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Local MTB youth group Googled out of a name

DEVON O'NEIL
summit daily news
Devon O'Neil
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There is a certain anonymity that comes with putting head to pillow night in and night out at 10,000 feet elevation. It’s comforting. You feel just enough removed from big cities and big businesses that you wonder whether they care at all what happens up here.

It was along those lines of thinking in 2001 that led the dudes at Maverick Sports Promotions, Jeff Westcott and Mike McCormack, to name their novel youth mountain biking program “Mountain Bike Little League” ” despite the fact that, as Westcott recalled Thursday, “I gotta be honest with ya, we knew they might take exception.”

They. In this case, that would be the global behemoth based in Williamsport, Pa. ” Little League Baseball, Inc., an organization of 2.7 million members which owns the term. Owns, as in, an act of Congress made it theirs, along with “LL,” “Little Leaguer,” you name it (not in print, though).

Nevertheless, protected by the abovementioned 10,000-foot anonymity, Westcott and McCormack brushed their inkling under a dead tree branch, just as I would’ve done, and went on with their lives. As the years passed, the program flourished. Kids flocked. Parents gushed approval. Best of all, the cost remained inconceivably low (for $50, each kid gets entry into all seven Summit Mountain Challenge races, a custom team jersey, weekly group rides, environmental education, raffle entries, etc.).

It became literally impossible to find a problem with this program ” until Westcott checked his post office box last October.

In it he found a letter from a group of corporate attorneys based somewhere far away ” Atlanta, he thinks ” explaining that the cute little fat-tire program he and McCormack had founded was no longer allowed to be called by its current name.

The attorneys had conducted a Google search, Westcott recalls, and up had popped the Mav Sports site with its link to the MTB Little League page. The attorneys printed off what they’d found, stuffed it in an envelope along with a letter that was “professional and formal in tone,” Westcott says, and mailed it to the little hamlet of Breckenridge.

“It wasn’t a total surprise,” Westcott said of reading the letter, “but at the same time it was pretty funny. It was like, check this out ” they found out!”

Westcott wasn’t about to contest the attorneys’ request, so he e-mailed them back and explained that their wish would be granted. From now on, the program will be known as the Mountain Bike Junior League.

“I’m OK with it, actually,” Westcott said. “I respect business entities. I know what it takes to run a business and create a reputation. The new name is descriptive enough and doesn’t change our ability to represent our values and the core tenets of the program.

“But,” he continued, “I do think it’s funny that Little League Baseball is … I don’t think they’re threatened, but I find it humorous that they’re concerned enough about a little program in Summit County, Colo., to have their lawyers draft a few letters. Maverick Sports Promotions, the little engine that could …”

In his e-mail to the local mountain bike community announcing the name change, Westcott reported, “All in all the ensuing back and forth was amicable; especially when I told them the most valuable thing I own, next to my mountain bike of course, is a 1983 Volvo Turbo Station Wagon.”

This is where the story gets a bit more serious. The folks at Little League aren’t interested in Westcott’s vehicle; they just want their name to themselves. In fact, when I called the Williamsport headquarters Thursday afternoon, media relations manager Chris Downs told me he spends an hour every morning scanning the Web, “sorting through hundreds of headlines” on a sort of pirate patrol.

“As innocent as it may be, whenever something like this is brought to our attention we will try to pursue it with a great amount of vigor,” he said.

His tone then began to teeter between explanatory and defensive.

“The only ‘Little League’ that is the official and formal ‘Little League’ is Little League Baseball and Little League Softball,” he said. “There are no other Little League sports. There is no such thing as Little League football or Little League basketball ” or Little League mountain bike racing or whatever you were saying. It does not exist in that form.”

Not anymore, anyway.


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