I have heard people lament that young Black males overemphasize sports because they daydream they’ll become the next person to get a big payday by working their way to a professional team.
But, Blacks are definitely are not overemphasizing baseball.
At the start of the 2011 baseball season just 8.05% of players were African American, down from 19% in 1995. Last season, NY Yankees outfield Curtis Granderson made waves when he asked “Where are all the Black fans?” Unlike the halcyon days of the Negro Leagues, when Black players dominated the sport with dynamic field play that many observers found was more superior to the segregated major league, far fewer Black fans make it to the ballpark today and they watch far fewer Black players.
This is not good, and not just for baseball.
The easy answer to Granderson’s question is that professional basketball and football have eclipsed baseball in America’s consciousness. Today’s kids grow up wanting to be the next Kevin Durant or Robert Griffin III.
A second answer is that baseball, like tennis, really is not a cheap sport to master. Golf, of course, is perhaps the most expensive sport to master (outside of polo, but really, who plays polo?).
A recent New York Times profile focuses on Francis Tiafoe, a 14-year old born and raised in Maryland to émigrés from Sierra Leone who is America’s number one tennis player for his age group. But, he had some unique advantages helping him overcome the costs associated with mastering a sport.
Unlike the naysayers who babble about the overemphasis of sport in the Black community, I want these Tiafoes to succeed and spur the next generation of Black youngsters to pick up a racket. I want Kevin Durant, RGIII and even Curtis Granderson to inspire young players to follow in their footsteps.
The real reason I care is not the potential money to be earned from sport – those that financially succeed in pro sports is a tiny, tiny fraction of all those that play. The real reason is that studies show that participation in sports and other extracurricular activities is positively associated with higher grade point averages and graduation rates.
Sports, like the military, stress discipline and a work ethic. No matter what you do in life, these are good attributes which we should encourage – in any discipline. So, I say become the next RGIII, Kevin Durant, or even the next Venus Williams. No matter what, if you have worked your tail off in pursuit of a dream, that’s not the worst thing in the world.