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Give Mo'ne Davis a break
August 24, 2014 - Chris Masse
Before the Little League World Series started, Philadelphia pitcher Mo'ne Davis was a normal kid.
By the time her Taney Youth Little League team played its final game last Thursday, she still was a normal kid leading an abnormal life.
Davis never set out to become a national phenomenon this summer. Davis wanted the wealth spread, but the media seemed only to focus on her. It came at her like a Mike Tyson upper-cut and gave her the kind of exposure that would make the Kardashian family blush.
Make no mistake, Davis is a great person and provides a great story. She took the country by storm, throwing a shutout in the Mid-Atlantic Region final and then doing it again in her Series debut, throwing a two-hitter with eight strikeouts against Tennessee.
Davis, an excellent student at prestigious Springside Chestnut Hill Academy, became the first female to win a Series game, the first to deliver a hit since 2009 and the first to flat-out dominate a sport dominated by males.
In doing so, Davis did wonders for aspiring female athletes, showing them what is possible.
This is a story that needed told. I, myself, wrote an article about Davis the day Philadelphia played Tennessee.
Then I moved on. Few others did.
With ESPN leading the way, many in the media forgot that there were 11 other players on the team also vital to its success. Thursday against Chicago, catcher Scott Bandura was batting during a key point in the game. While that happened, ESPN panned to Davis in the dugout. Later that night, ESPN listed Davis's stats (0 for 1) on its ticker, but none for the other players, including the winning team's.
Before Davis started against Nevada in Wednesday's winner's bracket final, ESPN featured her ad naseuem. ESPN is so infatuated with Davis, they even used her as an intro for yesterday's final when Chicago and Nevada were playing.
Davis became their cash cow and they milked her for everything and Davis—I mean, the game—generated ESPN's largest Series audience ever. ESPN did not sell its soul for ratings, but did worse. It sold the soul of a kid to make money.
Not that they are the only ones. More media covered this Series than any of the previous 15 I have covered. And in almost every post-game press conference I attended, questions were asked about Davis, even when Philadelphia had not played.
Philadelphia overcame a three-run fifth-inning deficit and beat Texas, 7-6, last Sunday on Zion Spearman's two-out, two-strike game-tying double and a throwing error. But when I read an Associated Press recap later that night, the lede was about Davis hitting a second-inning single. The Philadelphia media was nearly falling over itself while talking about Davis. Seemingly everything came back to her when the girl herself wanted it to go back to her teammates.
“These guys should be interviewed because it's not just me,” Davis said following the Tennessee win. “It's about the whole team and if it's not for them we're not here.”
Few listened. Davis caught fire following that game, gaining 5,000 Instagram followers and 29,800 Twitter followers. Sports Illustrated made her its youngest cover athlete in history and she started drawing crowds wherever she went. While so many rushed to capitalize on the Davis sensation they forget about the most important thing.
They forgot about Mo'ne Davis.
This is is a 13-year-old kid. This is not a high-profile college athlete or a professional athlete. This is a kid dealing with the kind of media pressure and scrutiny that unnerved Hall of Fame athletes like Jerry Rice and Barry Sanders when they were drafted.
Davis has been inundated by media requests and already is being booked for talk shows following the Series. There are those telling her she needs to cash in now and make money that could help her go to college. Everyone wants a piece of Davis. Everyone knows what is best for her. Why not ask her what she wants? Why not let her be a kid and go back to leading a normal life?
Of course that cannot happen for a while. She is a celebrity and already is receiving paparazzi like treatment. Davis has said when she returns home, she likely will stay surrounded by friends since so many people will be approaching her.
Give the kid a break. Let her be a kid again.
The world is littered with kids who received too much star treatment too soon before running into problems, many caused by that overexposure. Early indications are good and here is hoping they stay that way.
“I knew she was terrific beforehand,” Philadelphia manager Alex Rice said. “What she went through just cements what an amazing young lady she is.” Still, I worry. Will the big-wigs at ESPN be there to help Davis down the road or will they milk her and her story for everything its worth, ala Tim Tebow, and then move to the next athlete they can vulture? Will other media outlets that reported her every move pick her up if she falls?
Davis a tremendously gifted athlete and person. Now more than ever, however, she will have to have a strong support network around her. Right after Chicago eliminated Philadelphia, 6-5, Thursday Davis approached teammate Jack Rice who had made the last out. In a moment that best described who she is, Davis encouraged Rice and helped him through a tough time.
"That's what she does," Alex Rice said. "She reassures kids and props them up."
Let's hope that media-Davis relationship mirrors that scene and becomes reciprocal.
--Masse may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @docmasse
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