Going to see a movie at the theater isn’t something I enjoy doing. In an age where you can re-create a movie-theater experience in your own living room with a state-of-the-art-television, surround sound and much more comfortable seating, why would you spend $30 for the pleasure of hearing people talk during the showing?
But the recent biopic on Jackie Robinson, “42,” was one of the first movies in a long, long time I made it a point to see as quickly as it was released.
In an age where every movie Hollywood comes out with seems to be just another unwatchable sequel, “42” is different.
Showcasing the life and times of Major League Baseball’s first black player, the story of how Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier is the type of courageous movie the American public has been itching to see.
There’s no need to give away plot points or analyze the movie, for it goes without saying the film showcases the true story of an American legend.
What’s funny is the same week “42” was released, the
commissar commissioner of the MLB, Bud Selig, announced that a 17-member committee will be created to try and reverse the decline of black players in major leagues.
Though it will probably fall on deaf ears, one of the marketing taglines for “42” was: “In a game divided by color, he made us see greatness.”
Baseball was once a legally segregated game, until Robinson was signed by the Brooklyn Dodgers and debuted in 1947. It seems some people are still under the impression impediments to making it the majors exist, outside of talent, drive and sacrifice.
It should be noted that 2013 MLB rosters are 61.2 percent white, 8.3 percent black, 28.2 percent Latino/Hispanic and 2.1 percent Asian.
The USA Today article announcing Selig’s 17-member committee failed to address some pertinent questions a few politically incorrect sports fans might have: Will the National Basketball Association create a similar committee to determine why so few American-born white athletes are in the league? Will the National Football League hire Jason Sehorn to be on a committee to ascertain why there are no white cornerbacks on any of 32-team rosters? Will the National Hockey League start aggressively funding inner-city, urban-youth hockey leagues to increase the gross lack of diversity found in all Stanley Cup Finals?
So making a joke about the NHL aggressively going after “economically disadvantaged boys and girls” (an impolite way many organizations and academics describe minorities in America) will only fall on deaf ears – they started such a program a long time ago.
Don’t hold your breath for the NBA to roll out such a program to target “economically advantaged boys and girls.” (Is that the right way to describe white youth in America?) When Larry Bird mentioned that the NBA needed white stars to appeal to the fan base, all corners of the media attacked him as … you guessed it, a bigot.
We live in a country so dominated by political correctness, which forces everyone to walk on eggshells lest they offend some protected class of people, that we’ve reached a point where rational discussion (not even debate, but discussion) of many important matters are impossible.
And when opponents of certain types of speech can determine what kind of speech is permissible and which isn’t, well, you’ve reached a point a no return.
There’s no doubt that merely joking about the lack of white players in the NBA, or lack of white running backs or cornerbacks in the NFL, will bring down the fury of sports journalists ready to drudge up old stories.
But Major League Baseball continues to be very color-conscious, even as we celebrate an important film like “’42.”
You have programs such as Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI), MLB’s Urban Youth Academy and the Commissioner’s On-Field Diversity Task Force, all dedicated to the goal of increasing black representation in the league.
Again, pointing out that the NFL and the NBA doesn’t have similar programs for “increasing the pipeline” of white (Hispanic or Asian) athletes to these professional leagues is grounds for Bud Selig trying to send me to diversity counseling again.
It took Jackie Robinson an unbelievable, unimaginable amount of courage to integrate baseball; but don’t for one second believe that it doesn’t take an unbelievable amount of time, effort and sacrifice for every athlete – black, white, Hispanic, Asian, etc. – to make the MLB today.
To somehow downplay this fact is incredibly disingenuous and a slap in the face to every major leaguer – black, white or foreign-born.
No player currently in the MLB earned his roster spot based on a handout or on some sort of privilege basis. Each athlete proved himself at every level of baseball he played (be it high school, college, Single A, Double A, or Triple A) to make it to the roster of a major league team.
Shortcuts don’t exist.
Which brings me back to that USA Today article.
The article notes:
“The African-American percentage in baseball this season is the lowest since the Boston Red Sox became the final team to integrate its roster in 1959, according to a USA Today Sports study that includes major-league players on the opening-day disabled lists. It’s a drop from 8.05 percent last season, a dramatic decline from 1995 when 19 percent of the rosters were African-American players, and far from the peak of 27 percent in 1975.
“While Hollywood celebrated the premiere of ’42’ Tuesday night, the story of Jackie Robinson breaking baseball’s color barrier in 1947, four teams opened the season without a single African-American player on the opening-day roster – the St. Louis Cardinals, San Francisco Giants, Seattle Mariners and Texas Rangers. The Giants, who have won two of the last three World Series championships, did not have a single African-American player in their major-league camp. There are 18 teams who have two or fewer African-American players, with the Philadelphia Phillies and New York Yankees accounting for nearly 17 percent of the African-American population in baseball.”
With Father’s Day approaching, perhaps one reason for the drop in roster spots for black players is the high rate of absentee fathers in the black community. But to postulate that theory is to suggest certain segments of society should showcase greater accountability when it comes to their children, which is another sure-fire way to be attacked by the left.
Perhaps we should just enjoy another viewing of “42.”
It does serve as a reminder that the color barrier was broken by Jackie Robinson, and that it was his talent that quickly silenced any naysayers who questioned whether a black man could play in the MLB.
Every MLB athlete who has earned the right to play in the show since Robinson’s integrating the game should be offended by Selig’s committee. It cheapens the accomplishments of every player who has stepped foot on a major league field, especially those black players currently holding a roster spot.