When you are hanging around the house at the end of the summer, pouring over your school supplies lists and making sure you have enough marble notebooks and colored pencils, or even if you’re out to dinner on vacation with your family in late August, the Little League World Series always seems to be on TV.

I remember before I was 12 or 13, I thought the players looked so much older than me. (In the case of the Bronx’s Danny Almonte, that was actually true. He was like 14 when he played and he got caught doing it; remember how much Harold Reynolds loved his defined calves? Almonte also married a 30-year-old woman when he was 19, by the way. No, they are no longer married.)

And now when I watch, all these kids look like babies. But the uniforms have only gotten nicer and ESPN’s coverage of the Little League World Series has only gotten more extensive.

As the years have gone on, I’ve noticed some other things. Maybe it’s always been this way, but I’ve come to the conclusion that the Little League World Series is problematic.

The whole sportsmanship thing is all well and good, but when it becomes a bigger deal than the competition, there’s a problem. I don’t want to see a kid punch out in a big spot and then run back to the dugout. I don’t want to see someone take a pitcher deep, round the bases and then get a high five from the opposing catcher.

Even if all these teams stay in the same hotel complex in Williamsport, Pa., during the Little League World Series, when I’m watching a scoreless game in the fifth inning, I don’t want to hear about how kids from, say, Texas and Japan, had an awesome time last night playing by the pool and trading pins together. (I don’t mean BlackBerry pins. Think lapel pins on steroids. My parents and I went to the U.S. semifinals one year, and trading pins was oddly huge. We had to hide from people at the hotel trying to sell us pin-collecting gear. It was scary).

And no, Brent Musberger, I don’t care that Casey Allen’s favorite food is pizza. (That’s a made-up name, sorry if your name is actually Casey Allen).

The appeal of watching 12- and 13-year-olds play baseball should be the change of pace it provides from dealing with the pro version, where players are seven-, eight- or nine-figure assets and where the game is not always played the right way. By the right way, I mean seeing every ball run out, seeing memorable at bats or plays without excessive showboating afterward and seeing old-fashioned, intense competition between the lines. Little League is supposed to be a place where baseball is played in its purest form. It’s difficult to see that when kids are wearing elbow and shin guards or smearing eye black like it’s war paint. If nothing else, it looks terrible.

Obviously with kids we’re going to hear the word “fun” coming from Williamsport a lot, which brings to mind something else about the Little League World Series that highlights a larger issue with sports – on youth levels especially.

“It’s only a game,” adults tell us in Little League, PAL or Pop Warner. “It doesn’t matter if you win or lose, just go out there and have fun.”

y dad does not understand those pieces of advice, and he still coaches the same youth baseball team in Bayonne, N.J., that I played on in 1998 and 1999 when I was 8 and 9 years old. From 1998 to 2010, that team appeared in nine championship games and won seven league titles. I could not agree with him more when he professes the following obvious truth: Winning is fun. Losing is not. So let’s do everything we can to win.

Obviously, “everything” does not include the stereotypical psycho-dad who pushes his son so hard that he eventually hates sports and turns his attention to politics or Pokemon or something. That should go without saying. Nor does it include coaches who disregard the individual needs of their players and go about the pursuit of victory through destructive means.

The previous paragraph is one end of the spectrum, but the Little League World Series has swung too far the other way, where a flawed concept of fun trumps the final outcome. The event should be a model for the right way to win: Play as hard as you can play, respect the game, invest yourself in achieving the stated goal and relish the concept of team. Between the lines, that’s what it should be about.

The issue of winning and losing on a youth baseball diamond can translate to the concept of success and failure in other parts of life. We see raucous celebration in Williamsport when a kid hits a big home run, especially of the walk-off variety. Sometimes in the past, that celebration has gone overboard, and we blame professional ballplayers who stand and admire their work after a homer. But the other side of the coin – striking out or giving up a big hit in a big spot – and the accompanying emotions are dulled or disregarded thanks to the overtures of, “It’s only a game” or “As long as you had fun …” If one of these kids grows up and meets rejection or failure, no one will be there to tell him that. How can losing ever be fun?

Why not be consistent? Winning entails attaining a high, but it shouldn’t be too high. Likewise, losing breeds descending to a low, but it shouldn’t be too low. But the Little League World Series is a reflection of the growing insignificance of losing.

There are two conflicting attitudes at play, depending on the result. One: If you win, you get to be in the national spotlight, you get to be on SportsCenter, you get a visit to the White House. That sounds pretty significant.

But then there’s two: If you lose, well, in the grander scheme of things, it’s only a game, and you had fun. Where’s the significance in that? We can’t have it both ways.

Maybe it’s a good thing that the Little League World Series apparently represents more than just the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat. Maybe kids aren’t being done a disservice when they are fed a skewed definition of “fun” in the context of competitive sports – one in which they learn to accept failure.

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