Jewish World Review August 23, 2002 /15 Elul, 5762

Stanley Crouch

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Consumer Reports

Little Leaguers, not
thugs, are the mainstream | NEW YORK For more than athletic reasons, it's good news that those Harlem kids are marching toward a showdown for the Little League championship.

As a team of Negro and Latin youngsters, they symbolize the other side of what we too often get in the news when so-called minority kids appear on TV, handcuffed and led from a police car into a court.

But when we see kids in baseball uniforms, pitching, fielding, hitting and running, we realize something about such young people that is true of almost all the kids in the world - that if they are given something to do that builds discipline and character, they can find freedom from the darkness of disorder.

In such community institutions as Harlem Little League, they learn to develop their individual talents and function within the framework of a team, which has value far beyond the baseball diamond. We sometimes forget that truth about sports in our world of sky-high salaries and unsportsmanlike conduct among certain professionals.

That is why Harlem Little League is so important right now. It proves what can happen when parents from different households work together with each other and with their children in the interest of something that is difficult but wholesome. The work exhibited by the kids and parents of Harlem Little League is an inspiring antidote to some other kinds of news that's been so troubling of late.

A few days ago, a 10-year-old girl was killed in our town as some Mexican thugs got into another of those gun battles that distinguish street gangs these days. The knuckleheads started shooting, but, unfortunately, instead of doing away with each other, they devastated the lives of people who have nothing to do with them and their hideous world.

Last week, at a rap concert in Irvine, Calif., warring gang members took to the stage, battering folks with metal bars as 15,000 terrified people stampeded out of the amphitheater.

New York's own LL Cool J was doing his set when the disturbance broke out and told the media afterward, "I think that it's just a prime example of how much we as black men really need someone around us who can guide us in the right direction, and how we are so in desperate need of attention that we should ruin an event just to feel important."

He called it perfectly. Thugs create reputations on the basis of intimidation, violence and destruction. They are often jealous of those who become successful by other means, and when they have a chance, they will show how easily order can be destroyed if you are ruthless enough. They live by one harsh fact: It is much easier to break a window than make one.

Though certain schools of rap cater to that vision of life, we know that Harlem Little League represents traditional values of the sort that the overwhelming majority of young people adhere to. So it is good those kids are able to remind the world of that.

Keep on stepping, Harlem Little League. Keep on stepping.

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JWR contributor and cultural icon Stanley Crouch is a columnist for The New York Daily News. He is the author of, among others, The All-American Skin Game, Or, the Decoy of Race: The Long and the Short of It, 1990-1994,       Always in Pursuit: Fresh American Perspectives, and Don't the Moon Look Lonesome: A Novel in Blues and Swing. Send your comments by clicking here.


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