Following up on my post last month on race and sports, let’s note admitted Mets fan Chris Rock monologuing about black America’s lack of interest in baseball these days.
The basic argument of my first post is that pro teams reflect the kids who grow up playing and watching that particular sport (as opposed to any sort of innate racial advantage), and nowhere is that more evident than today’s MLB. It isn’t actually as white as Chris Rock is saying, as any Red Sox fan can attest — the NHL earns the distinction of North America’s whitest pro league. But the non-whites are largely Hispanics from the Caribbean, where kids are most definitely into baseball. Black kids in America, not so much.
Rock blames stuffy traditionalism as what alienates today’s black kids from the sport. I’m sure that has something to do with it. Baseball is just not considered cool by black kids these days, and if black kids consider your sport uncool, you better have a good backup plan or your sport is in deep doo-doo. The milky-white NHL will never pull down NFL-size numbers for this reason — but on the other hand, it will never wither away either because it is the official state religion of Canada, and only one of its seven teams has an average attendance record of less than 100%. Meanwhile, only three MLB teams break 90% on average; even the vaunted Yankees sit at a relatively anemic 81.5% according to ESPN. (By comparison, only one NFL team averaged less than 90% attendance in 2014, and that was a subpar team dogged by rumors of abandoning its city yet again.)
Ultimately, I think it is less of a specifically racial problem and more of a youth problem… but baseball has an opportunity. More and more parents are refusing to let their kids play football due to the injury issue, and baseball has a chance to snatch away some of those youths if it plays its cards right. It needs to figure out how to make Little League and high school baseball cool again… and if ad agencies can make mediocre, overpriced headphones the must-have cool accessory for urban males by slapping Dre’s name on them, then I have faith they could do the same for MLB. Maybe give Kim Kardashian’s husband a 1% interest in the league, rebrand it “Baseball by Yeezy” and we’re now back on track.