Every year at this time the National Football League takes over and begins to dominate the sports world and our minds in the U.S. Many years ago, my across the street dad, Mr. Ceasar, came over to visit my real dad and saw me watching an NFL game. He stopped, looked at the televison and inquired of me "You like that sh*t?" I enthusiastically retorted "yeah" Mr. Ceasr rebutted "That sh*t there, ain't no better than pro wrestling" I said "you really think so?" Mr. Ceasar turned and continued to walk towards the den where my father was sitting.
Today, I fully understand what Mr. Ceasar was talking about. Back then though, I thought he was a bit nuts to say that about pro football. Pro wrestling was fake, this was real was what my young mind was really thinking. Well, today, I wouldn't go so far as to say the NFL is fake. But, it truly is a corporate, entertainment pawn, much like reality tv is really not reality, real. The NFL style of game, to me, is truly not football, but a version of the game (I will expound on this later). Back to the lesson at had.
Each year in the middle of baseball season the NFL intrudes right as the race for the penant heats up. I hate this. It's like baseball is to the curb (in my Los Angeles lingo). But, the game is slower than it once was, and since so many people think baseball is boring anyway, the question becomes why slow it down even more? Maybe we are seeing the game Abner Double day envisioned. Who is Abner Doubleday you ask? We've been led to believe that Abner Doubleday invented the sport of baseball. Actually, he did not. As usual the Albions take something already in existance, add something on to the existing element and then credit themselves for "discovering" the prexisting element. The root of the game had been alive and popular long before the birth of Abner Doubleday's great grand daddy.
Batos was a well established game played on the island of Cuba (and possibly other Caribbean islands) as far back as the 1700's. The game was played with a "batey" a ball made from resin and leaves. The "batear" would hit the ball with a rounded tree branch, and run to the first of two bases used in the game. By 1845 Alexander J. Cartwright founded the Knickerbockers team in New York, (coincedently knickerbockers are the pants worn in the game of baseball, though the players are tending to wear their pants in the line of crickett players of late) the Knickerbockers were the first team ever formed in the States and Cuba was the first country to welcome the game as remixed by Cartwright. And, lets not forget that the aboriginals on the Caribbean islands and the mainlands are heavily melanated people and not white people.
In 1974 Black American boys made up 33% of little league baseball players in the U.S. by 2007 only 7% play. In 2014 I was unable to find statistics for Black American boys playing baseball. During the 1980's the NBA was almost dead. I can remember on the West Coast the championship games were being televised as a taped game, and televised at 11:30pm at night after the late nignt news. With the advent of Magic Johnson and Larry Bird coming into the league, the loosning of some of the rules and reinstating the dunk, the game got new life. At the same time the NFL was searching for a way to increase attendance and in the long run raise ticket prices.
Along comes Don Coryell, Dan Fouts, the San Diego Chargers and "Air Coryell" to the National Football league. Dan Fouts had a core of receivers starting with John Jefferson, then Wes Chandler, Charlie Joiner and Kellen Winslow at tightend. Together they amassed 24,000 yards from 1978 to 1983 in the air. Air Coryell took the game from a running game to primarily a passing game. The Chargers averaged a whopping 28 points per game, this generated excitment and fueled the change in the game to charge more for game tickets and moved the NFL into the heaven of being "America's game" and pushing "America's greatest pass time" baseball to the side.
Baseball itself may have fueled the drive for the NFL's glory. In 1974 when Hank Aaron broke Babe Ruth's homerun record Lou Brock of the St. Louis Cardinals set the single season stolen base record at 118. In 1982 Ricky Henderson stole a mighty 130 bases in a single season, crushing Lou Brock's record set in '74. Baseball was affectionatly known as "America's greatest pass time" in part due to the illegitimate belief that Abner Doubleday was the white creator of the game was then being usurped by the Black Americans playing in the league where "small ball" was king. Small ball, in my opinion was the strategy of hit and run coupled with run and hit plays that encouraged fast runners generating a different type excitement than an mostly homerun game does.
By now the Oakland Raiders and the San Diego Chargers were leading the NFL in won games with the quick strike offense likely, because John Madden head coach of the Oakland Raiders, was a former assistant coach of Don Coryell at San Diego State University when Coryell headed up that program. Later comes Dan Marino and the Miami Dolphins playing a similar offense. This set up the need for faster wide receivers and faster defensive backs to defend against them. The colleges and universities put on a serious recruiting rush, scouring Black neighborhood public high schools where the enrollment was primarly Black students to fill the much needed wide receiver/defensive back rolls. This was most evident in the University of Miami's recruting efforts put on during the 1980's with its "state of Miami" recruiting.
The 'Caines set a winning record during the time period that stands to this very day. These recruiting efforts by the colleges and universities of the time may have been the catalyst that placed in the minds of the Black youth that football was the way to get out of the "ghetto". Baseball's attendance soon fell off and began to fall into a tail spin suffering the same possible fate as basketball a few years before. Major League baseball, after the Ricky Henderson's and Vince Colman's of the day, no longer filled the seats reached out to do two things. (1) Put white men back in the game and (2) create a exciting game much as the NFL and the NBA did, taking baseball from small ball, hit and runs/run and hit tactics to the long ball. Homerun fever.
Major League baseball knew they would have to slow the game down in order to make white men prominent in the game once again and install the homerun as the highlight rather than the stolen base. Haiti was the place where baseball's were made, that contract was taken from Haiti and sold to a country in Central America and homeruns increased starting rumors of "fixed" baseballs circulating. Black kids no longer imagined themselves as basball players and many felt and may feel it is a white man's game. Young Black boys no longer signed up for little league, and I witnessed many little league fields empty during basball season. This was the beginning of the demise of Black players in Major League Baseball.
The other fact is Major League Baseball does not put efforts into creating excitment in the hearts and minds of "inner city" kids. Additonally when it comes to labor and native born and raised Latino players may be less likely to be as aggressive. Another phenomenon is that the majority of the Latino ball players in the Majors are not U.S. born, and may lend credence to what Mr. Gary Sheffield said (I paraphrase here)' that Black American's are more likely to speak up about inequealities...' I think this could be a point as Latin people born and raised here in the U.S. are much more likely to react to labor disputes in the league in much the same way as their Black counterparts, since we often live in the same neighborhoods, go to the same schools and live under the same conditions.
Major League Baseball is now dominated by white looking American and Latino players, white Americans making up the majority players in the league. The game is much slower and more likely to be watched or attended in person by truly hardcore baseball fans. Surely, the homerun is exciting, but the downside is a much more boring game generating less excitement than small ball. The game as it is today is not a game that would endear itself in the hearts and minds in the Black and Latino communities in the States.