Remember last summer, when baseball in Philadelphia was good again? No, I'm not talking about the major league product put on the field by our favorite National League team.
Of course, I'm talking instead about the Taney Dragons. They captured our hearts while breaking down gender barriers and giving us pint-sized heroes to root for.
Their quest for the Little League World Series title came to an end after they fell one win short of the finals. In the double-elimination tournament, they lost in the semi-finals to Las Vegas first and then Chicago second. The Chicago game was a devastatingly close 6-5 game in which the Dragons had the winning runners on first and third with two outs when the Dragons' last batter flied out to end the game.
The underdog Chicago team went on to win the American bracket of the World Series. Given their style of play and that they were also from a big city, the Jackie Robinson West team was a decent fill-in for the Dragons. The sting of the loss for us Dragons' fans felt a little less painful with the Chicago team beating Las Vegas in the American finals.
But today, things changed. Today, we found out that once again adults ruin everything for kids. Overzealous Chicago coaches, managers, and administrators played around with the Chicago league's boundaries to stock the team with the best players from a region far beyond the usual little league boundaries.
The punishment? The manager has been suspended, the administrator has been fired, and painfully for the kids, Little League International has stripped the team of its national championship. It's a terribly sad ending for what was an inspirational story for these kids from Chicago.
Closer to home, today's developments completely flip the feelings of the Dragons' loss in August. Whereas back in August I was one of many Philadelphians who took solace in the Dragons' loss by enjoying the fact that another city team won, today, beyond feeling sorry for the Jackie Robinson West kids, I'm feeling crushed that the Dragons' kids were robbed.
They worked their asses off, played their best, impressed a city and nation, and they wound up being eliminated by a team that cheated. You can't predict alternative realities of what would have happened had Chicago played by the books, but you can say for certain that the Dragons' final loss was not a legitimate one.
It's a terrible way to now look back on what was an otherwise amazing season. Again, the kids I feel the most sorry for today are the kids on Jackie Robinson West. But close behind, it's crushing news for the Dragons as well.
And for us fans, well, at least we now know what it feels like to be a Seattle Seahawks fan after the Super Bowl.