Baseball is not cool.
How do I know this?
Comedian Chris Rock says so in a seven-minute rant on this month’s edition of HBO’s Real Sports – maybe the best sports show on television.
And why is baseball not cool? According to Rock, it’s too white.
Rock says that, as a black baseball fan, he is an endangered species. He talks about loving the Mets when he was a kid, but, “When I ask another black guy if he saw the Mets game last night, the answer I gets is, ‘What’s a Met?’”
He has stats to back up his contention that baseball is dying. Little League participation is down 20 percent since 1995 and TV ratings for the World Series are down 50 percent and five out of six people who watch baseball are white and the average age is 53.
(In America, 6.3 people out of 10 are white.)
Rock laments the fact that only 8 percent of Major League Baseball players are African-American and the team that won the World Series last year — the San Francisco Giants — had none.
“It’s the game. It’s old-fashioned and stuck in the past. You got white-haired white guy announcers. Baseball likes to look back.”
He says the antique stadiums that popped up around the country don’t exactly remind black people of the good ol’ days.
So what’s Rock’s solution?
“Baseball needs us. Fact is black America decides what is hot and what young people get excited about.”
Rock doesn’t like baseball’s boring code of no undue celebrating. He uses video to show that bat flipping after a home run is an “art form” in Korean baseball and says that in American baseball, “Don’t look too happy about it.”
He compares baseball’s unwillingness to celebrate to the NFL and shows a few players making idiots of themselves after touchdowns. All of the dancing football players are black, of course.
Maybe the code is a white thing more than it’s a baseball thing.
Choreographed celebrations in hockey tend to be frowned upon, too.
There aren’t a lot of white NFL players who play the fool for entertainment purposes.
Or as Jim Brown, possibly the NFL’s greatest player ever and a founding father of the black pride movement in the ’60s, says, “That’s embarrassing to me. To think in this day and age, these young men would be out there shaking their butts and not knowing much of anything else. Not knowing the dignity of a man and how to play a game and play it hard and let that speak for yourself.”
Chris Rock thinks baseball needs to stop being so white in order to save itself from extinction.
Imagine the response if a white man, comedian or otherwise, said he was losing interest in the NFL because it’s not white enough. Sixty-eight percent of the players in the NFL are black.
Rock probably doesn’t know it but he’s promoting one of the most insidious causes of racial discrimination – the soft bigotry of low expectations.
White players are expected to act like they’ve been in the end zone before, but black players are expected to show, as Brown says, “The buffoonery. The things we fought to get away: the stereotypical gestures. The rolling of the eyes, the dancing, and all the Walt Disney stereotypical disgraces,” when they get there.
Remember when Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, who is biracial, was reported to be considered “not black enough” by his teammates?
There may not be a more respectful, humble, intelligent superstar athlete in America than Wilson, who, by the way, has the NFL’s number one selling jersey.
Chris Rock apparently agrees with Wilson’s teammates and believes he’s better suited for baseball.
Wilson played in the minor leagues while he was in college.
On ESPN radio Wednesday, Wilson said, “There’s a great correlation between baseball and football, especially in terms of playing quarterback. The mental focus you have to have with one play at a time and being in the moment. It really prepares you mentally.”
Chris Rock might need to adjust his focus.
Pittsburgh ex-TV sportscaster, columnist and talk show host John Steigerwald is the author of the Pittsburgh sports memoir, “Just Watch The Game.” Follow him on Twitter and listen to his podcast at pittsburghpodcastnetwork.com