Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The Black-White Sports Gap

Watching both the 2010 NBA basketball finals and the World Cup soccer begs observations about certain sports outcomes, as they may be influenced by ethnicity. I cannot help but note that the NBA is +95% African-American, with a smattering of Whites, mostly from Europe. Soccer, as Europe’s and the world’s number one sport, is pulling increasing numbers of Africans into its professional ranks. Is this a good thing? I think so.

As quiet as it is kept, European-team dominated soccer is under the challenge of keeping to the traditional (read White) ‘restricted patterns’ of play, against the more improvised, power-oriented, and exciting play of the Africans. After all, soccer is dependent on the same speed, jumping, and agility, as basketball. You only need to contrast a World Cup game featuring Ivory Coast or Cameroon versus that of European national teams, to see the difference. Today I watched #2 ranked Spain snooze their way to a first-round loss against #24 Switzerland, a team powered, in part, by two nationalized Africans.

Furthermore, is #1 Brazil the odds-on-favorite because they combine teamwork, power, and creativity over their competition? Perhaps. Soccer play in South America seems popular to the point of retaining better players year-round, along with developing an optimized style of play to a more diverse (read exciting) skill set in those players. In Brazil, it is not a matter of African ancestry conforming to muted Euro-style of play, but the other way around, teamwork redefining itself with athleticism. Plausible?

Red Auerbach, famed leader of the bean town Boston Celtics, was able to win the ‘last hold-out’ award, as long as he had a super-star like Larry Bird, but anything less meant a trouncing by the likes of teams chocked with three-point shooting, slam-dunking, sub seven-footers, of African ancestry. In stark contrast, the Michael Jordan of soccer, Pele (pictured), foretold the current era of speed and agility, even while those around him wore cement shoes.

All this is to say that I am loving the World Cup, and the NBA Finals too, twisted arm-chair analysis and all. I like the White/Euro guys, the same way I liked watching Bird drain three-pointers against LA from my Jamaica Plain television room. But I especially like seeing West African brotherhood, in its many shades, place its indelible re-definition on the world’s number one sport, now and into the future. From now on when someone says football, I will hesitate, and wonder – which one?

James C. Collier

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18 comments:

Menelik Charles said...

Hi Bro,

some really interesting observations. Over here in England, football, as we call it, is the number one sport. The English Premier League has only about 25% of its player who are Black and yet the best players in ALL positions are generally Black.

You'll never know what a joy that is sense when I was a kid in the 1980s I was turfed out of my home town club, Arsenal because of the colour of my skin. I will never forget the pain of that moment so it comes as some consolation now that most of the Arsenal team is made up of Black players!

The reason for this is simple: the influx of foreign coaches effectively broke the anti-Black embargo imposed by English coaches by signing Black players from overseas and giving the likes of my nephew a chance I never had.

Once again, great post. Enjoy the World Cup!

Menelik Charles
London England

James C. Collier said...

Charles, thanks for the football lesson from across the pond!/JC

Anonymous said...

Do you consider yourself a black supremacist?

James C. Collier said...

Anon 11:52, the answer is no, I am not a supremacist. I can be proud of Black accomplishments without pretending to be superior. This is not the same as monkey chants. Eh?

Anonymous said...

So you're saying that black athletes are not superior to white athletes?

James C. Collier said...

Anon 1:02, Different physical competitions play to the strengths of various groups. No group is superior in the way you imply. One style of play can be more competitive than another, but acceptance of that style is a choice. Manu Ginobili (Spurs Guard) is an example of an Argentinian who adopted the competitive style of the NBA, with great success.

Anonymous said...

"Different physical competitions play to the strengths of various groups."

Would you mind spelling out what these groups different strengths are?

James C. Collier said...

Anon 12:41, I have done so in my post. Speed, agility, and power. But I am not a physiologist or geneticist, so discussions of the drivers to these empirical results are beyond me. However, cross-ethnic assimilation of behaviors leads us to know that no group holds pre-destined dominion, the cornerstone of supremacy thinking.

Anonymous said...

Well yes, you've said that speed agility and power are the advantages of blacks. I'm just wondering what you think the advantages of other groups are.

The reason I pose this question is that it's completely acceptable in modern society to point out areas where whites are inferior. If, as you suggest, each group has traits that let them excel in different competitions, I'd appreciate it if you'd venture outside of the PC zone and suggest what advantages whites or other non-blacks possess.

Anonymous said...

BTW, Mr. Collier, I'm just asking for your opinions/observations. I know you're not a geneticist or biologist and neither am I. I'm just a person on the other side of the racialist divide who is interested in your opinion because you've established yourself as an honest broker.

ronnie brown said...

the problem with us is that we can't enjoy the benefit of the diversity of expression of the human species without attempting to use those gifts as a form of self-exaltation...which is what a supremacist (of any shade) is prone to do...the whole point of diversity of gifts and talents is that we mutually ENRICH each other.

James C. Collier said...

Anon (if I may be less formal), I'll bite. Europeans have long-exhibited greater long-distance running endurance over Africans, excepting a select tribe of Kenyans (the Kalenjin's) and a statistical smattering of East and North Africans. In fact, those Kenyans could be closer genetic ancestors to Europeans than they are to West Africans, as skin-color describes the least of our true genetic kinship. Fine motor skill gamesmanship, like golf certainly 'plays' to historical strengths of Whites, while Blacks are certainly able to excel given the opportunity. Swimming is another sport where natural advantage may fall to others considering lean body mass, bone/muscle density, endurance etc., but also not preclude the Cullen Joneses et al either. Recall that in the NBA White guys ruled the three-point line for many years until Blacks adapted outside games, as perfected by Magic Johnson. And on and on...

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your response. I really appreciate your openness on this topic.

Anonymous said...

Hey Man, interesting post destined to stir some comments..One thing though... not sure what you meant by the Red Auerbach comment... Red broke the color barrier in the NBA, fielded the first all Black starting five in the NBA, promoted several successfull Black coaches and was a tireless advocate of skill not race. His Black players to this day cite his steadfast refusal to let race dictate anything about his teams (from who played to were they stayed). To call him a "hold out" is both inaccurate and unfair. Those "White" Celtic teams of the 80's were 50% Black and more a matter of TV's marketing Bird Vs. Magic and memory of the city of Boston left in all of us by the busing riots than reality. Read a little about the man and give him his props. If you still have doubts tell John Thompson face to face that the coach he loves was a "hold out" LOL

James C. Collier said...

Anon 10:52, I get what you say about Red. I lived in Boston in his later years when he seemed to cater more openly to racist notions of Boston being the last predominantly white team - and the best because of it. Yes, he used black players and even coaches, but the teams were explicitly white in all eyes. Russell was caught between Red's two-headed master, winning and racist Boston fans - that's why he refused to return. Maybe Red saw the league going in a direction (black dominance) that he was against. Larry gave him the last hoorah for his era. I didn't like him, but I believe he contributed much to the game, nonetheless.

Anonymous said...

I was stunned to double check that this was written in 2010. Black people in European football (as only the entire World calls it) have been exalted because of their style of play for some decades now and racism is no more prevalent footy than any other part of society. Black people have every opportunity and equal treatment and whilst there are some noted genetic traits that assist, try telling Davids or some of the Ghanaians they are just about speed and power a not deft guile and agility. Try telling ze Germans who spanked England (sob) today that they are not quick. Monkey chant and things in England an most countries are either ancient history or extremely rare and that minority of morons is turned upon by the disgusted general public. Living in the Americas, I can witness the bitterness of some but go to another island where most people realise that black slavery was an incredibly long time ago and perpetrated by the same evil people who also had their countrymen in Europe working poor pittance in awful conditions (don't mistake that for saying the conditions were generally "as bad" as I know they weren't). Generally, we need to keep racism down as racism is a modern slavery limiting the richness of our lives. Blaming me for something someone else had done 200 years ago is disgusting and smacks of someone using me as a scapegoat for their own person defects and negativity. I grew up in an extremely diverse school but one where people were generally judged on how they treat each other and how good they were academically and on the pitch. No ethnic group made up the bottom of the class because these kids didn't have parents putting the burden of lining life with prejudices and excuses for underachieving.

Tereska said...

Just stumbled on this blog..really like your writing.. but I have to say I HATE the "European" style of play in the NBA. They are big floppers and I swear they practice drawing fouls more than layups. I see the same thing in the world cup

Anonymous said...

Once you get a substantial number of black into soccer, they will dominate.