(a sickening symbol of ethical lapses and misplaced priorities.  And on the left, Danny Almonte)

The annual Little League World Series is scheduled to commence in Williamsport, PA Thursday morning, and while the ESPN network is expected to give the grieving losers (and those willing to pretend they like Orel Hersheiser) plenty of face time, Forbes’ Bob Cook doesn’t plan to tune in.  “I’ll be watching only in the event that I accidentally swallowed rat poison, ” promises Cook, “and need to induce vomiting.”

Little League makes about one-quarter of its annual $20 million budget from ESPN’s coverage of the World Series, and regional tournaments. It — and the environs of Williamsport, Pa. — are not unique in relying on the good will of parents, children and sports to make a lot of money. But Little League is the most obvious about trying to pretend it’s all about athletic purity, and that’s why my stomach begins rumbling when its World Series starts.

Travel and elite leagues are their own brand of exploitative evil, but to their, er, credit, they are openly craven about their intentions. Basically, Little League (and ESPN) is asking us to buy an adult-organized, adult-run international tournament for tweens as some sort of moral equivalent of kids gathering at the park for their own game.

I don’t want to see Little League pretending that it’s somehow above the worst aspects of professionalized youth sports, while at the same time treating pre-pubescent kids as human drama and advertising opportunities, all in the name of courage, character and loyalty. Plus, it would be a little creepy of me, as a grown man, to watch other people’s young children play sports. Barf.