I love sports. Always have. But even the most ardent sports fan has to wring his or her hands every blue moon, wondering how pampered professional superstars don’t reciprocate affection and loyalty.
Privilege, unfortunately, begets the expectation of privilege.
Needless to say, in a world where pro athletes are unapproachable without a PR flak, the backups leave in Hummers and the fans who paid for the experience exit in Saturns, it’s easy to have your sporting faith shaken.
Enter this week’s City Championship, a single-elimination majors youth baseball tournament that had been AWOL from Niagara Falls for 14 years. The Gazette was proud to help resurrect the tradition — getting the champs from Cayuga, Hyde Park, Midtown and Whirlpool Park together — and many thanks have to go to the Niagara Falls School District, which was gracious enough to offer Nicoletti Field as a host site. Also, we’d be remiss without thanking the Niagara Falls Umpires Association, which juggled schedules due to a Wednesday night rainout, and Dan Bazzani, who was ever-present and helped coordinate the effort.
The games were hotly contested, cheering fans lined both sides of the field, and the event gave kids a chance to soak up a spotlight typically reserved for T.O. and others. In fact, we pushed a story about the Bills signing first-round pick Eric Wood to the bottom of the front page on Friday morning, giving Whirlpool’s win over Midtown top billing.
Congrats go out to the Cayuga Yankees, who won the crown with a 2-0 thriller on Friday night behind the efforts of Dominic Gualano, Nick Forcucci and others.
But my favorite moment came before the final game, when I rushed to the field about 90 minutes early to set up a sound system. In right field, Whirlpool’s Brianna Dewitt loosened up, uniform on and game-tucked, beaming with a smile from ear-to-ear nearly an hour before she had to be there.
For all the steroid scandals, nasty arrests and utter greed that sports can paste on front pages like our own, there is still something supremely magical about the anticipation of the big game.
And big, of course, is relative. If it’s big to you, it’s big.
If you ask me, this week’s tournament was as big as it gets.