Not much of the news coming out of the South Side of Chicago is good these days.
Young kids are caught up in gang crossfire. The death toll mounts nearly every weekend. A debate rages over whether the State Police and/or National Guard should be sent in.
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That's the image of the South Side and the city as a whole that's projected across the country via national television.
Then Jackie Robinson West comes along.
JRW is an all-star team of 11- and 12-year-old South Siders that qualified for the Little League World Series.
Maybe I'm jumping to a perception here, but the assumption is that this team had to overcome more to get to Williamsport, Pennsylvania, than most teams do.
It's the South Side stereotype, you know, accurate or not.
One of the great sports photos of the year -- shot by the great Chicago newspaper photographer Nuccio DiNuzzo -- showed Jackie Robinson West players rushing onto the field to celebrate after winning the Great Lakes Region final last week.
Now at 2 p.m. Thursday on ESPN, JRW will play a team from Lynwood, Washington, in the LLWS' first round.
Good things do happen on the South Side because countless parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles work against the odds to raise happy, healthy kids.
This too often is buried beneath the bad news, but some of the youngsters become doctors, scientists, professors, community leaders, responsible politicians and, yes, professional athletes.
Forget for a moment that one of these kids might help the White Sox or Cubs win a World Series some day.
Because they had a chance to play sports at a high level as preteens, some of the JRW players will go on to do great things.
They might cure cancer or discover life on Mars. But if all they do is survive the violence to enter the workforce and pay taxes … that too will be a victory for all concerned.
Heaven knows, we need all the contributors we can get to make America all it can and should be.
That's why Jackie Robinson West is such an encouraging story. It's also why White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf is devoted to providing opportunities for inner-city youth to play baseball.
The goal isn't to manufacture future major leaguers, though that would be fine if it occurs.
The real goal is to give youngsters something constructive to do rather than be recruited by gangs and become victims of the streets.
Jackie Robinson West represents youth sports at their best -- teaching the lessons we hear a lot about like teamwork, leadership, sportsmanship, propriety and character.
A watch party organized by the city and the Sox will be held at Jackie Robinson Park on the far South Side, but the kids' parents won't be there.
More than $20,000 reportedly was raised -- much of it from a handful of major-league players -- to send the players' parents to Williamsport.
You see, the story keeps getting more heartwarming, doesn't it?
The importance that TV places on the Little League World Series isn't always a blessing, but in this case it might be.
Considering what myriad South Side kids have to go through just to get to school or church, getting to Williamsport should be widely recognized.
The parents also should be rewarded, as parents from more affluent areas of the country are, with the chance to mug for the cameras.
The fight to grow up won't be over once these youngsters return to the South Side, but they should have more tools to work with after the experience.
That'll be true whether Jackie Robinson West doesn't win a game or wins the Little League World Series championship.