Southwest Chicago Post
Of all the angles I could write about in relation to the world champion Clear Ridge Little League Senior All-Stars, this is not one I had planned to pursue--because frankly, I'd rather just have fun in the moment and celebrate this great team from Garfield Ridge and Clearing.
But since so many Clearing and Garfield Ridge residents have raised the "What about us?" question--comparing the downtown news media's almost non-existent coverage of the CRLL's 2016 triumph to the big, big, big deal that the same downtown news media made over Jackie Robinson West's second-place finish in the 2014 Little League World Series--I'll address it here.
Let me say at the outset that I thought it was great that the news media made a big, big, big deal out of JRW's run in the LLWS. It's exactly what they and all champions should get. (Sadly, of course, it all crashed to the ground when the JRW scandal was later exposed, and adults--as some of us so often do in this world--ruined it for the kids.)
I'd say there's no denying that most of the downtown news media almost entirely ignored the Clear Ridge team's World Series run--and when they belatedly tried to report it at Sunday's rally at Hale Park, almost every TV station represented only sent a camera operator--almost no reporters. Pathetic.
That led to an embarrassing situation where several of the CRLL players actually had to do the jobs of the news reporters who weren't there and hold TV stations' microphones while Manager Mark Robinson offered on-camera comments. So the players knelt in the grass (to stay out of the camera shot) and did it.
OK, so why the difference? It's a question that has been posed by many in local Facebook groups, and people have asked me, a news reporter and editor, to explain it.
Here's what I think.
First, this being Chicago, let's tackle the racial angle right off the bat. It's all too easy for Southwest Siders to roll our eyes, say "Guess our kids are the wrong color" and leave it at that. I think that's a mistake, because it's a lot more complicated than that.
Race, in my opinion, is only one factor here. Did JRW get more coverage because they were black kids from the South Side? I'd say yes, and I'd chalk it up to white liberal guilt in the hearts in our city's news editors.
Many in the news media in 2014 bent over backwards to lionize the JRW team--so much so that some of the coverage bordered on condescending and had a disturbing, unintentionally racist tone of, "Hey, these black kids are smart, focused, disciplined and championship caliber. Who knew?" And shame on the news media for that. They made themselves look bad and they shortchanged the JRW kids, who deserved coverage that was straightforward and fair, not fawning and fake.
But there are other reasons why JRW got so much more coverage.
• They were a younger team of boys playing in the storied Williamsport, Pa. Teams of 16-year-olds playing in Bangor, Maine, are of less interest to the news media. Should not be that way, I know, but it is.
• The JRW league officials and their allies (including South Side activists like Father Pfleger) were a lot more media savvy, in terms of knowing who to call in the downtown news media and knowing how to get their attention. By comparison, we Southwest Siders don't have that skill because we kind of keep to ourselves out here.
• In the wake of the JRW scandal, the news media is a lot less likely to jump into the water with both feet when a Little League team wins a big title. Every editor I know has that "what if" doubt in the back of his or her mind. No news organization wants to feel like it was duped.
• Most, if not all, of the downtown news media treats the Southwest Side as flyover country. It's an old joke--I first heard it almost 40 years ago--that you'll only see our neighborhoods on the news when there's a murder, a fire or a racial incident. (And these days, add to that the occasional sucker-punch story portraying our communities as "cop neighborhoods"--which in liberal parlance is a bad thing that, to them, needs no elaboration because it's a code word.)
So yeah, the Clear Ridge team has been short-changed by the downtown news media.
But my view--as a lifelong Southwest Sider--is, so what?
If we measure ourselves by whether or not the downtown news media pays attention to us, we'll forever be frustrated.
Who needs that? Life's too short.
I say, let's focus on our championship team and give a pat on the back to the players, coaches, league officials, CRLL families and everyone who had a hand in the team's World Series triumph.
Really, let's just have some fun!
As a Garfield Ridge resident and business owner, that's what I'm doing. I just got back from a Garfield Ridge printer, a union shop, that is printing hundreds of congratulatory window cards that will be distributed at the rally on Saturday at Hale Park. See you there?
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