Blacks, sports and culture

Although I haven’t been able to find any hard numbers on the matter, I think it’s safe to say that Black athletes dominate certain sports, certainly football.(This page might give you some idea of the ratios.) I have been made abundantly aware of this disparity from watching football games for a half century with my father, who is, shall we say, from the “old school” on race relations. He can never let the pre-game introductions get by with out some version of his standard rant “My God, look at all the Blacks! They’ve just completely overtaken the game.”

By almost any measure it has been a spectacular achievement. This debate concerns the attitude(s) that the Black community has or should have towards this phenomenon. They no doubt are tremendously proud of their achievements in this area, but should that pride be tempered with a concern that their focus is misdirected. If a disproportionate number of role models for Black kids are athletes, is that sending a message that sports are more important than academics? Should Black leaders attempt to in any way discount the importance of sports to Black kids?

For the purposes of this discussion let’s stipulate that the definition of race is the “social construct” one.

I know this is a hot button issue for some, but let’s keep the discussion civil.

I don’t think that blacks view sports as more important than academics any more than whites - and keep in mind, that athletes of any color are role models for every other color, as well. Nothing says that a white kid needs a white role model any more than a black kid needs a black role model. On the other hand, yes, it is more likely for certain types of people to support someone from their own race. For blacks, as a minority, this is a sense of community, much like supporting someone from the home town.

The fact of the matter is that, in general, athletes are much more public figures than most role model types. Aside from a select portion of people who do things like spend all day posting on the SDMB, most people do not look at scientists, philosophers, doctors, authors, and the like as role models, and most people won’t, because they find such things boring, whether white, black, brown, or whatever.

I wouldn’t go on a limb and say that asians statistically perform better in school because they have a lack of ethnic athletic role models, for instance.

I don’t think this debate fits blacks specifically, as much as it does society in general. Like I said, tons of white kids grow up with black athletes as role models, as well, and nothing says that any of them admired Nelson Mandela any more than they did Michael Jordan. Maybe if society talked a bit more about Mandela instead of Jordan, things would be different. shrugs

What makes you say “a disproportionate number of role models for Black kids are athletes”? White kids are just as enamored of athletes as blacks. And are you proposing black youth (and later, black adults) dominate sports because they are overly misdirecting their focus to athletics?

Lets look at football in American High Schools. There are far more white students playing HS football. They play well, and they play hard. I’ve been to football camps as a teen, and these expensive retreats are designed to maximise one’s potential in the sport - for a very hefty fee. Almost all the participants were wealthy and white. White fathers on the whole, are very encouraging of their sons’ pursuit of athletics and will spare no resource to see their youngster excel.

And they do - in WHITE neighborhoods; when they compete against other whites and achieve all-state status, dominating their league. However, once they’re stacked against more poorly funded and less encouraged “urban” youth of color, they fail to remain competitive (even moreso in basketball than football). The pool of whites playing organized football is culled at every step - high school, then college, and finally NFL. The numbers continually dwindle percentage-wise, to favor blacks. Is this because whites have less motivation to become pro? Hell no - look at the potential salary of pro players.

So what is it? I can come to no other conclusion than to say blacks are more genetically gifted to play certain sports.

And if thats the case, why discourage it?

Headcount, the problem with your theory is twofold:

  1. It’s based on entirely subjective, anecdotal evidence.

  2. The moment you look at any sports other than football and basketball, it becomes immediately obvious that it’s wrong.

Blacks do not dominate baseball - in fact, their numbers in that sport have decreased since its peak in the 1970s. Blacks do not dominate volleyball, even though the core physical attributes for that sport are exactly the same as basketball. Blacks do not dominate soccer, hockey, Greco-Roman wrestling, water polo, automobile racing, tennis, or any number of sports. They dominate a few sports in which black people tend to be avid participants, especially basketball.

In fact, almost all sports ARE dominated by particulzr ethnic or national groups. Even with the huge influx of players from Europe, more than half of all NHL players are Canadian. The world’s elite soccer players are people of all races, but mostly from elite soccer nations like Brazil, Britain, Italy, et al. Hispanics are disproportionately present in baseball, with Dominicans being amazingly overrepresented. The world’s elite weightlifters are mostly either Eastern European or Turk in origin. Indians and Pakistanis provide a very high percentage of the world’s finest cricketers. Nordic skiing events are dominated by Scandinavian nations. New Zealanders are far better at rugby than their population would suggest they should be. There are an astonishing number of North Africans in middle and long distance running. Now, does anyone really believe Canadians are naturally better at hockey, or that Dominicans are naturally better at baseball?

Your assessment of blacks as superior athletes is in large part a product of the fact that, to you, football and basketball are major sports; you likely didn’t even think about soccer, or weightlifting, or ice hockey. Why not?

I recognize that blacks do not dominate baseball, and they never have, either. As for the other sports you mention; blacks could dominate some of them if they were exposed to as youngsters in large numbers. Blacks seem to dominate sports which require fast short bursts of leg power - can you name a major white contender to the 100 yard dash in the past 30 years?

How does what your post invalidate the fact that blacks dominate professional football (one of the most coveted and desired jobs in American sports), when the pool of contenders have an overabundance of whites?

Yea, I quess Jews were genetically gifted to play basketball in the 20’s when they dominated they sports, or Italians and Irish in boxing…I quess Jews were genetically funnier too, as they dominatied comedy in the early days and Irish must be genetically immune to fire, as they dominated being firemen.

C’mon man, stop looking for the easy answer and open your mind.

If like you say, white parents can afford private sports schools, then it’s clear that those kids have other opinions as opposed to a street kid…who doens’t have a safety net. Failing to make it in sports, for HIM, isn’t a dissapointment… but a life altering event.

No one is saying that blacks don’t dominate certain sports, what’s being said is that there is no innate genetic difference between the ‘races’ ESPECIALLY AMERICANS, who are so intermingled it’s not even funny.

The reason why you don’t encourage it, is because despite your opinion that blacks are “different”, there is a small percentage of people…ANY people who will ever reach the pros. It is a waste of resources to have kids spending value time dreaming of being Mr. Jordan when it is easier and more profitable to be a Doctor, Lawyer or anything else.

I would rather see more Black Lawyers, than another generation of failed hoopsters.

I hope this isn’t going to implode into another mind verus muscle triade based on race.

How dark do I have to be to have legs that provide fast short burst of power? Micheal Jordan “Black” or Kobe Bryant “Black”? Does Tiger Woods have fast twitch leg muscles too or is he not “black” enough?

Just asking as you seem so sure what blacks have and don’t have…genetically speaking…and I’m sure any cites you provide will have a color chart, perferrably a brown paper bag, so we can be sure we’re looking at real black people and not the usual mixture of european, african and native american…

Numbers…when I was in school many athletes played more than one sport, Football and baseball or wrestling or lacross…whatever. Because as you admit there are lots of other sports that Whites dominate or participate in, perhaps they focus their energy on whichever they have the chance to play in.

As opposed to the “black” kids who ONLY chose two sports basketball and football. If 75% (and I’m pulling that number out of the air) of black high schoolers are playing basketball and football ONLY and are placing ALL THEIR ENGERY into it, it’s hard to compete, the sheer numbers alone are overwhelming. You have to be VERY Good to compete and quite frankly very few people are.

It’s like the crime statistic, more blacks are convicted of crimes than whites PERCENTAGE wise, the reason is not because blacks commit more crimes than whites, but because blacks are more likely to go to jail for the same crime, than a white person.

This is the same effect…I am sure coaches have the same thing that you have in their minds when they chose…“Hmm, blacks have fast twitch muscle and I want to win the Superbowl…I think I’ll take the black guy!”

It would be interesting to get some numbers. What percentage of major sports are populated by Blacks? Once you get that, by how much more do you have them in sports compaired to their overall population. I assume we are narrowing this to America. Also, what sports will we consider to be “major”. Counting all sports isn’t useful, as some “lesser” sports are going to be populated with “lesser” athletes (lesser in quotes to denote that they are not intrinsicaly inferior).

Football, Basketball, and Baseball would surely count. Hockey perhaps? Soccer (not so big here as in other countries)?

I am sure there is a cultural push there somewhere, at least in certain areas. In my hometown, at the time, I would say that a large percentage of players in the big 3 were black. Being that they also constituted a large percentage of lower income families, I feel that many saw it as their best chance to pay for college, or at least get out of town. Sadly, it was never impressed upon them how narrow the field is. Many ended up back home, not good enough for professional sports, and never having picked up an education.

I think that might be an issue. In HS, I am sure many Coaches, in order to win, to focus on the sport. Never telling the kids that their likelyhood of doing this for a living is extremely slim, because they might lose a decent HS player.

I wonder if there have been any studies. Its hard to find good data on “race” issues, because people get so upset over it that no one wants to do the studies.

Let me remind everyone that this thread is called “Blacks, sports and **culture **” Any possible genetic contribution to the disparity is off limits. I am the OP and I have spoken. :mad:

This is the concern I have. The likelyhood of succeeding in professional sports is tiny, and if that is the only dream that some kids have then they, and society as a whole, will be hurt by it.

I had no luck googling this. Of course, one of the problems was that if you google on “sports race statistics” and the like, you get lots of baseball *statistics * like RBI’s, and lots of pages about NASCAR races.

They also dominate long distance running, what’s your point?

Can we also assume that since white players dominate the field at positions generally considered more intellectually demanding (QB, OL, etc.) that we should assume that whites are genetically superior in that regard?

Ain’t gonna happen…it requires a level of critical thinking that we has a society haven’t reached yet.

Except for me of course…as stated before, if you look at sports in the US, the “lower” classes always dominated the most phyiscal and inexpensive ones and as they rose up the rungs of society, they left those sports behind.

Due to the nature of race relations in the US, the Black American was kept at the lowest rung, artifically. Hell blacks COULDN’T even play professional sports for decades…it’s only been what 50 years or so, since the color line was broken?

Once Black Americans see real parity in society, you’ll see the color of those sports change…again.

As always it’s nuture, not nature that’s the cause.

I think blacks, and everybody else, should be damned pissed that most universities pay little attention to academics when it comes to their athletes. I’m not talking about academics as a prerequisite for getting into college. I mean once they get there.

The coaches work the kids outrageously hard, with the knowledge that very few will make a living from their chosen sport. Meanwhile, the athletes often have majors that are a joke, and virtually no impetus to do well in their coursework.

The result: the school and the coaches get big bucks; the kid is most likely out on the street with no marketable skills. It’s particularly a shame when you consider that college athletes are very highly motivated individuals, probably much more so than the average non-athlete student.

Link Link Link

Sorry, those aren’t statistics…but I thought they would add a little more depth…

But if Blacks are overly-focused on sports, isn’t that in itself contributing to this disparity in society. What becomes of children (black, white or otherwise) who spend their lives dreaming of being the next Michael Jordon, but are folied at the very end by their own athletic limits? How difficult must that be to segue from almost professional athlete to something as pedestrian as store manager or even doctor? Do you think they will be as prepared to go into these other fields as their less talented classmates who never even bothered to “dream the dream”.

Short bursts of leg power huh? That would explain all the elite black speed skaters.

And if blacks have such strong legs, why are so many NFL kickers white?

/slight hijack

I think this is due to our culture in the US as a whole. We tell our kids “You can be whatever you want”, which is bull. I will NEVER be and NBA star, nor will I win the nobel prize. My folks supported me in whatever I wanted to do, but they also instilled in me to find what I was good at, and what I liked, and then figure out how I could do that for a living. But we have kids, and adults trying to be things they aren’t. Look at the IT field. Their is a glut of people in it. Every class I have taken has a number of people who obviously have no talent or ability in computers. They strugle with every bit of it. They will eventually get a degree/certificate and a job, and struggle there. All the while they could be focusing on something that the like more (thus causing less stress) and are better at (less likely to cause OTHERS stress).

Again, once society has changed enough that Blacks are “allowed” to be more than comic relief and sportsmen, the kids will change too…look at the history of immigration in the US.

Famous Italians, Irish and the Jews were either entertainers, boxers or mobsters, and that’s what kids wanted to be. As those groups assimilated into society, they left those roles behind. Sure they are still some holdouts, but very few of my friends want their to children to be anything but professional people…they MIGHT like to have a famous kid, but they also know the reality of that dream…they make sure their kids have other options.

I don’t know what other options a poor kid has, when his school is substandard and his only hope, no matter how farfetched is running fast.

Alan Wells, the winner of the 100m in the Moscow Olympics.

Of course, the fact that this counterexample springs readily to my mind is a good example of how culture biases perceptions in these matters - I’m not interested in athletics in general, but I am Scottish. So I remember, when others have evidently forgotten.