would hurt Johnny’s precious self-esteem.

We have run across a number of products of the self-esteem industry that has been championed in the education system. And it is amusing to hear these twenty-somethings, with their self-esteem firmly intact, wax philosophically on anything that pops into their relatively blank slates.

They are experts in foreign policy, the military, economics, business, the environment and alternative energies, to name a few of their disciplines.

They are all-knowing and all-seeing but do not have two dollars to rub together. They have it all figured out, except the part about being able to provide for yourself.

Wealth is one of the measurements in life, the impetus behind so much political talk and legislation and the call to tax the winners.

It is never too early to teach the winner/loser proposition to the young, whether the lesson is conveyed in a classroom, on a ball field or in the arts.

And it is equally important to teach the young that there is no shame in failure. Many of America’s greatest inventions and discoveries evolved only after repeated failures. Persistence counts as much as smarts. It is perfectly acceptable to strike out repeatedly against an overpowering pitcher. What is not acceptable is to bow your head and walk away from the challenge.

The New Haven officials missed a perfect teaching moment. Scott, the pitcher, apparently set an impossibly high standard in the league, at least for this season.

High standards, though, are not a bad thing, as we saw in the Beijing Games. It gives others a reason to strive, to push, to one day meet the challenge.

As it is, the maturation rate of children is fraught with inequities based on growth spurts. A 12-year-old 6-footer usually has a distinct advantage in youth sports. That advantage should not be excised from the playing field.

Once league officials attempt to erase physical or skill inequities in children, they embrace a faulty principle.

We are obligated to assume that the New Haven league has a second-best player who has an advantage over the rest of the opposition.

Why is this child permitted to keep playing, while the pitcher is not allowed to do what he does best if the objective is to be “fair” to as many as possible?

We have not heard the last of this absurdity. The parents have hired an attorney to litigate the matter.

Alas, the litigation won’t save the season of the barred pitcher and the disbanded team, which compiled an 8-0 record and was going to the playoffs until the small-minded intervened in the interest of, ahem, fair play.

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