SI cover jinx?
Well, no, but it didn't help Mo'ne Davis Wednesday night when she faced the heavy-hitters from Nevada in the Little League World Series.
Davis, who this week became the first Little Leaguer ever featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated, gave up three runs and took the loss as her team was defeated by the West champions 8-1 in Williamsport, Pa. She struck out six over 2.1 innings and showed flashes of her much-hyped brilliance. She got pulled after 55 pitches and six hits. That left her eligible to pitch in a possible rematch with Nevada in the U.S. title game on Saturday.
First, the Little Leaguers from Philly have to beat the Midwest champs from Illinois Thursday. Davis is not eligible to pitch in that game but will likely play first base. If Philly loses to Chicago’s Jackie Robinson West, Davis' run at the Little League World Series will be over.
Jackie Robinson? Mo'ne Davis?
No, we're not going there.
She was the entire focus ESPN's coverage Wednesday night. Then again, in fairness, she was probably the only reason why so many watched.
It's perfect that the game telecast was sponsored by Frosted Flakes. There's isn't a better way to get a sugar high in the morning than dining with Tony the Tiger. The coverage lauded upon this very talented 13-year-old pitcher, like Frosted Flakes, has been sickly sweet, if not Grrrrrrrrreat!
Davis is an All-American kid who, despite the gigantic crowd and national TV audience, kept herself in check while her team was trailing two batters into the game. She has a nasty breaking ball, a tailing-away fastball and a quick pitch that would be called a balk just about anywhere but Little League. And her team made a couple of tremendous defensive plays despite being overmatched.
She is not a transformative figure who is going to alter the trajectory of the universe. ESPN's Melissa Isaacson, who worked for the Chicago Tribune once upon a time, went so far as to seriously and with a straight face compare Davis to Michael Jordan on SportsCenter Wednesday.
Once I heard that, I knew Davis had zero chance of winning on Wednesday night.
The problem with placing the entire weight of the female sports world on the shoulders of a 13-year-old. 5-foot-4, 110-pound pitcher is simple:
Once she loses, every female athlete ever loses. It's one thing for her to be a role model for young girls. It's another to elevate her to some ridiculous level that neither she nor any mortal could justify.
It's unlikely ESPN is going to match the audience it had at the start of Wednesday's game, unless Davis' team wins on Thursday and sets up a rematch with Nevada on Saturday. What everyone saw Wednesday night in Davis was a teen-aged girl who can strike out teen-aged boy batters. She also gave up a home run to the No. 8 batter in the order. She isn't unhittable, unbeatable or infallible.
There's no doubt the gang in Bristol is hoping with both fingers crossed that Pennsylvania wins again on Thursday, so they can bank on another big start by Davis. There is nothing wrong with wanting a big audience.
But is is the Little League World Series? Or the Mo'ne Davis World Series?
Until further notice or Thursday night, it still belongs to Mo'ne.
Many of the kids who play on these elite-level Little League All-Star teams are, more or less, full-time baseball players. They play on travel teams and spent whatever time they're not in school either playing baseball or practicing playing baseball. The best of the best only play Little League because it affords the opportunity to play on ESPN every summer. They and their coaches would rather play other elite teams and kids all year long. They "lower" themselves to play other, lesser teams just to get the chance to reach Williamsport and the potential for a prime-time spot on ESPN.
Wednesday night was wall-to-wall Davis, even though she was not the best player on the field, or, this night, the best player on her team. She has shown remarkable poise and maturity whenever she's been interviewed - Johnny Manziel, take notes - and doesn't seek more attention than her teammates.
But she's gotten more attention and generated more buzz than any baseball player in 2014 this side of Derek Jeter. That speaks for both the uniqueness of her story and the general malaise that seems to be overwhelming baseball as a whole these days, and not just in Boston.
Speaking of those other Little Leaguers on Yawkey way, the Red Sox lost 8-3 to the Angles Wednesday night. Both teams got 11 hits and the Red Sox led 3-0 before Clay Buchholz remembered he was, well Clay Buchholz.
Buchholz is a lot like one of those giant, overpriced beers at Fenway. He's good for about three innings before he goes flat. And yes, I believe with her quick-step pitch, Davis could strike out Xander Bogaerts these days.
Both the Red Sox and the Mid-Atlantic All-Stars from Philadelphia play again on Thursday. If the Red Sox, it means pretty much nothing.
If those kids from Pennsylvania can win their game Thursday, they'll get another shot at Nevada, this time for the U.S. championship. Davis will be their starting pitcher. One more chance to be everything to everyone.
Here's hoping she'll someday soon get the chance again to be just a kid.
The OBF column is written by award-winning journalist and Bay State native Bill Speros. Hit up Bill on his Obnoxious Boston Fan Facebook page, on Twitter @realOBF or at his
Obnoxious Boston Fan Email Address. Thanks always for reading.
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