Jackie Summers explains that no matter how much you hate President Obama, rooting for the home team to fail simply doesn’t make any sense.
On April 15, 1947, Jackie Robinson became the first black man to play Major League Baseball in the modern era. He was not the most talented person of color of his time to play professional baseball. Satchel Paige was likely the best pitcher of all time. Josh Gibson remains the most prolific home-run hitter of all time, eclipsing Babe Ruth’s staggering all-time record. Jackie however, had the right combination of skill and temperament.
The abuse he had to endure was horrific. From tens of thousands of “fans” screaming racial epithets every time he stepped up to the plate, to having baseballs thrown at his head at 90 miles per hour, to daily death threats to himself and his family, in a time when lynching was still the law of the land in many places. Some players simply refused to play with him, and entire teams threatened to strike so as not to have to play against him. He faced all of these indignities with decorum, letting his performance speak for itself. In his first year, he hit twelve home runs, had a .297 batting average, an on base percentage of .383, a .427 slugging percentage, 175 hits, and a league leading 29 stolen bases. His performance on the field won the inaugural Rookie of the Year award.
Long-time Dodgers fans of the day faced a conundrum. They hated this man, virulently. His success as an individual represented a fundamental shift in consciousness: it was the beginning of the end of white male dominance in professional baseball. If Jackie Robinson succeeded, others would follow. There were many who would have preferred to see Jackie Robinson fail, even if it meant seeing the team they loved, lose.
But they loved their team. Eventually, teammates and fans alike came to the realization that ultimately, winning was more important than race. In 1947, when Jackie Robinson entered Major League Baseball, it was 99% white. in 1955, the year Emmett TIll was murdered, Jackie Robinson led the Brooklyn Dodgers to their first–and only–World Championship. By this time, the percentage of white players had dropped to 89%. Today, although white players still are an overwhelming majority at 63%, their numbers have been steadily declining since Robinson’s entrance into the league.
In the six decades since Robinson broke the color line, MLB has been treated to some of it’s most spectacular play, at the hands of players of color. Wille Mays “Throw.” Hank Aaron’s 755 career home runs. Ken Griffey Jr.’s swing. And more people have walked on the moon than scored an earned run against Mariano Rivera in the postseason.
Without question, the game is better off for having embraced diversity. Winning trumps racism.
On November 4, 2008, Barrack Hussein Obama became the first black man elected President of the United States. From an historical perspective it is too early to tell if he is the most qualified non-white male to have run for–and won–the most powerful political office in the free world. As President, he’s endured more death threats than any previous president. He’s witnessed effigies of himself hung and burned, Klu Klux Klan style. He’s the first president to ever be openly heckled by a member of congress during a state of the union address. He’s endured unprecedented obstructionism from congress, all of which he’s faced with quiet dignity.
In the face of this, he’s managed to lead the country back from the brink of economic disaster, passing some of the most significant legislation of our time in the process. Included in his achievements are:
The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act
Student Loan Reform
Expanded GI Bill
The First Responders Bill
The Hate Crimes Act
Ratified Start Treaty
The Repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell
The Revitalization of the Auto Industry
The Economic Stimulus Package
And of course, the Affordable Care Act.
Curiously enough, surveys have shown that many Americans are in favor of the Affordable Care Act, while simultaneously hating Obamacare.
Because we live in a time when being called a racist is worse than racism itself, few will admit to disliking Obama because of the color of his skin. Despite this, many conservatives have gone on record as saying they want Obama to fail, even at the expense of the citizenry. They are willing to shoot off the collective noses of their constituents, to spite the changing face of America. There are teams that would rather strike than play ball.
Like Jackie Robinson before him, Obama being elected to the highest office in the land–twice–represents a fundamental shift in consciousness. It is the beginning of the end of white male dominance. If they can elect a black man president, who’s next?
This conundrum is not dissimilar to what Dodgers fans of the early 1950s faced. Sure, you hate this man, whatever your reasons. But do you love your team? Do you love your team enough to acknowledge that despite his imperfections, this man is trying to make a difference? Do you want your team to win, despite your personal acrimony towards this person?
In the great American Melting Pot, for the first time in this nation’s history, children of every creed and color have reason to believe that anyone–black, white, hispanic, asian, male, female, straight, gay–could grow up to be president. It has been centuries in the making, but we are witnessing the dawn of the end of white male dominance on the political stage. It is my fervent hope that–as happened in professional baseball–whatever our current president achieves will be eclipsed by those who come after him. As Dodgers Manager Leo Durocher informed the team, “I do not care if the guy is yellow or black, or if he has stripes like a fuckin’ zebra.” As Jackie Robinson’s famous Dodgers teammate Pee Wee Reese once said “You can hate a man for many reasons. Color is not one of them.”
Without question, the country is better off for having embraced diversity. Winning can and should trump racism. So root for the home team. Or just leave.
© J Summers 2013.