Sunday, July 31, 2011

Sports Story

     Most days, I automatically put the sports section on the recycling pile, unread. But I only take the Monday – Friday editions of the New York Times, so I scan the Saturday and Sunday online versions and today inadvertently read a sports article.
     Today, at the back of the sports section – just before I deleted the document -- there was a story about a Ugandan Little League team that had qualified for the Little League World Series (to be played Aug. 18-28 in South Williamsport, PA.).
     For the second year in a row.
    And for a second year in a row, the United States State Department denied the teams’ visas to travel in this county – because their documentation “contained discrepancies.”
     We forget -- and obviously State Department officials forget – that not everyone has a birth certificate. That there are parts of the world where the paperwork that we take for granted – the paperwork that enables us to vote, drive, drink alcohol and travel to other countries – simply does not exist. Or if it does exist, does so only erratically.
     Because of this, the Rev. John Foundation Little League team, which was to play its first Little League World Series game against Canada on Aug. 19, will stay home. The boys qualified by winning the Middle East-Africa regional tournament last month against Saudi Arabia.
     They qualified by working hard, following a dream. Most live in poverty. Their parents, if they have them, “are often illiterate, making it difficult to verify birth certificate data.”
     Little League baseball was introduced to Uganda eight years ago by Richard Stanley of Staten Island. Stanley pointed out that Ugandan kids may not even know their own birthdays. “They don’t have cake and ice cream parties in Kampala.”

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