Sunday, April 15, 2007

An Odd Thought for Jackie Robinson Day, But Here Goes...

Volume III of The A-Rod Apologete will be pre-empted tonight. Instead I would like to discuss the puzzling hand-wringing that I contine to see, in relation to fact that there are fewer African American baseball players than in years past.

Currently, eight percent of Major League ballplayers are black. This is approximately half the percentage it was ten years ago and a third of what it was in the 80s. The trend is certainly statistically significant, but I can't figure out why is everybody so distressed by it. Are we to believe that an underlying racism is preventing blacks from making the Major Leagues? I certainly do not.

Race relations may not be perfect, but we are now decades beyond widespread exclusionary policies in professional sports. If a guy can play, nobody is going to prevent him from making the big leagues, because of the color of his skin. Elijah Dukes is a black dude, with a litany of arrests and suspensions over the past couple of years. He is currently on the Devil Rays, because he can hit. If ever there was a test case for possible existence of subtle racism in the promotion black baseball players, he is it.

If racism is not the problem, then the only conclusion that I can make is that young black people are not as interested in baseball as they used to be. Basketball and football have overtaken baseball as the most popular sports in the black community. This is neither a positive or a negative development. It's a neutral phenomenon. The fact that inner-city children have traded in their bats and gloves for basketballs doesn't bother me anymore than if they decided to switch from Coke to Pepsi. It's there prerogative and it is hurting no one.

If we were seeing fewer blacks pursuing careers as doctors or lawyers, then I would be troubled. The fact that there has been a cultural shift in the African Americans' sport of choice is not something that I'm inclined to worry about.

(An old, deliberately awful Louis CK joke to try to cover up the fact that this column was almost entirely humorless...What do you call a lesbian who drives a Ford Windstar carrying a bunch of dildos? A Dick Van Dyke.)

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