Major League Baseball might have lost forever a generation of Black boys and girls, and I know that all its bold talk about helping Generation Z’ers of color fall in love afresh with the sport hasn’t led to a real commitment of any sort.
I voice such criticism after watching an NBC quiz show. Yeah, I’m leaning on a quiz show to make my point here. The show, titled “College Bowl,” pits colleges against one another in the pursuit of trivia. Morehouse College, alma mater of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., filmmaker Spike Lee and too many other Black men to mention, appeared on a recent episode.
For the final segment, Morehouse men Tray Davis, Jalen Curry and Stephen Agyepong picked the category “sports & fitness.” Here’s one question the trio tackled: “What seven-time MVP holds the Major League record for the most home runs?” Now, I might have gotten the wording wrong, but the essence of the question I got spot-on.
To anybody with a casual interest in baseball, the question was a 50-mph fastball down the heart of home plate. You knock it out of the ballpark.
The three men, puzzlement etched into their countenance, conferred for a couple of seconds. They then passed.
As Atlanta residents, they should have at least responded Henry Aaron, who died earlier this year. “Hammerin’ Hank” would have been wrong but would have shown they knew a bit about baseball.
If not Aaron, perhaps Babe Ruth, although “the Babe,” too, would have been incorrect.
The host, former NFL star Payton Manning, could have given Davis & Co. a week to ponder the question, and I doubt the name Barry Bonds would have come from any of them. Manning could have asked them who was the last Black ballplayer (Mookie Betts in 2018) to win an MVP, and he would have heard silence. He had a better chance of getting them to name the world’s recordholder in the 200-meter dash — Jamaican Usian Bolt — than knowing who Satchel Paige, Reggie Jackson and Willie Mays were.
The Morehouse men follow baseball as closely as I do the inflation rate in Uruguay, which is to say not at all.
None of what I say here should be construed as condemnation of the contestants and their knowledge of trivia. They have grander things on their minds — and surely greater accomplishments ahead of them. Winning on a quiz show ranks low as a career highlight.
Yet their non-answer shines a spotlight on where baseball is with Black zoomers. They are far less interested in the national pastime than Black Gen X’ers and Gen Y’ers; all of whom have left their love of baseball in the hands of the Baby Boomers who preceded their generations.
But boomers are dying, and the game and its future rests in the hands of zoomers and the generation that will follow them. The future looks bleak.
Baseball needs a publicist or strategist who can chart a path toward resurrecting the game among Black youngsters. The divide between the two is ocean’s wide, and I see just talking about it doing nothing to rekindle interest.
The lords of the sport need to put dollars where their big talk is, but they have had the past 30 years to do the latter. Instead, they passed.