Without compare, the most talked about issue in baseball this season is the diminishing number of Negroes in the big leagues. You can't read a sports page without some mention or question of why.
The Atlanta Braves have even reorganized their executive hierarchy in an effort to find the root cause and implement preventive measures to correct the problems they find within their own organization.
Recognized as the leading voice of knowledge and respected for our common sense approach to teaching about this topic, we feel more than comfortable in shedding righteousness on this issue and pointing the clamoring masses to the real answers.
The Negro athlete long ago took over the NBA. The Negro athlete long ago took over the NFL. These are sports that require an athleticism that is superior to the requirements of baseball. To excel on the court or the gridiron, one must possess a unique power and explosiveness. Baseball players don't normally require these same attributes. Now, certainly some players DO possess them, but one can not intelligently argue that the athleticism necessary on the diamond is in anyway comparable to that required in the NBA or NFL.
Accepting this fact, it becomes clear: The white athlete hoping to make it in a major sport can really only pin his hopes on baseball.
Ten years ago, baseball went through a renaissance. The summer time duel between Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire reinvigorated the game. It put baseball back squarely on the map. It created heroes and rekindled the romance between America and its past time.
A few years later, Barry Bonds attacked the home run record that McGwire set.
And the death knell of the Negro ballplayer was sounded.
Barry is inarguably the greatest player to step onto the field. His abilities can not be challenged. Forget color. Forget race. Barry transcended all that and should have been allowed to take baseball to a higher plane. He should have been allowed to provide the spark to ignite the fire in young Negroes to pick up a glove and be the next Barry. Just like Mike did for basketball. Or TO has done for football.
But, if that had happened, we'd be watching nothing but dark Latino faces and darker Negro faces on Baseball Tonight. And the white athlete would have been pushed to the fringes of all three major sports.
So, instead of Barry being deified and leading the next wave of Negro ballplayers. He was demonized. And his figurative crucifixion ended up essentially turning an entire generation of Negro athletes off to baseball.
It's certainly not surprising. Youths watched Sosa and McGwire treated as heroes. Everyday on the news. Presented as upstanding and wonderful people. Embraced by the nation as they measured homer run after home run.
Then, when it was Barry's turn to chase history, his personality was presented as difficult. His image was painted with a dirty brush and unclean strokes, not the clear and crisp strokes used to artfully present McGwire or Sosa.
During McGwire's run, when the question of steroids came up, it was deflected with talk of androstene and poo pooed to the side. Barry, on the other hand was put under the scope and his body was seemingly measured from every angle and compared with a skinny, young Barry from years and years ago to insinuate heavy PED usage.
Barry cheerfully reminded us that he didn't start lifting weights and hadn't instituted a nutritional program until he was in his 30's. For most players, such an explanation would have cleared the air and led to a fun season. But, Barry being who and what he was, it led to an inquisition.
Certainly, the mainstream media's relentless pursuit of steroid allegations against Barry (despite his NEVER testing positive) demonstrates the lengths to which white America is willing to go to ensure that MLB holds a majority of roster spots for white players.
The message is clear to Negro athletes: Play baseball at your own peril. Rise to the top of the game, and you will be attacked in the media, in the courts and even on the field.
And, we are clearly seeing the message hit home. Negroes have received the message loud and clear and are steering clear of the game. If the media, baseball and the government can cause such destruction in the life of the greatest player of all time, imagine what they can do to an up an comer with no name brand recognition?
Baseball, insidiously and gleefully, has tried to blame the Negro community for having a "lack of interest" in the sport. And in turn, have tried to claim this so called "lack of interest" as the reason for the dwindling number of Negroes in the game.
In all honestly, it's a brilliant redirection of the issue. And now, in an effort to "bury the body", so to speak, baseball is pretending to try to address the problem by encouraging teams to do what the Braves have done.
If baseball really wanted to correct the "problem" of a "lack of interest" by Negroes, the solution is simple.
Celebrate Barry Bonds. Put him on the pedestal that baseball puts its other greats. That would send the message to young Negroes that, if they come into the game, they don't have to live in fear of being destroyed. That if they decide to focus their efforts and energy on the sport of baseball and they excel, they will be loved and glorified.
There is no "lack of interest" in baseball on the part of Negroes.
There is simply fear.
Fear of being destroyed for being too good.
Just like Barry.