Playing the Race Card

jason-heywardAn interesting little conversation on the Mets-Braves broadcast Friday night — Gary Cohen asked Keith Hernandez and Ron Darling whether the swing of Braves rookie Jason Heyward (left) reminds them of anyone. Darling said, “John Milner?” Hernandez said no, that Milner tried to lift everything. Cohen asked, “Stargell or McCovey?” Hernandez said no. Cohen said,” It’s not Junior,” meaning Ken Griffey, Jr. Then there was a play on the field, and the topic was dropped.

What’s the big deal, you ask? Well, Heyward is black, and all of the players to whom he was being compared are black. This happens all the time, not only with Gary, Keith and Ron. When baseball announcers and writers compare current players with former greats, whites are compared to whites, blacks to blacks, Latinos to Latinos – almost every single time.

Some of these comparisons are legitimate — after all, some players might model themselves on whom they idolized growing up, and often times the idol is of the same race or ethnicity. But some of these comparisons are simply ludicrous.  Many years ago, the Mets or one of their opponents had a very ordinary black pitcher on the mound, and the play-by-play guy (I forget who it was) said, “He reminds me of Dwight Gooden.” Hernandez jumped in. “I wouldn’t go that far,” he snapped.

strawThere are rare occasions when players of different races and ethnicities are compared. But even then, race is brought into it. When Darryl Strawberry (left) was still a top high school propsect, Sports Illustrated annointed him “The Black Ted Williams.” Why not just “The Next Ted Williams,” which the magazine probably would have called a white prospect.

I’m not accusing anyone of racism. I’m sure people are doing this unconsciously. But it is amazing how often it happens. Listen and read closely — you’ll see what I mean.

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