Wednesday, June 28, 2006

"Blacks and Baseball" article and Church

Above is a link to a story in the St. Louis Post Dispatch about how "blacks are fading from baseball." I tuned into the story on my drive up to STL for our UU General Assembly and was listening to the sports talk shows.

Here is the lead and slant:

When U.S. Sen. Jim Talent co-sponsored legislation to proclaim May 20, 2006, as "Negro Leaguers Recognition Day," he had scant notion of its true necessity or the paradox it entailed. Nearly 60 years after Jackie Robinson burst through baseball’s color barrier, U.S.-born African-American players are virtually vanishing from the game. Three decades after blacks made up nearly 30 percent of major league rosters, they now make up about 8 percent — less than half the 17.25 percent of 1959, the first year every team was integrated. The trend has come home to roost on the roster of the Cardinals, who currently have zero blacks on their major league roster and almost none in their farm system.

Now the talk show was abuzz with possible explanations for this change. Lots of good explanations were given: Low committment by major league teams to invest in inner city areas, for example; the urban landscape which doesn't allow for lots of nieghborhood fields and parks for ballplaying to nurture the sport; male role models and few volunteer coaches, the high cost of tickets and percentage of blacks in the stands, etc. The explanations began to get interesting when they began mentioning why football and particularly basketball were growing in interest among young urban black males, and baseball wasn't, and they mentioned the pace of the game. Baseball's pace is out of synch with the hip-hop pace. As out of synch as baseball afficionado George Will, I imagine.

I think it is, or could be, a reflection of the shift from modernist to postmodernist or quantum culture. Baseball isn't as (in Leonard Sweet's EPIC words) experiential enough, participative enough, image-driven enough, and community connecting enough. I am not sure it is possible to become so.

My question, though, is that if this is a generational and cultural prism, does it ring true for other youth of other ethnic populations. There is mention of the rise in Latinos in baseball, (still a ticket to the US? the way sports is viewed as a ticket to wealth among some in US? I don't know), and what of MTV-driven white young males? Maybe what we are seeing is the canary in the cave; right now other factors mentioned above keep baseball engaging for the young sports minded player who is white, but for how long?

And, of course, how telling is this for the church? In what ways are our current churches in baseball mode? And baseball does seem so linear and print-oriented, down to the importance of the scorebook and marking it up inning by inning, the connect the dots of each play 6 to 3 out, whereas in the quantum world the dots don't connect. If you decided to take a church planting team out to a sports event to watch, enjoy, and then come back later and look for lessons learned for the mission of the church, which sporting event would it be and why?