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June 13, 2008 4:02 PM   Subscribe

"The pervasive narcissism and cartoon chest-thumping of young black culture no longer jibes with what's essentially a sacrificial game. Basketball hawks the individual star. Football offers glamour jobs like quarterback, running back, receiver. For baseball, meanwhile, sacrifice is an actual statistic: The best fail in 70 percent of their at-bats. 'The thing about baseball is that it's such a team sport,' Philadelphia's Rollins told Sports Illustrated. 'And when you're in the inner city, it's all about being the man, about establishing your strength as an individual. So how can you be the man? You want that ball in your hands with three seconds on the clock to take the shot, or you want the football under your arm. That's how.'

Race, class, families, fathers, and baseball: Where Have All the Black Guys Gone?
posted by mudpuppie (61 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
Baseball is a fundamentally individual sport. Games are won and lost in an individual battle between the player and the pitcher (or batter) and all the major records are individual (career wins, career home runs, etc)
posted by null terminated at 4:23 PM on June 13, 2008 [2 favorites]


This article is ironic to me given that one of my friends who played in an racially mixed district of virginia was kicked off the team because of a political matter: he was black and good at baseball. This was unacceptable.
posted by Rubbstone at 4:25 PM on June 13, 2008


The pervasive narcissism and cartoon chest-thumping of young black culture no longer jibes with what's essentially a sacrificial game. Basketball hawks the individual star. Football offers glamour jobs like quarterback, running back, receiver. For baseball, meanwhile, sacrifice is an actual statistic

Isn't this really just rehashing the old "White guys have fundamentals and black guys are athletic" canard? Seems like lazy reporting to attribute the decline in US-born black players (note that the majors are chock full of black players from Latin America) to such a tired cliche.

But maybe I shouldn't be surprised at such slapdash analysis of complex race issues from a paper that announced the hiring of the reporter who wrote this very article with the headline "Breaking News: We Hired a Mexican!!!"
posted by dersins at 4:26 PM on June 13, 2008 [4 favorites]


Ah, the old "blame hip-hop culture instead of just coming out and saying that black folk are too selfish and prone to showboating by nature to play the sport" dodge.

Seriously. At least back in the 60's when they were using the "too much of a team game" line to justify keeping black athletes out of football, they had the ball to make their racist declarations and stand behind them, rather than pretending to be wringing their hands about the corruptive nature of "inner city culture" or whatever.

The big joke here, though, has nothing to do with race, but with the attempt at arguing that BASEBALL is somehow the real TEAM sport. Seriously, you've got to be kidding. Baseball is the one sport in which a guy succeeds, on any given play, based entirely on his own performance and not that of his teammates. A guy at the plate doesn't need a pass from a teammate to hit the ball. He doesn't need a line of guys blocking for him to hit the ball. There is no intricate and precisely scripted set play involving the rest of his team acting in concert to enable him to hit the ball. It's just him and the pitcher. One on one.

In baseball, the biggest story last year was whether one guy was going to break an individual record. Did it matter that his team was awful and had no chance of being relevant? Not at all. Individual stats in baseball are bigger than the game itself, it seems. I mean, you want to talk about establishing your strength as an individual? How about a pitcher, up there on the mound, shutting the opponent down. Yes, baseball has a stat called a sacrifice bunt or fly. Nobody really cares about those stats. When kids rattle off stats from baseball cards, they never talk about how many sacrifice bunts a guy's layed down. Meanwhile, baseball also has a stat for pitchers called "wins." Yep, that's right -- a pitcher is credited individually with a team's win or loss.

So don't try to tell me that baseball lacks the opportunity for individual glory, and that it's this character flaw in black kids that's keeping them out of baseball. That's just some old-fashioned straight up racism in post-modern clothing.

[If you really want to know why black kids aren't playing baseball, the answers are almost entirely economic.]
posted by patnasty at 4:41 PM on June 13, 2008 [25 favorites]


Well, the "three strikes and you're out" rule seems kinda harsh.
posted by hal9k at 4:52 PM on June 13, 2008 [2 favorites]


The statistical problem is real, but this article begs so many questions that I just stopped listening and walked right by.

As patnasty says, economics are a huge part of this. If you're coming from a poor neighborhood (black, Irish, Dominican, whatever) and you're one of those multi-sport high-school star athletes that every town seems to have, you're going to have a choice between three sports:

1 Football: Get a free college scholarship with all the perks you can imagine, get treated like a rock star for three years, then sign a $5M pro contract. Play in the NFL.

2 Basketball: Sign for $5 million dollars and play in the NBA next year or two. Be an even bigger rock star.

3 Baseball: Sign for half a million dollars, maybe, get no college, and spend your next SIX YEARS riding on suspensionless buses all around the Midwest minor leagues making $30,000 per year. Then, maybe you get a shot at a big league contract when you're 22 or 23. Make $380,000 for four more years, since you're still team property. Now you're approaching your late twenties. NOW you can look for a multi-million dollar contract, but only if you've proven yourself over many seasons already.

Of course, the average career of a baseball player is more than three times the average NFL or NBA career, and so over the next 20 years baseball might be a better bet... but it's sure not a great choice over the next five. And really, what 17 year old (or for that matter, what dirt-poor parents of a 17 year old) are thinking long term, considering the three choices above?

(Notice "blackness" didn't factor in, here.)
posted by rokusan at 5:00 PM on June 13, 2008 [5 favorites]


(But Philadelphia has no good excuse for not marketing the crap out of Rollins and Howard, two very big stars who are also very black in a city with a huge black urban population.)
posted by rokusan at 5:01 PM on June 13, 2008


Isn't this really just rehashing the old "White guys have fundamentals and black guys are athletic" canard?

Its often worse. White players are "smart" or "gritty" while black players are "natural athletes" with "raw talent."

You can hear/read variations on that in baseball and football reporting almost every day.
posted by rokusan at 5:03 PM on June 13, 2008 [1 favorite]


I grew up in a poor and mized race community. We were really lucky - our public housing buildings faced onto a school with baseball diamonds that could be used any evening. But no one cared much about baseball because you needed too much equiptment to play (and too much effort to organise a game), whereas the basketball court attached to the apartment building always had people playing there, mostly pickup.
posted by jb at 5:04 PM on June 13, 2008


Sorry, that would be "mixed race".
posted by jb at 5:04 PM on June 13, 2008


Uhm...basketball can be played on a blacktop in a small urban setting. Football requires a larger area, but touch football can be played on a blacktop and an errant football throw is unlikely to cause property damage. Baseball, on the other hand, requires significantly more space and the likelihood of an uncontrolled hit or throw causing property damage is high. That, plus it requires carrying around a baseball bat to and from the court, which is just asking to be stopped by the police if you're young and non-white in an urban setting.

Also, you can play football with a handful of guys, and basketball with two; it takes a lot of people for baseball.

Finally, when you're young and have a lot of energy, basketball and football let you run around and get it out, while baseball involves a lot of waiting. And waiting. And waiting.

Now that I think about it, why the hell did I ever play baseball as a kid?
posted by davejay at 5:10 PM on June 13, 2008 [5 favorites]


What jb said.

Give me one other person, a basketball and a hoop, and there's a game of one on one going. Costs next to nothing. Sure, you need to acquire a basketball, but when I was a teenager, that was a pretty simple matter of stashing one of the school's basketballs under the bleachers while the teacher wasn't looking.

Football is a little harder to get going, since one on one in football is pretty junk. You can get a pretty decent football game going with five guys if one guy is willing to play cutthroat. You can even do it with four, even three, but its not quite as fun. Otherwise, all you need is an open field and a ball.

You need at least three guys to play a decent fake game of baseball. Even then, you need at least two gloves, a bat and a ball. You also need to accept that you're going to break something. This is why whiffle ball is entirely superior when you are 14 and live where there's only a couple of other guys around. You can pick up a whiffle ball and bat pretty cheap, can catch it barehanded and couldn't break a window if you tried. Of course, you need to be willing to admit that you're playing whiffle ball.

Furthermore, even if you're playing whiffle ball or stickball, you need a decent amount of room to play it. Even using the "manhole cover is first base, Mom's Ford is second base, that busted parking meter is third base" method, you still need to clear the street when a car comes by. Who needs that noise? Get me to a basketball court and the only people I need to clear the court for are other basketball players - and I can have a pretty good time watching them - *and* they might ask me to play.

tl;dr - what jb said.
posted by Joey Michaels at 5:19 PM on June 13, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'm sorry, but the anecdotal evidence of a lousy team comprised of black players losing one game to a good team of white players is quite simply cherry-picking for the purpose of making a point.

My son just finished a nice round of Little League -- 7 & 8 year olds, coach-pitch. Our team had all the scrawny white boys with ADD who put their gloves on their heads and danced around in the outfield while the black kids on the other teams hammered in-the-park home runs over their lazy heads. We had a couple kids who were serious, and one who could actually play the game, but still we got absolutely clobbered over and over again the first six games or so. Finally, the coach convinced them that if they practiced and paid attention, there was just a chance we might win a game or two, and luckily, the kids from Hutto were more hapless than us on one occasion, and the Cubs just had an off night on another. But the 2 or 3 best players in the league, the most attentive, and the ones who put the most effort in overall, were by happenstance, black.

Racists can bite me.
posted by Devils Rancher at 5:22 PM on June 13, 2008 [2 favorites]


davejay: surely you played three person baseball? If not, you missed out on one of the great joys of youth.

You need a batter, a pitcher and a fielder. Batter recovers the pitches himself. Fielder is the outfielder, pitcher is the infielder. When the batter gets a hit, he runs bases. If he is stopped at second, for example, it is agreed that he has a runner on second and he goes back to bat. To push that runner to third, he needs to get at least another double; to push him home, he needs at least a triple, etc.

Each player gets to bat, pitch and field. Basically, you are keeping scores for three. You play nine innings or until you reach a certain score. We usually played "first to 11," which would take three or four innings of trash talking and hi-jinks.

This was usually played with whiffle balls or, barring that, whiffle bats and tennis balls.

Good times, good times.
posted by Joey Michaels at 5:25 PM on June 13, 2008 [1 favorite]


But by the '80s, the decline was beginning to look like a rout. Football had surpassed baseball as America's true national pastime. And basketball, burdened by 20-point blowouts and matador defense, fell upon a brilliant marketing strategy: selling the sport as a constellation of individual stars, a sweaty version of the Emmys.

Not coincidentally, it was also a time when black men began deserting their families in droves.


This passage is just so full of wrong.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 5:29 PM on June 13, 2008


RTFA. If baseball is so hard for poor people then why are so many Dominicans playing? (not to mention Mexicans, Panamanians, Puerto Ricans, etc there was even an Afghan in the 90's) Perhaps the real problem is rural vs urban?
posted by Megafly at 5:44 PM on June 13, 2008


One of them is running for president, and he seems like a good dad too
posted by fourcheesemac at 5:47 PM on June 13, 2008


surely you played three person baseball?

Yeah, the "you can't play baseball without lots of people" is a canard, if you accept one on one as "basketball" or worse, two on two as "football."

What, you guys never played 500, or Pepper, or Scrub, or just spent five hours shagging fly balls until it was too dark to see? Hell, three people only need one ball, one bat, and one glove.
posted by rokusan at 5:48 PM on June 13, 2008


I dislike knee-jerk simplifications, and there's plenty in the article, as well as in the above comments.

Racism is the reason? Maybe. Recall that up until the late 1950s, baseball was quite literally segregated. But that's certainly no longer the case -- there's no institutionalized barrier for black athletes to succeed.

Economics is the reason? Maybe. It certainly costs more, both in dollars and in time, to play baseball. But I've seen with my own eyes Dominican kids playing barefoot on dirt fields using folded up newspapers as gloves.

The destruction of the family is the reason? Maybe. Ever seen a pick-up game of baseball these days? It simply doesn't exist in the U.S. Baseball, like soccer, seems to require parental input, while basketball seems to thrive without it.

Is marketing the reason? Maybe. After all, "Money, Money, it's gotta be the shoes, right?" I've seen poor kids beg, borrow and steal (and kill) over the shoes.

Is it the hip-hop music? Maybe. You can't coherently argue against a significant hip-hop, thuggish, street influence on basketball.

Ultimately, it doesn't matter one bit. Baseball is not to be placed on an altar. It is a wonderful game, yes, that rewards you with more than you put into it. But you cannot learn anything in baseball that you cannot also do in basketball. Anyone who says basketball doesn't involve sacrifice has not set a pick or taken a charge.

It was said that the battles of the British Empire were won on the playing fields of Eton. They weren't playing baseball.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 5:48 PM on June 13, 2008 [2 favorites]


Perhaps the real problem is rural vs urban?

Yes, that's legit. A game played on cement vs games that require a field. That explains basketball over baseball in inner cities... but if that was the only factor, football would also be a dusty relic.
posted by rokusan at 5:49 PM on June 13, 2008


(I just need to interject again that two on two for football is not nearly as fun as three on two with one person playing cutthroat)
posted by Joey Michaels at 5:49 PM on June 13, 2008


For baseball, meanwhile, sacrifice is an actual statistic: The best fail in 70 percent of their at-bats.

This isn't right either. On-base percentage is a better stat to use and the top 10 hitters end up in the .400 - .500 range. In basketball, the top scorers usually end up with field goal percentages in the mid- to high-40s. Sometimes low 50s. The top centers break into the mid-50s.

So the best basketball players "fail" about half the time and the best baseball players fail slightly more often. Doesn't seem like too much more "sacrifice" to me. And a basketball player has way more shot attempts in a season than a baseball player has plate appearances. For example, Kobe had 1690 field goal attempts this season whereas Rollins led the MLB last year in plate appearances with 778. Personally, I wonder how Kobe handles so much failure--he's a martyr.
posted by mullacc at 5:57 PM on June 13, 2008 [2 favorites]


I blame George Carlin.

In football you play on a field. In baseball you play in a park.

and so forth..

(P.S.) What is cuttroat? Is that like all-time-quarterback?
posted by Bonzai at 5:59 PM on June 13, 2008


Somebody better tell all those kids in the DR that baseball requires too much equipment and space. (Of course, it helps that the government makes it a priority that there are lots of baseball fields around. And there were lots of kids who grew up in cities playing stickball, which requires a stick, a ball, and a street.)

Baseball is a game of fantastic solo performances, sometimes. But just as one guy can make a difference in the batter's box, a starting pitcher can lose a game through no fault (or effort) of his own if his reliever or closer or fielders come along behind him and fuck up.

The hoopla around McGwire and Sosa's battle, and the attention paid to Bonds' attempt to break a record, were attempts by owners to attract more fans. It was all media marketing, and they followed in the footsteps of basketball and football, which for years have both emphasized individual glory over team effort. Football and basketball are both team sports. So is baseball. Don't swallow the bullshit that owners and ESPN are feeding you. It's the main reason that I lost interest in pro basketball, and now pretty much only watch college ball - women's basketball especially.

The article's certainly flawed, - I mean, "Where have all the black guys gone?" They're still playing. But now they have names like David Ortiz and Luis Vizcaíno.

Some of you, though, are talking as if the most baseball you've ever watched is the wrap-up on the 11 o'clock news.
posted by rtha at 6:03 PM on June 13, 2008 [2 favorites]


No one wants to play baseball because Dick Van Patten's wife is always at the park yelling at the cool kid with the motorcycle. Too many squares in baseball.
posted by TimTypeZed at 6:03 PM on June 13, 2008


Aren't fewer people playing baseball, period? I kind of wrote the sport off years ago, at least the Major Leagues. (I still go to minor league games, where 5$ gets me a seat right on the first base line, or the third base line, or where ever. I can just go sit in a seat. But I digress...) After the stike, after the steroids, after all the whining, baseball has just fallen from grace.

Times change and so do tastes - Baseball's time has passed.
posted by elwoodwiles at 6:05 PM on June 13, 2008


Bonzai: cutthroat is when one player plays on both teams. When we played 3 on 2 football, we'd usually have the guy who was the best QB play that position for both teams. That would be "Cutthroat Quartback" football in the parlance of my old neighborhood, though you could have anyone play the cutthroat player.

I apologize for my derails here. I'll try to stop now.
posted by Joey Michaels at 6:12 PM on June 13, 2008




One thing really bugs me, even when it's well meaning, or making a valid point.

While Blacks do have abnormally high instances of things like poverty, incarceration, livin' in the ghetto, listenin to the evil rap music, those things do not embody the totality of Black life in America.

this is a simplistic equation, I know, but as food for thought bear with me here.

The rate of Black Poverty in America is approximately 25 percent. 3 times highr than the rate of Whites. A definite problem. But remove that 25% from the 37 million Blacks in America, and you're still left with a hell of a lot of Black people not playing a lot of baseball. 50% of Blacks households are single parent households. A crying shame, no doubt, But what about the rest of them? Why arent they playing?

You just can't automatically make the leap from "black people" to urban poor, or to Hip Hop culture, or single parenthood. Even if you have the best of intentions, the "there are no swimming pools in the ghetto" explanation for things is slightly demeaning, but more importantly, misses a lot of relevant factors toward actually figuring things out. And the author's insistence on trying to make a point about "AWOL" dads "abandoning" and "deserting" their kids is a little too pointed to be taken objectively.

If all the reasons given in that article are true, then Morehouse College should be cranking out more MLB players. They used to have a really great swim team.

And there's also the legacy factor. There's a significant number of pro athletes of all races, and across all sports who are the children of former professional players. Seems to me like that would make a much more interesting study. Why aren't the sons of Black Players taking up the game?
posted by billyfleetwood at 6:16 PM on June 13, 2008 [6 favorites]


Our team had all the scrawny white boys with ADD who put their gloves on their heads and danced around in the outfield

Danced?

Man all my scrawny white boy ADD-ridden ass ever did was dig holes in the outfield with the toe of my cleats.

But dance?
posted by CitrusFreak12 at 6:33 PM on June 13, 2008


I was going to complain about the subject of the article, but since everyone's already said it all, I'm going to complain about the phrase "ever more unique" and his use of "hopefully."
posted by Stylus Happenstance at 6:34 PM on June 13, 2008


I'm going to complain about the phrase "ever more unique"

When will these illiterate writers learn that it's "uniquer" and not "more unique"? When less and less people take the time to learn proper English, it begs the question of how these errors will effect our common language.
posted by Pyry at 7:09 PM on June 13, 2008 [10 favorites]


When I was a kid I played many sports, but frankly baseball was the most boring one. If you're on a team, you're standing around doing nothing for the most part. Basketball and football, you're always doing something, even if you're not directly related to the ball.

I think this has to do more with popularity than anything else.
posted by Talanvor at 8:04 PM on June 13, 2008


Baseball's time has passed.

Are you high?
posted by ORthey at 8:24 PM on June 13, 2008 [2 favorites]


When will these illiterate writers learn that it's "uniquer" and not "more unique"? When less and less people take the time to learn proper English, it begs the question of how these errors will effect our common language.

WTF? Oh wait, I'm illiterate. asdf;alskjdfalksdjfasdfaslkdfj dsdfd werewlis
posted by limeonaire at 8:56 PM on June 13, 2008


When I was a kid I played many sports, but frankly baseball was the most boring one. If you're on a team, you're standing around doing nothing for the most part.

It's a shame nobody taught you to play baseball. Every player has something to do on every play, after all.

I played football and baseball and soccer in school (no basketball team, school must have been too white) and baseball is by far the one that meant the most and from which the greatest number of afternoons are burned into my memory forever.

You can't be down 40-4 in the last stages of a basketball or football game and come back to win. You can't even trick yourself into believing you might.
posted by rokusan at 9:21 PM on June 13, 2008


Basketball and football, you're always doing something, even if you're not directly related to the ball.

Except for the fact that football players actually are in action for brief spurts of time, followed by long periods of standing, jogging, and talking. Point is, you don't need continuous action to make a great sport. Why do people think you do?
posted by ORthey at 9:33 PM on June 13, 2008


Baseball, on the other hand, requires significantly more space and the likelihood of an uncontrolled hit or throw causing property damage is high.

I refute it thus.

So the best basketball players "fail" about half the time and the best baseball players fail slightly more often

Michael Jordan "Failure" Nike Commercial
posted by kirkaracha at 9:34 PM on June 13, 2008


(But Philadelphia has no good excuse for not marketing the crap out of Rollins and Howard, two very big stars who are also very black in a city with a huge black urban population.)

Rollins and Howard are rock stars here in Philly. Blame national brands for not bothering to seek them out for endorsements, but believe me, there is much, much love for those two MVPs here.
posted by desuetude at 9:49 PM on June 13, 2008


Except for the fact that football players actually are in action for brief spurts of time, followed by long periods of standing, jogging, and talking.

Actually it's a long period of standing, talking, jogging and waiting for the pain to subside. I bet you could get a lot of converts from football to baseball if baseball was marketed as "The less painful sport"
posted by billyfleetwood at 9:52 PM on June 13, 2008


Cool Papa Bell:It was said that the battles of the British Empire were won on the playing fields of Eton. They weren't playing baseball.

Excellent point CPB, why aren't African-American men teaching their children to play cricket anymore?
posted by Panjandrum at 9:58 PM on June 13, 2008


Lots of people argue for "the" reason, as if there has to be just one reason why boys play one game more than another.

You play a game because it's fun, because your brothers play it, because your friends play it, because your enemies play it, because your father played it, because you like watching it on television, because it's seen as cool, because it's not seen as dorky, because it's better than doing nothing, because it's better than doing something, because there's a place to play it near where you live, because the mean kids won't let you and your wimpy friends play what and where you actually want to play, because you're a mean kid and you don't want to play what the wimpy kids are all playing in the park, because you're too [slow, tall, short, fat, thin, flabby, muscular, smart, dumb, rich, poor, chicken] to play a game you actually like, because they offer it and not something else in school, because you have a good coach, because the other sport has a bad coach, because girls like boys who play it, because boys like boys who play it and you don't mean in a gay way, because you are actually gay and all the gay boys at school play it, because there's no way you're playing the same sport as all the gay boys, because there's a youth league near you, and later, if you're still playing it and you're very good at it, you start thinking seriously about college and scholarships, and maybe eventually you get one of those brief and not very lucrative careers most professional athletes have before they blow out a knee or just aren't good enough to continue, followed by supervising dodgeball games in an elementary school somewhere until you can collect a pension.
posted by pracowity at 10:32 PM on June 13, 2008 [7 favorites]


Excellent point CPB, why aren't African-American men teaching their children to play cricket anymore?

Plenty do. If by American, you actually mean American, and not just the U.S.A.
posted by rodgerd at 1:24 AM on June 14, 2008


Okay, so black people don't play baseball because of some moral defect. Right.

Or perhaps the problem is not with the people, but with the game. I mean, baseball is kind of boring. Why would someone who grows up around basketball and football fans suddenly become interested in baseball? I'm it's really dull.

I think the "not much space in the inner city" thing probably accounts for the reason that basketball is more popular among African Americans historically, but at this point you have to look at cultural momentum as well. Kids are going to be interested in the sports their parents and older friends are interested in.

Look at the way that Americans of all races are not interested in Soccer, at least not compared to the average person in the rest of the world. It isn't that there is something 'wrong' with American culture, it's just that people don't pick up the soccer viewing tradition from their families and friends grown up (Although it's interesting, lots of kids play soccer as a kid, but this doesn't translate into fandom as an adult)
posted by delmoi at 3:06 AM on June 14, 2008


Ever seen a pick-up game of baseball these days? It simply doesn't exist in the U.S.

Really? That's sad. When I was a kid (cue "Ashokan Farewell") we'd just grab bats and gloves and head over to the nearest green space and try not to lose the ball.

Lots of ignorance in this thread; the fact that you personally prefer football or basketball (two boring sports as far as I'm concerned) doesn't give you license to talk trash about baseball.
posted by languagehat at 5:28 AM on June 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


the economic analysis given above seems more perceptive than most of the other analysis...why waste your years in minor leagues and hope for a shot at the big time?
posted by Postroad at 5:53 AM on June 14, 2008


why aren't African-American men teaching their children to play cricket anymore?

Plenty do. If by American, you actually mean American Caribbean, and not just the U.S.A.


FTFY. Ditto with baseball, actually.
posted by Sys Rq at 6:28 AM on June 14, 2008


Latin American & Caribbean baseball players are hardly a refutation to the economic argument: How Baseball Strip-Mines the Dominican Republic
posted by kelseyq at 8:48 AM on June 14, 2008


Ever seen a pick-up game of baseball these days? It simply doesn't exist in the U.S.

Sure it does. I saw one over Christmas in my old neighborhood. Played with sticks, a tennis ball, no gloves, and a few backpacks as bases.

Blacks in America have moved away from baseball because they've found football and basketball more appealing. Simple as that. Besides, who cares? So what if there are almost no American blacks in the majors? Why is that important, objectively speaking?
posted by pandanom at 8:52 AM on June 14, 2008


speaking of cricket:

"Cricket, like every sport, is an activity and the dream of an activity, badged with random ideals, aspirations, and memories. It popularly evokes long English summers, newly mown grass, the causeless boredom of childhood. Its combat is so temperate that, more explicitly than other sports, it encodes an ethics (as in the reproving British expression “It’s not cricket”). But cricket in this novel is much more than these associations: it is an immigrant’s imagined community, a game that unites, in a Brooklyn park, Pakistanis, Sri Lankans, Indians, West Indians, and so on, even as the game’s un-Americanness accentuates their singularity. Most poignantly, for one of the characters in the novel cricket is an American dream, or perhaps a dream of America; this man is convinced that, as he claims, cricket is not an immigrant sport at all but “the first modern team sport in America . . . a bona fide American pastime,” played in New York since the seventeen-seventies."
posted by felix grundy at 9:12 AM on June 14, 2008


Latin American & Caribbean baseball players are hardly a refutation to the economic argument: How Baseball Strip-Mines the Dominican Republic.

just think, if it weren't for those evil exploitative baseball teams, they'd have the prosperity and riches of haiti

i especially approve of the way they lead off with a tragic death of a 30 year old - never mind that they don't know what caused it, don't explain what the person's circumstances were or what the hell he was doing in taiwan to begin with or whether it was just one of those things where 30 year olds just up and die, it's part of the "strip-mining"

what crappy journalism - they may have a point, but they're not going to make it with half-thought out scandal sheet pieces like that
posted by pyramid termite at 9:14 AM on June 14, 2008 [2 favorites]


I got a little tired of the author's whole Field of Dreams "Baseball is all about fathers and sons" argument and how the absence of fathers in the African-American community has caused a decline in baseball participation. To use an anecdote to counter all the author's anecdotal evidence, I grew up loving baseball even though my immigrant father didn't even understand the rules of the game. I managed to cultivate a passion for the sport without the participation of my dad who much preferred soccer.

Also, these sorts of demographic shifts happen in sports all the time. In the 1920s and 30s, basketball was largely dominated by Jewish players.
posted by kalimotxero at 10:19 AM on June 14, 2008


Lots of ignorance in this thread; the fact that you personally prefer football or basketball (two boring sports as far as I'm concerned) doesn't give you license to talk trash about baseball.
posted by languagehat 5 ¼ hours ago [+]


I actually like baseball, I was just saying that no one in my neighbourhood did. Even when our city (finally) made the world series, my neighbourhood was more excited about our bad (and stupidly named) basketball team. I can only imagine that a large part of it was that most of the kids in my neighbourhood played basketball for fun in pickup games, while the only baseball around was in expensive organised leagues. And most of the kids in my neighbourhood were barely likely to attend subsidized afterschool programs located in the apartment building, let alone travel to a little league team. We had baseball diamonds right behind our buildings, and eventually some adult fun league began playing there occassionally, but it was really not the done thing for kids. I think my brother and I were among very few who had bats and gloves, but even we didn't have a softball or baseball (used tennis balls sometimes). We didn't own a basketball (because our dad didn't like it, and he got the sports equiptment), but there were lots around my neighbourhood.

It probably doesn't help that we ripped up a fine old fashioned stadium where you could get decent seats for under $5 (general admission on sale - if you were fast, you could get almost behind third base), only to replace it with an expensive domed one with more expensive cheap seats which give you nosebleeds and make the whole game look like an ant farm.
posted by jb at 11:00 AM on June 14, 2008


Sorry, that last paragraph was about my city in general.

But I also realised that maybe there is also a strong cultural cause -- as kids growing up in the 80s, there were really strong cultural stereotypes promoted about certain sports.

The American media slipping across the border told us that black kids who live in apartment buildings with concrete courtyards play basketball, while baseball is played by white kids who live in single family homes with big yards. It's kind of funny, since the vast majority of the black kids in my neighbourhood were the children of Carribean immigrants, where baseball is still huge, and the players on our city team were majority black. But the American image really mattered; it even changed people's accents, as the children of Jamaican and Barbadian immigrants growing up in Canada started using the African American accents (that is, an accent developed out of the accent of the American South) that they heard in American media. It didn't seem to matter that though our buildings may have had concrete courtyards, we were also lucky enough to face a school yard with a huge field and baseball diamonds that was never fenced off but open at all time. It was still used a lot less than the basketball court.

The Canadian media occassionally tried to tell us that Canadian kids ought to be playing hockey on the street in front of their house, but that was really not going to fly when you lived on a street with 6 lanes, and continuous traffic from the highway on-off ramps. "Car!" had no meaning in our lives except as part of a not at all nostalgic beer ad.
posted by jb at 11:15 AM on June 14, 2008 [2 favorites]


Hey! Look! I'm over here!
posted by doctorschlock at 12:27 PM on June 14, 2008


Danced?

Man all my scrawny white boy ADD-ridden ass ever did was dig holes in the outfield with the toe of my cleats.

But dance?


A loose definition of the word, for sure. Interchangeable with twitch and wiggle, as you see fit.
posted by Devils Rancher at 3:30 PM on June 14, 2008


They twitched and wiggled? Huh, I stared and giggled.
posted by gorgor_balabala at 3:42 PM on June 14, 2008



pracowity: You play a game because . . .

You totally cribbed that from Ecclesiastes, didn't you? Or was it Pete Seeger?
posted by Herodios at 1:03 PM on June 15, 2008


davejay: surely you played three person baseball? If not, you missed out on one of the great joys of youth.

I did not. Thank you for mentioning this, because now my kids will not miss out.

I refute it thus

Yeah, but those kids are standing in the street playing; where can you do that in a big city now?
posted by davejay at 6:20 PM on June 16, 2008


Yeah, but those kids are standing in the street playing; where can you do that in a big city now?

In the street. Most of the major thoroughfares aren't particularly residential, but the side streets are, and are fine for playing -- pretty much same as in that picture.
posted by desuetude at 6:45 PM on June 16, 2008


Yeah, when I lived in Astoria the kids played in 32nd St. right outside our house.
posted by languagehat at 5:59 AM on June 17, 2008


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