Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The Process

Fans, let me tell you a little bit about how we here at FireJay go about finding articles to write about. They don't just fall into our laps....we've only had a few real gems e-mailed to us in our existence. Most often, we have to trudge on through many internets to find something worth writing about. Of course, we're exposed only to the title and the author before we actually click a link to read something. We'll ignore most of them, of course. There's some authors that we consider too consistently intelligent to ever make fun of. There's articles that are purely factual, that of course we pretty much ignore. It's pretty much all opinion columns from authors that haven't proven themselves to be consistently untouchable. Many times, we can't tell if an article is going to be terrible just from the title. But once every so often, we stumble onto a can't-miss "gem" of an awful article. One that no matter how it is subsequently written, it's in for disaster. You know, something like.......

Baseball Needs More Black Stars

Get ready for all the reverse-racism!!!

By Milton Kent

Milton Kent, you guys!

There's good news and bad news to report to Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig from my family gathering this weekend.

For all you people out there that thought the Kent family gathering was an insignificant event in Bud Selig's life, well, JOKE'S ON YOU, MOTHERFUCKERS!

The good news is that John and Joshua, my 17 and 13-year-old great nephews like to play baseball.

I promise you, Bud Selig does not care.

The bad news: They don't like to watch it on television.

I promise you, Bud Selig does not care.

This means that John and Joshua, apparently like millions of other young black men, won't be tuned into tomorrow night's baseball All-Star Game, the annual midsummer showcase of the best and the brightest in the national pastime.

....tensions on the Korean peninsula have spiked since North Korea defiantly conducted its second nuclear explosion on May 25.

Sorry, Milton, what was that significant thing you were talking about?

For them, baseball's leisurely pace and distinct lack of hipness, not to mention the virtual absence of players they can relate to, makes the game a loser.

I'm going to go out on a limb here, Mister Jackass, but I'm guessing that 100% of the reason is the first two, and 0% of the reason is the third one. That's right. I know your great nephews better than you do. Your nephews play baseball, sir. They enjoy the sport. Oh, and by the way......me and LeBron James? Absolutely nothing in common. Can't relate to him at all. LOVE to watch him play basketball.

For decades, the history between baseball and blacks was a rich and meaningful one, from the Negro Leagues to Jackie Robinson's successful infiltration of the majors in 1947, an act that helped set the scene for the civil rights movement.

This has nothing to do with your title: "Baseball needs more black stars". Baseball is crashing and burning right now, yes? People turning it off to watch the WNBA?

In the 1960's, the list of great black players grew exponentially, and with the stardom of men like Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Reggie Jackson and Frank Robinson, my childhood hero, the bond between blacks and baseball grew ever stronger. In the part of Maryland where I grew up, pick-up Sunday afternoon baseball games among black men were all the rage come summertime, with decent crowds of spectators watching on makeshift wooden stands.

Baseball needs more black stars because Milton Kent needs pick-up Sunday afternoon baseball games among black men. No whites allowed!

However, as the popularity of the NFL and the NBA grew, the ties between African-Americans and baseball loosened to some degree. Older blacks, who remembered the game and its sociological importance, never left, but as they died off, they weren't replaced within the younger set.

This is an excellent point, sir. Time to strike up awareness in other things similar to this! Where are all the cries for more white people in the NBA? Didn't there used to be a strong history of white people in basketball? And hey, let's get more Asians in the NFL! There also needs to be more Latinos that play professional hockey!

You, Milton Kent, are a racist.

As a result, baseball stopped creating black stars. In the 1990's, either Ken Griffey, Jr. or Barry Bonds - both sons of former baseball players -- seemed to alternately hold the title as the game's best player.

Now you're saying blatantly wrong things! From 1991 - 1997, Barry Bonds and Frank Thomas were unquestionably the two best players in Major League Baseball. Not Griffey. Hey, Frank's black too! Doesn't he matter?

However, Griffey's repeated trips to the disabled list left him unable to sustain his greatness for a long period of time, while Bonds' presumed connection to baseball's steroid era has rendered him a less than credible role model.

Frank....Thomas?

Today, Hispanic players like St. Louis' Albert Pujols, and Manny Ramirez of the Los Angeles Dodgers are baseball's biggest stars.

What a complete and total tragedy.

Oddly, Michael Jordan may have held an important key to reestablishing baseball as a relevant force in the minds of young blacks. Jordan retired to pursue a career in baseball in 1994, and his charisma might have transferred a level of coolness to baseball for the hip-hop community. Instead, Jordan famously flamed out, never rising above the minor leagues, and an opportunity was lost.

You have to be the first person in history to attribute the fact that there are a small amount of African-Americans in the MLB, in some way, shape, or form, to the fact that Michael Jordan was bad at baseball.

The irony is that my great nephews' indifference comes amid signs that MLB's recent efforts to reconnect with the African-American community are starting to bear fruit.

Look, some people just don't care for baseball on TV. It's three hours long, and can be pretty slow sometimes. Your great nephews still clearly LIKE baseball.

Now in its 20th year, the Reviving Baseball in the Inner Cities (RBI) program is a grassroots effort among the 30 Major League clubs to provide resources for urban youths who want to learn and play the game.

I am all for this. Everyone should have an opportunity to learn how to play baseball, regardless of family income. This is a great program.

Even though only 10 of the 71 players who were either voted or selected to tomorrow's All-Star game are African-American, there are a handful of budding black stars who could bring back the cool to baseball.

Holy shit. I have never read a more ignorant paragraph in my entire life.

Percentage of U.S. population that is black: 13.4%
Percentage of All-Star Game participants that are black: 14.1%

We need to reverse this tragedy! If black people don't rise to complete and utter dominance of the sport of baseball like they have in the NBA, the sport will die!

But the absolute worst part of this paragraph, Milton, and one of the most racist things I have ever read, is that you claim that baseball needs more black people to bring back the "cool" to baseball. You know what? David Wright and Evan Longoria are pretty fucking cool in my book too. If this was written by a white person, about white baseball players, they would be universally blasted verbally from here until eternity and probably presumed to be a member of the KKK.

The world champion Philadelphia Phillies have a pair of terrific players, shortstop Jimmy Rollins, the 2007 National League Most Valuable Player, and first baseman Ryan Howard, who won the award in 2006. Tampa Bay's Carl Crawford is one of baseball's best all-around players, while Adam Jones, who roams centerfield for my Orioles, may actually lift the team over .500 for once.

If only they could just coax John and Joshua to put away their XBox and watch real baseball players play.


Better yet, you actually acknowledge that there are several legitimate African American stars in the game, and that your nephews STILL have no interest in watching them. C'mon now MLB. Less like Willie Bloomquist, more like Willie Harris.

Because this is a sensitive subject for some, I am pulling all of the sarcasm and anger for these closing thoughts.

Since you have great-nephews who are teenagers, Milton, I am assuming that you are an older dude, and have experienced a lot of the hardships and inequities that African-Americans have had to endure over the early/mid decades of the 20th century. I, as a young white male growing up in the late 20th/early 21st century, could never even begin to understand what any of that was like. But none of that changes how overly and ironically racist this article was. Baseball does not need more of any specific race of players. It needs the best players. Period.

29 comments:

rich said...

This article is epic.

So baseball isn't as popular for young black Americans because they care more about the NBA and NFL? The horror! Latinos have overrun baseball! They took er jobs! Personally my favorite sport is curling. No minorities there at all.

I also enjoy the 'lack of hipness' sentiment. I honestly don't get what makes a sport hip. DUI's? Drugs busts? Adultery? Violence? Or is it just that the race to hipness ratio is simply higher for blacks than any other race?

However, the most mindboggling statement to me was this one "As a result, baseball stopped creating black stars."

Wait...what? Someone tell Reyes, Rollins, Jones and Howard they can take their immense talent and shove it, they'll never be stars. Like any business, MLB promotes it's most recognizable players, regardless of race because it's all about money. It's not like MLB is running 30 second ads about how Ryan Howard sucks because he can't hit a breaking ball (I really wish he'd devote part of his 18M salary to learning about curveballs).

I think this article is less about race and more about Mr. Kent's lack of cultural awareness. Baseball was big among black Americans back in his day, it's not now, which seems to bother him. My dad grew up watching the NBA, I grew up watching the NFL. It's not a big deal, because it has absolutely nothing to do with the ethnicity of the participants.

One article I'd love to see Mr. Kent write is how the 'hip' NBA and NFL promote negative social behaviors among poor black youth. Hey kids, it's completely okay to cheat on your wife, have 7 kids, refuse to pay child support kill someone while drunk! Just don't snitch on anyone else. Carmelo Anthony knows where you live.

dan-bob said...

Here's what I didn't get:

As a result, baseball stopped creating black stars.

What?

Jack M said...

Two mentions of the Baltimore Orioles in one week, and neither was made be me. The O's have clearly turned the corner.

Chris W said...

To be fair, baseball fans seem less excited to embrace their minority superstars than their whitebread superstars.

Look at teams like the Mets and the Brewers which both have studs of "both" colors--Braun and Wright get much more pub.

That's not a bad thing per se, and in fact it pretty much just represents the fanbases (as in huge hispanic cities the hispanic stars get the most pub--Manny, for example, in LA).

But it is something that's real, and might be what this author is talking about re: "Creating black stars."

That said, who fucking cares? There's still a handful of black baseball players even though the socioeconomics and cultural interests of America make it much more likely that black youths (on the whole) will gravitate to lower-investment, quicker-payoff (and flashier) sports like the NBA and NFL.

This might be the most racist post I've ever made in the eyes of some, but I'm having a hard time finding what I've said that isn't true.

cs said...

No, the most racist post you made was when you said the NBA playoffs suck.

Chris W said...

That was pretty insensitive to the Native American population.

:(

pnoles said...

Wright and Braun: Arguably better than their non-white teammates.

Also, it's arguable that Fielder gets more 'pub' than Braun.

rich said...

Determining factors going into publicity (my list):

1. Talent
2. Fan perception (nice guy, asshole, seems like a normal guy doing extraordinary things)
3. Physical Appearance
4. Personality (quiet, outspoken)
5. Geographical location
6. Endorsements

Ryan Braun and David Wright - Talented; supposed nice guy; tall and muscular; somewhat outspoken.

Prince Fielder - Talented; supposed nice guy; fat; quiet .

Jose Reyes - More potential than talent; rumors of immaturity; small and thin; relatively quiet.

Carlos Delgado - Pissed off America by turning back to flag.

Carlos Beltran - Talented; very very quiet.

You can also make the same argument for why Rollins and Howard get more publicity than Utley, why Bonds got more publicity than Kent and why Eckstein gets any publicity at all.

Never once has a team gone out and said "Hey we have this shitty white player come watch him suck. Oh by the way this minority player is okay too."

In the end, if a player is good enough to be a star, he'll get the publicity regardless of his race.

Iridescence said...

There are probably some legitimate points to be made here but I agree that the author totally wrecks his own credibility It is kind of a shame that there are a lot less African American players in MLB than there used to be but on the other hand it is kind of cool that there are more Asian stars.

Some things bother me like (as has been pointed out many times on blogs like this) short white guys are usually portrayed in the media as "scrappy/gritty/tries really hard!" while a naturally athletic black guy often gets the "lazy/unmotivated" (or worse) tag.

And why are there still so few Black managers and GMs? I think there is still some racism in baseball although things are definitely improving from what they were a few years ago.


(And none of this takes away from the fact that this article is crap.)

Larry B said...

Fielder gets more press than Braun. Easily. Chris W is a pro-semite.

pnoles said...

MAKE WAAAAAYYYYYYY FOR PRINCE!

Chris W said...

Larry and Pnoles:

You're fucking crazy. Nationwide, I don't fucking know nor do I care, but in Wisconsin, Fielder's a non-entity and Braun is omnipresent.

Braun's the fucking face of the franchise.

Chris W said...

Rich--

I think you're missing my point.

The point is, you have teams with comparable players, and the white guys are who the local fans often embrace. It's not a racism thing, it's a recognition thing.

I love Utley, but he was never going to be the superstar that Ryan "MVP" Howard and Jimmy "Also MVP" Rollins were going to be. Utley's a poor example.

I don't mean to say that white fans never embrace dark superstars. Of course it happens. Especially when there's no white superstars to choose from or when the minority superstars are obviously better. But white superstars are just more marketable to white fans, as black superstars are more marketable to black fans, and latino superstars are more marketable to latino fans.

In baseball, latino and white markets are the biggest shares of baseball fandom, which is why this is more pronounced.

It would also explain why Braun's exposure eclipses Fielders's on a local level (not a lot of non-whites in Wisconsin) but not on a national level (MLB is deliberately looking to appeal to a black audience by promoting black superstars).

Just a thought.

rich said...

Chris,

I agree with most of what you had to say. Between comparable players race plays a role. As you said like attracts like. However, my point is that you have to get pretty far down the checklist of comparable things to get to race being a major impact.

The one thing that I think helps Braun is that he signed a long term deal for way below what he would have gotten even in arbitration, whereas Fielder (and Boras) basically cried about his contract situation for a full year. That might also help explain their local reputations.

As for Utley, he may never be the 'superstar' that Howard or Rollins are, but he's a much better baseball player than either of them the past two years (even with last years' hip injury). Howard has imploded the past two years batting in the low .200s last year and now hovering around .270 with a pretty mediocre OBP and inability to hit a breaking ball. Howard also happens to be incredibly likable sort of a giant teddy bear (heard it before), while Utley is seen as more of a rugged tough guy.

The appeal of Rollins (even as a Phillies fan I have to admit didn't deserve that MVP) is that he's been in Philly for 10 seasons and is an incredibly likable guy and a steady player (before this year). He does tons of interviews and is quite visible.

I won't say that race doesn't impact who gets publicity, but I will say that race doesn't impact who is considered a superstar. Most people aren't morally bankrupt people and will give credit where credit is due.

Venezuelan Beaver Cheese said...

Iridescence: I count five African-American managers in baseball right now (Ron Washington, Cito Gaston, Jerry Manuel, Dusty Baker and Cecil Cooper). One-sixth of all MLB managers are black, a figure I wouldn't consider disproportionately low. Black GM's, on the other hand, are more of a scarcity. Kenny Williams and Tony Reagins are the only ones as far as I know. Is that attributable to racism though, or some other factor? I don't have an answer, I'm just throwing the question out there.

When Milton talks about blacks "bringing the cool back to baseball" I think of something akin to a scene from a 70's sitcom or movie where a black man teaches a white man how to walk, talk and act "cool." Maybe some of today's ballplayers need to grow afros like Bake McBride and Oscar Gamble. Now those guys were cool!

Actually, in Milton's defense, that "bring back the cool" statement may have been referring to the coolness among the hip-hop community that he mentioned in the Michael Jordan paragraph.

Tonus said...

This argument about the lack of black players in baseball kills me. What is the primary reason that there are relatively few blacks in baseball? I think it's because they are more interested in basketball and football, and hey... lookee here! Blacks make up a large proportion of NFL rosters and an overwhelming proportion of NBA rosters.

Therefore, the lack of black players in baseball is because talented black athletes have found other sports venues that they prefer. They have a choice, and they're exercising that freedom. How exactly is this a problem? Who the fuck would think that being overrepresented in two major sports and proportionally even in another is a PROBLEM???

PS, Mister Kent-- the USA's fastest growing demographic is hispanic, and we're still relatively poorly represented in both the NBA and NFL. I hope you won't take offense when I complain that "you're taking away opportunities" from "us."

Bengoodfella said...

Great post pnoles. I have nothing incredibly fruitful to add. I do have to say I hated the article and it deserves the beating you gave it. It is clear there are other sports that can take the attention of African Americans other than baseball and that doesn't bother me. I don't understand why there always has to be a concerted effort to push kids towards a sport they dont' want to play. If other sports have African American kids' interest, it doesn't bother me at all.

In regards to publicity and all of that. I think of Prince Fielder and see him way more often than Ryan Braun, at least when Braves games against the Brewers are being publicized. When I think of them, I immediately think of Prince Fielder. That's just me though. It may be different on the local level though. It may also just be my perception.

I have to agree with Rich that there are many factors that go into popularity and I am not sure how far down the issue of race is but I don't think it is at the top. I just don't think the lack of African Americans in baseball is a national crisis, just like the lack of Latinos in any other sport is not a problem.

Chris W said...

Well obviously MLB as a whole has it in their best interest to publicize black players since they're not selling individual tickets, they're selling the sport as a whole.

But that, of course, is contrary to what this guy is saying--he's got some idea that MLB would rather promote a white or hispanic player than a black. Bullshit.

If there WERE any black players worthy of superstar status then MLB would jump on their back and try to ride them to an increased black market share. Actually, they ARE doing that by pretending that Ryan Howard and the Uptons are SUPERSTARS (which they most assuredly not).

My point was at the LOCAL level, where teams have no reason to "sell the sport" and are more interested in giving the ticket-buying public what they need, you won't see the Fielders promoted when there's a Braun they could promote to get their mostly white (or hispanic) ticket-buying community in the gate or behind the television.

I'd agree with Rich that it's fairly far down the list. I mean the guy's got to be close to or equally as good as the minority (or non-hispanic in certain markets) superstar. And for the most part they are. But I think there's a certain amount of this "likeness" fandom.

Everyone has that certain white buddy whose favorite players are Steve Nash, John Stockton, and Larry Bird--great players all, and there's no reason someone who likes them should be considered racist. But you know there's a certain "I can identify more with these guys than with Kobe Bryant" kind of thing going on. And I think you see that to a small extent every time a white American superstar emerges in the NBA (I know, I know--Nash is Canadian. But that counts too, damn it). And the NBA isn't hurting for black viewers the way MLB is.

It is what it is, and PNoles was absolutely right--what the league needs is for the best players to be playing at the highest level. Not for people to be worrying about what color the skin of those players is. Am I a bit concerned that we're seeing potentially great black baseball players choose other sports instead? A little bit. But what are we going to do about that? That's just the way it is--some things will never be the same. And so forth.

cs said...

So, I think we all should have been more appreciative of Michael Jordan's attempt to translate his super-duper-stardom to baseball. Cleary, the racists in baseball killed that idea.

Bengoodfella said...

I think one of the most interesting things you touched on Chris was the difference in the national and regional coverage of certain players. There is a difference for some teams.

I think the biggest issue I have is this author was pretending this was some vast conspiracy to prevent minorities from playing baseball when in fact they are choosing on their own not to participate. I don't think this is a societal problem, it's a problem he needs to face in his community. The game will willingly embrace African American baseball players but there just have to be players willing to play the sport.

The league can market to African Americans all they want, but the fact of the matter is they know they are going to lose a lot of young kids to other sports. That's the facts these days.

The coverage by the media is what I would be worried about if I was this Milton guy. Like what was said earlier, white guys like Eric Byrnes and David Eckstein are seen as scrappers who have no talent, while African American baseball players are seen as lazy in some aspects. When have you ever heard Willie Harris or Orlando Hudson referred to as a scrappy player? Maybe I missed it, but I can't recall it.

LincolnHawk said...

I agree with Tonus about the numbers not revealing a major problem but I actually thought this was an article about shitty parenting...

My son's favorite player on the Cubs is DLee. Why? Because I told him he's the best. He sees great highlights of Lee and it perpetuates into "Your right dad - he is the best." He's young so he sees baseball through my eyes.

It seems like Kent thinks it's MLB's responsibility to educate his kids on who the great black ball players are today. Kent frightens me further by wishing for MLB to coax his kids to put away their Xbox and watch real players... Really? That's MLB's job? "Blacks in baseball" might be the least of their worries.

Chris W said...

Those are all valuable points, Lincoln Hawk, but if I might answer for the author, I think he'd probably say that the NBA and NFL are able to get his kids to put down the controllers and are able to immediately position black athletes as "heroes," etc.

So why isn't baseball doing that?

In the author's opinion it's because the MLB is failing to do something marketing-wise the NFL and NBA are successful in doing.

Clearly we, as a blog, and commenting group, take a view that it has more to do with the general interest and fanbase of MLB at this particular time, and that the talent pool of black players is lower and therefore less likely to produce the sort of black MLB icons we saw as recently as the late 80's and early 90's.

Tonus said...

Rumor is that every day is "Prince Fielder day" in Wisconsin. Confirm/Deny?

Larry said...

Not sure if this has been said but I always considered players like Manny Ramirez, David Ortiz, etc as black. I know they are technically "hispanic" but they are black. Is that bad of me?

rondoman said...

Living near Milwaukee the thing I have to point to is CC Sabathia.

He was the most loved Brewer in years and he was here for 2 and a half months. CC jerseys everywhere you looked.

Braun signed a long term, lower than market value contract, and Prince bitched about his contract.

THAT, is why Braun is looked at as the most popular Brewer.

Bottom line though, if you are a good/great player that leaves it all out on the field, fans will love you, regardless of skin color.

Brandon Z said...

That's an interesting point Larry. Just because their ancestors were brought from Africa and ended up in the Caribbean instead of the US, are they not black?

I tend to think that they're "hispanic" because of language, "latino" because of geography, and "black" because of race.

On a side note, I knew a guy from Jamaica who (rightfully) took offense when someone called him African-American.

Groggy Dundee said...

I guess one could complain reasonably about the loss of black players in baseball if one was somehow to ignore the up-and-coming stars, and certainly about the loss of black interest (though I'm not sure how much one could control that given the exodus of fans to the NBA and NFL). To attribute it, even implicitly, to racism or lack of "hipness" (whatever THAT means) is something else entirely. And what the hell is wrong with having more Hispanic and Asian stars? Is your race the only minority, Mr. Kent?

I have never heard of this douchebag before but he seems like a prime candidate for a blog regular. On the basis of this article he makes Jemele Hill look like MLK.

Chris W said...

The upshot though is that now when rappers reference black baseball players in songs, you get some pretty lackluster lines.

To wit: Bun-b: "We pitch it like Dontrelle Willis/We the illest."

Really? The D-Train?

Alex said...

Hello. I'd like to offer a Canadian perspective using...what else?...hockey!

It's interesting to read the author's arguments because it reminds me of the Quebec/Canada debate. Whenever Team Canada doesn't select Quebec born players (that's the place where we all speak French and where some boobs want to separate from the country even though they have no money), some folks in the media and public go all nutty.

However, rather than go the race route (make no mistake about it, they use it too) they babble about how Quebec needs to ice its own team since Canada is too - insert whatever you want here.

Another interesting thing is the "cool" aspect. Quebec considers itself to be "cooler" than the "tetes carres" (square heads) in the rest of English-speaking Canada. They use the same type of language on this front.

So. In North America, apparently, only blacks and French-Canadians have cornered the "cool" market.

Now all we need is more blacks in hockey to make it more hip!