This is a special guest post written by a friend of Phillies Nation, Zaki Edwards, from the always-funny website, PhillyGameday.com. Check out some of his old stuff and have a laugh or two.
Barry Bonds could have hit 100 home runs in 2001 and I still wouldn’t have been able to convince other black guys at my high school that baseball wasn’t wack. No amount of stealing from Rickey Henderson or wall-climbing catches from Torii Hunter could have changed their minds.
To them, baseball wasn’t flashy enough. It wasn’t black enough. It was a “white sport”.
I’m pretty sure I slept through that day in Blackness Prep or something since I always have and always will think baseball is the greatest sport known to man. No one had to convince me that it was cool to take that piece of metal the coach gave you to hit a ball and run as fast as you can. It’s all I’ve wanted to do everyday for the past 20 years of my life.
Of course, I’m in the minority of the minority. And so is every other black baseball player and fan that can name more than five players on their favorite team.
It’s a phenomenon that has been talked about at length for the past few decades, but one that seems to be fading in the City of Brotherly Love as of late: The Phillies are employing more black players and the number of black Phillies fans seems to be on the rise.
One explanation for the rise in black fans is that the Phillies’ roster now boasts a whopping five African-American (non-Latino) players: Jimmy Rollins, Ryan Howard, John Mayberry, Jr., Domonic Brown and Dontrelle Willis. Throw in the newly acquired Juan Pierre and outfielder Tyson Gillies (who is currently on the 40-man roster) and the Phillies start to look like the bizarro New England Patriots.
Some people may say it’s racist to watch a team even partially because of its black players, but it goes a little deeper than that.
For people like my father, seeing Howard and Rollins play for the Phillies is a reminder of the progress the team, the sport and this country have made over the years.
“For guys my age, I can remember back in the 1950′s when the Phillies were still one of the most racist teams in baseball,” my father told me. “To see guys like Howard and (Jimmy) Rollins on the team now, that means something.”
For reasons too numerous to list, a lot of people identify with people of their own race or group, right or wrong. It is this identity that may draw someone to say “hey, there’s a guy like me out there playing baseball and that’s kind of cool.” On a side note, I think professional athletes make so much money these days that the notion of “a guy like me out there” doesn’t apply to anyone, white or black, unless you’re a fellow athlete or CEO–but that’s neither here nor there.
The other explanation–and the one I subscribe to–for why more blacks are tuning in to more Phillies games is a simple one: Because the team is winning.
Winning literally solves everything. It can turn the most wack, boring sport into the coolest and most-watched sport in town. The Phillies won 102 games last year, but see what happens if they win 120 or 140 games. Every black kid in the tri-state area will be rockin’ a Howard or even a Roy Halladay jersey. Houses and cars everywhere would have broken windows from kids playing baseball in the street all day and all night. Winning is cool, and the more teams win, the less cool you become if you don’t keep up as a fan.
Ultimately, I could care less about the number of blacks that watch or play baseball–as long as the reason doesn’t have anything to do with discrimination, of course. But so what if fewer blacks like baseball than in the 1970′s. That’s just the way of things. People get their news online now instead of in a newspaper. Black kids play cooler sports like football and basketball instead of baseball. Who knows, maybe the pendulum will swing back to baseball at some point, but with fans that are more excited by the prospect of a double-switch than a designated hitter, I seriously doubt it.