Professional sports have always attempted to get young people to follow them. If successful, they can solidify a fan-base for the next 60 years or more. Some sports take it a step further by offering positions to young fans on the courts and fields. Depending on the sport, this job can have a legitimate impact on the game. By looking at the youth help in each sport we can better critique their actual importance, if any such importance exists.
You unfortunately tuned in to an international soccer match a few minutes too early. This involves watching both national anthems and trying to comprehend the starting lineups. As the players walk out you see them holding hands with small children who look more lost and confused than an abandoned puppy. The anthems are blared as the children stare at the athletic specimen they are latched on to. At the conclusion of the music the kids disappear and the game begins. This is the most painfully European display they are legally allowed to show on television and it really serves no purpose. It is pretty cool for the kids but they hardly know what is going on which leads me to believe it is more for the parents who continue to live vicariously through their unimpressive offspring.
You are stuck watching a Sacramento Kings and Toronto Raptors game. DeMarcus Cousins catches a bullet pass and gets fouled hard. As he gets up to take his free throws,that he will probably miss, a small child wielding a mop larger than him wipes up Boogie’s lack of passion and sweat off the court. I would say about 5 times out of 10 the job is inefficiently done and the ref needs to assist. As if the NBA wasn’t boring enough, we now have to watch Joey Crawford look even more like Mr. Clean. We have not seen any severe injuries from slipping under the paint but we have definitely seen a few big men hit the deck. it is only a matter of time.
As I was watching Wimbledon I noticed a few robotic yet athletic teens in short shorts and super tight polo shirts. This was not Rush Week but rather the ball boys and girls of tennis. Forced to run in the most unnatural ways, these kids are there to ensure that professional athletes do not have to worry about slipping on tennis balls. Their job is important but shows us just how snobby tennis is as a sport in the form of a frustrated teen angst.
Baseball incorporates two youth positions in regards to ball boys and bat boys. The bat boy is in charge of making sure the batter has spare lumber in case it breaks and keeping track of all the equipment the player needs. The ball boys are more concerned about keeping the pace of the game . Responsibilities include shagging foul balls and making sure the umpire has enough balls to give to the pitcher. Ball boys behind home plate are very important for the game but the ones in the outfield usually do not see as much action. The difficulty of the job really depends on the dimensions of the field as they differ greatly. Not all stadiums use youthful ball boys and girls. Some incorporate the use of senior citizens which is slightly more ridiculous but just as quirky as hiring college aged students.
Sports will continue to hold these positions, as they should. They instill a love for the sport in the form of hands on involvement. Adults for centuries have been dressing up kids in ridiculous outfits, so they might as well get to hang out on the field while they are at it.