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Sports Talk: Looking beyond color on the field

The Oct. 26 sports page of The Augusta Chronicle was headlined by an Associated Press story written by one Ben Walker, no relation that I'm aware of or that Ben would claim I'm sure. The accompanying picture and story takes up almost half of the front page and is boldly headlined, "Astros' roster reflects problem for baseball."

The first sentence states, "Joe Morgan worries about the face of baseball."

My questions are why is Joe Morgan worried and why is the racial makeup of Major League teams a problem for baseball? It seems they're concerned that the Houston Astros have no black players and the Chicago White Sox have only three.

Morgan and Astros general manager Tim Purpura are quoted in the story as being concerned that the pool of African-American baseball players is shrinking faster than my underwear after Sunday dinner. Purpara even calls it a "huge problem.

The story further quotes NCAA statistics that showed in 2003-04 that only 6 percent of Division One baseball players were black, while 50 percent of basketball players and 44 percent of football players were black.

I say big deal.

I love the Georgia Bulldogs just as much now as I did in 1980. In 1980, when the Dogs won the national championship, their roster was mostly white. Today their roster is predominantly African-American. So what? Either you like a sport and a team or you don't.

The question of why there are so few African-American baseball players is akin to that of golf. For many reasons, some absolute, some not so certain, the race of kids playing baseball and golf is one sided. So is the racial makeup of NBA and NFL rosters.

This particular article could be interpreted as one that advocates going down the hallways of schools and twisting black kids' arms to play baseball and white kids' arms to play basketball. While we're at it, why don't we just offer to pay them to participate in a sport that does not interest them? Maybe that will broaden the pool and one day the Houston Astros will have twelve African-Americans and the NBA's Houston Rockets will have six white players. For all I know the Rockets may already have six white guys.

Do I notice the racial makeup of a team when I watch them play? Of course I do. Do I actually count how many are of a certain race and then lose sleep over it? Sorry, I've got too much else to lose sleep over. The typical American sports fan is probably like me on this matter.

Anybody that enjoys a particular sport or pulls for a certain team that bothers worrying about the racial makeup of the players is likely losing perspective of what the game is about. Sports have been the number one racial unifying institution in our society. I seriously doubt that black kids aren't playing baseball or white kids aren't playing basketball because of the skin color of their potential teammates.

Joe Morgan, baseball executives and the Associated Press should spend some time trying to discover why black kids don't progress to the major leagues rather than crying over the mere fact that they don't. I have to believe there must be some concrete reasons why they don't strive for the World Series as diligently as they do the Super Bowl or NBA championship. They all have the resources to find out if they're so concerned.

I believe that having fun, and making money, playing ball is not a prejudicial phenomenon. There are likely rock solid reasons why few African-Americans make the Major Leagues and few whites make the NBA, but I can't think of one rock solid reason why it matters enough to headline the sports page in the middle of the World Series. I wonder how many true fans, regardless of race, of any sport, even care.

Web posted on Thursday, November 3, 2005


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