When my eldest son was about six, he got me hooked on watching the Little League World Series.
All he ever wanted was to play in Williamsport, a dream that was unreachable for him, because we didn't have Little League in Spokane at the time. But he still enjoyed watching it, even when he got older.
He was in town last week and together we watched as much of the Series as we could. We have our little traditions. My wife always roots for the smallest player, Tyler supports the U.S. team he thinks can win it all, and I root for the Russian team (they are always getting beat 11-0 or something).
Tyler's pick this year was Georgia, because of left-hander Ryan Carter, who could throw the ball through a peach tree. And, lo and behold, he was right. The Georgia team made the U.S. final, where they faced the team from Beaverton, Ore. Usually in this situation, we would have rooted for the team from Nike town, but with Carter available to the throw the title game if Georgia won, we abandoned our Northwest roots and got in Georgia's corner.
The Southern guys won, and we were ready to spend Sunday afternoon together watching the title game with Japan. Then it rained. And the final was pushed back a day. Tyler flew out Monday morning, so we didn't get to watch the final together for the first time in years. Because of that, I didn't pay much attention to the Georgia victory.
You see, it's not about the baseball, at least not in our case. It's about the connection. The tradition. The time together. It's something we've been able to do for years, something that brings us together, no matter how weird he thinks I am or how many times I've embarrassed him. We can still sit together, watch the games and talk about his youth. The plays he made, the hits he had, the fun we shared. Watching the kids play on TV gives us that opportunity, an opportunity to run down memories' baseline and touch them all.
So call it child exploitation if you want. Rail against the idea of 12-year-old kids playing on TV if you must. I'm not going to join you. I'm going to sit down and watch it with my son as often as I can. And enjoy the memories.