Ah, the glory days. When men were boys, women were girls, and fun was endless. Before work consumed our daily lives and paychecks weren’t our sole source of motivation. Back when grass stains were testaments of hard work, and a clean outfit meant you weren’t giving it your all.
For most of us, this is a trip down memory lane as we relive the Top 11 Things We Remember about Pee Wee Sports.
Now go rub some dirt on that paper cut.
11. Capri Sun
On a good day, the designated snack parent of the week would bring cans of Coke or bottles of Gatorade to the postgame smorgasbord.
Most days, however, you were stuck with Capri Sun.
The thing about Capri Sun is that it was the one drink kids could complain about (”Aww, mom, Capri Sun again?”) but still thoroughly enjoy. No matter that every flavor tasted the same.
Packaged in a silver pouch with an orange straw glued to the back, Capri Sun was the unofficial drink of underage champions during the 1990s.
The juice came with a few rules as well. The way an individual acknowledged these rules was an indicator of the adult they would become.
Only nerds would insert the straw into the actual straw hole on the pouch. These kids would likely grow up to be IRS agents or permanent cubicle dwellers.
The most daring individuals would lay the drink horizontally on the ground and then pierce the pouch in perpendicular fashion. Kids that followed this path would end up becoming astronauts or firefighters.
Most normal kids would simply flip the bitch over and penetrate the bottom. And yes, I realize that last sentence came out all wrong.
Like it or not, Capri Sun was made for youth sports and served its purpose well for those of us who lived the dream during childhood.
10. The Grass-Picking Right Fielder
There are two places you really don’t want to be as a Little League baseball player: the bench and right field.
Right field, in Little League, is essentially purgatory.
Only the worst players end up there, and upon arriving in their new domain, these sultans of suck usually take a keen interest in the grass, the dirt, or whatever foliage happens to be growing in the immediate area.
Should a ball be hit to the right fielder, it more often than not turns into a circus resulting in:
a) The hitter mercilessly rounding the bases in search of an error-riddled home run.
b) Said right fielder attempting to corral the wayward baseball.
c) That same right fielder standing and debating whether to throw the ball while his ADD gets the best of him.
d) The entire team yelling at the right fielder to DO SOMETHING!
e) The mother of the right fielder timidly shouting, “It’s okay, honey. Don’t listen to them if you don’t want to.”
f) The right fielder ultimately granting the hitter his wish when he chucks the ball over the backstop in an explosion of adrenaline and fear.
More often than not, The Grass-Picking Right Fielder would only plague teams for a few short years, retiring by age 10 or 11 to an afterlife of video games and dark basements.
9. The Man Beast
A giant at roughly 5′9″ and 175 pounds, The Man Beast was a dominant force in Pee Wee sports that was all but required to bring his birth certificate to every sporting event he participated in.
Tormenting normal children half his size by hauling in rebound after rebound, belting mammoth home runs on 200-foot fences, or redefining the role of “power back” in the classic wishbone formation, The Man Beast had it easy growing up as a child athlete.
Alas, by high school the rest of the world had caught up to The Man Beast, and because of his inability to develop any athletic skill over the years, TMB was forced to call it quits all too soon.
8. Flyers Up
Outside of running through traffic or playing with firearms, nothing struck fear into the hearts of parents quite like Flyers Up.
The premise of the game was simple: One kid (the flyer) would stand a number of yards away from the rest of the group and then toss a ball into the air for the others to try to catch. A jostling match would then occur, and whoever was able to secure the ball on the fly got to be the new flyer.
Whether it was the prospect of getting beaned by a popup or being trampled by a group of high-energy children, parents always seemed to step in and put an end to Flyers Up, citing the safety of their own offspring.
Nevertheless, the game itself was easy entertainment for a large group of kids and is a tradition that still lives on today.
7. The Erratic Fireballer
The only kid who should have been banned from athletic participation altogether, The Erratic Fireballer was a demon of a child who scared the living piss out of every kid in his grade.
Bestowed the gift of velocity, but forsaken the benefit of accuracy, The Erratic Fireballer was a de facto pitcher who had an aversion to throwing strikes, yet remained unhittable all the same.
In fact, if anyone was doing the hitting, it was usually The Erratic Fireballer himself. He had a knack for plunking batters, after all.
Forced to take at-bats against TEF, opponents would relegate themselves to the nether reaches of the batter's box.
Squeezing their way into the most remote corner of the chalk-lined rectangle, hitters would begin contemplating their escape.
A base on balls was a victory. A hit a gift from God. A strikeout a push.
The only real loss would come in the form of an HBP: hit by pitch. Don’t rub it...okay, go ahead and rub it.
6. The 15-Year-Old Volunteer Official
Regardless of which sport you played growing up, there was one fact of life you could always count on: At least one member of each officiating crew would be a) a teenager that was b) a volunteer.
This basically meant two things for us as players. One, a high percentage of calls would be wrong. Two, more often than not we would be upset over the misinterpretation of the rules.
Yet even though we had it bad, it was The 15-Year-Old Volunteer Official who had it much worse.
Put up to the task by his mom, who needed him to fill out community service hours for Boy Scouts, a high school honors program, or something of the like, The 15-Year-Old Volunteer Official was like the manager of a complaint department that had been forced into unpaid, indentured servitude.
Lambasted by parents angry over Billy’s missed basket (”That was a foul, you idiot! Are you freakin’ blind, or just stupid?!”), daddy’s little princess’s wayward goal (”Where’s the yellow card?! My daughter was molested on that play! Get off your knees, ref!”), or Junior’s strikeout (”That pitch was four inches outside! Do you need to borrow my glasses, you moron?!”), The 15-Year-Old Volunteer Official was made to endure an endless stream of verbal abuse that years of counseling would not be able to cure.
Of course, the one thing that did soften the blow was a hefty dose of alcohol, and you can bet by age 21 that The 15-Year-Old Volunteer Official had already failed the D.A.R.E. program with flying colors. Mom never saw that coming.
5. Johnny Sport Goggles
Stricken by poor vision at an early age, Johnny Sport Goggles was the one kid who was tormented and ridiculed by his peers for an unfortunate accessory that helped him see while playing ball: the grotesquely googly sport goggles.
Taunted by chants of “Hor-ace!” in reference to basketball player Horace Grant, and assaulted by jeers of “Hey, you, Chris Sabo!” in homage to the optically challenged ex-Reds third baseman, Johnny Sport Goggles was cursed by his unsightly visual aid that, ironically, bestowed him the gift of sight.
Years later, when contact lenses became more mainstream and Oakleys more fashionable, Johnny Sport Goggles would emerge as an endangered species on the Pee Wee sports scene.
But for those of us who grew up back in the day, JSG is a playground legend who we won’t soon forget. Good lookin’ out, kid.
4. The Super-Invested Coach
Most Pee Wee coaches devote roughly four or five hours a week to coaching their kid’s team on a volunteer basis.
Not The Super-Invested Coach, though.
The Super-Invested Coach was usually a former stockbroker who had struck it rich and was in search of an outlet for his creative energy.
Bestowed the reins to a playbook, a bag of equipment, and a group of nine-year-olds, The Super-Invested Coach viewed himself as Vince Lombardi, Phil Jackson, and Joe Torre rolled into one.
The best thing about The Super-Invested Coach was that you could spot him from a mile away.
In soccer, he was the guy with the full warmup outfit that matched his team colors.
In basketball or hockey, he was the guy that wore a suit on the sidelines and slicked back his hair.
In baseball, he was the guy that went out and bought a) the pro-style cap of his son’s Yankees ballclub (because the league-appointed snap-back cap wasn’t good enough, apparently), b) real baseball pants, and c) turf shoes.
A league title was his holy grail, and his children merely a vehicle for his glorified fantasies. But that didn’t stop us from appreciating what The Super-Invested Coach brought to the table.
3. The Mercy Rule
Every sport had one. For some teams, it was a good thing. For others, a bad thing. Either way, it often meant an all-too-soon artificial climax to an otherwise fun day of playing ball. Which basically made it the worst thing ever.
The idea behind The Mercy Rule was a good one: Spare losing teams the misery of a blowout defeat by cutting the game short when the outcome appeared imminent.
Unfortunately for any of us who have ever been on the losing end of The Mercy Rule’s wrath, the idea didn’t necessarily translate into a positive outcome for either side.
As kids, we just wanted to play. But once adults stepped in and enforced The Mercy Rule, our play time was cut short.
They were worried about the social ramifications of our team getting shellacked.
We were worried about what flavor of Capri Sun we were getting after the game.
They were worried about looking like poor sports in the eyes of the other parents.
We were worried about whether or not we’d get another at-bat.
So it basically prevented the worst of the worst from sucking it up too badly each week. Whatever. The Mercy Rule was no fun for anyone and still plagues youth sports to this day.
2. The Obligatory Trophy
You didn’t win a championship. You weren’t an All-Star. Your team actually finished dead last and was a burden to the rest of the league.
In spite of all that, however, you still got a trophy. Every year. Without fail.
Perhaps the greatest thing about Pee Wee sports, The Obligatory Trophy was a testament to the fact that you lasted an entire season without quitting. Occasionally, it meant you were a winner too, but winning was secondary with The Obligatory Trophy.
At the end of the year, every kid would get a cheap imitation trophy with his name on it, the team’s name, and a figurine of whatever sport he happened to be playing that season. It seemed like a small, simple gesture. But to a child, it meant the world.
Your typical youth athlete extraordinaire would have a shelf full of Obligatory Trophies by the time he reached middle school. A reminder of days gone by, the former Pee Wee superstar would grow old and pretend that the trophies weren’t all that important to him.
But walk into any ex-athlete’s childhood home, and to this day you will find an unscathed shrine to the annals of youth recreational sports.
Those trophies may not seem like they mattered much. But they did. Don’t deny it.
1b. The Over-Involved Parents
The bane of Pee Wee sports’ very existence, The Over-Involved Parents made it their mission to elevate their child to the highest of heights, while simultaneously bringing everyone else around them down to the lowest of lows.
Anyone who stood in their child’s way was the enemy—from the teammate who threatened to take playing time away from their little precious, to the referee who wasn’t granting special privileges to their Godsend, to the coach who clearly couldn’t comprehend that their firstborn was the second coming of Ken Griffey, Jr.
They showed up at every game not to support their child, but rather to take note of all the misdeeds headed his or her way.
They complained to the league when a 15-Year-Old Volunteer Official blew a call that brought their son to tears.
They challenged the mother of another child on the team to fisticuffs when she mentioned that their Little Billy had made an unfortunate error the inning prior.
They wrote a letter to the governing body of Pee Wee sports in an attempt to get the volunteer coach of their son’s team fired—all because he hadn’t let their baby pitch more than one inning.
Ultimately, their child would quit sports because he didn’t like playing anymore.
Unfortunately, his Over-Involved Parents wouldn’t stop until they found the real source of blame for their son’s abrupt retirement.
Lacking sanity, rationality, and a conscience, The Over-Involved Parents were a curse on youth sports that would unwisely procreate again and again, breeding a whole new lineage of Over-Involved Parents-to-be that will one day wreak havoc on a younger generation of unsuspecting sports leagues. Beware!
1a. Orange Slices
Who could forget orange slices? Well, me, that's who.
Originally omitted from this list, there was an overwhelming push to include those infamous quarters of vitamin C goodness on our countdown, and really, how could I resist that?
A staple of halftime at youth soccer games, orange slices became the only fruit truly accepted on the playing surface of any Pee Wee sporting event.
Apples? Forget it.
Grapes? No thanks.
Oranges? Eh, maybe.
Oranges sliced into quarters? Money.
And that was the key. Precisely crafted by a sharpened blade, orange slices suddenly became infinitely better than their wholly round counterpart.
Not only did orange slices provide nutrients to those of us too weary to face a second half without a boost, but they also became a source of entertainment in the process. I mean, come on. Who hasn't stuck a quarter of an orange peel in their mouth and pretended they had tangerine-colored gums? Nobody, that's who.
The original supplement that won't soon show up on any banned substance list, orange slices were the official fruit of youth sports and will likely never be replaced.