by J.B. Cash
13 September 2004
What ever happened to ethnic pandering? For several generations professional sports pandered to various ethnic groups to increase attendance. In the days when major league baseball was the most popular sport in America, many teams openly pandered to local ethnic groups by adding players to their teams for the sole reason of providing a "role model" for those ethnic groups within their potential fan base.
Most baseball players in the early days of the game were German, Irish, and English/Scottish. This reflected the make-up of the American population which was 90% white. Those Nordic, Celtic, and Anglo-Saxons were the best athletes available as they were physically larger than their Mediterranean and Slovak brothers. Without steroids and weight rooms it was necessary to be big and strong as a matter of birth and genes.
America was not always the melting pot commonly portrayed in history texts. First and second generation immigrants were fiercely loyal to their old countryman. This "Balkanizing" of those early European arrivals has led to the situation today where white people cannot openly support the white race but are allowed to be "proud to be Irish" or "Italian and proud". Other races do not have to be so divided. Everyone from the entire huge continent of Africa is just "black", all of the billions of people of China, Korea, Japan, et al. are just "Asian", and everyone from the Rio Grande on down is "hispanic".
For the owners of those long ago baseball teams the loyalty of each of the European groups presented a challenge as each group wanted "heroes" of their own. The New York Yankees realized early on that there was a large Italian fan base that wanted some of their own to cheer on. So they recruited and signed Tony Lazzarri and Frank Crosetti to appeal to that segment. Others such as Joe Dimaggio, Phil Rizzuto, and Yogi Berra followed. Even today New York has some good Italian players like Mike Piazza and Jason Giambi. The Boston Red Sox also have a large Italian-American following and have featured Italian players prominently. Joe's brother Dom, Rico Petrocelli, Tony Conigliaro, and Frank Malzone among others. Recently Boston fans were excited by Nomar Garciaparra, thinking he might be of Italian descent. But he is hispanic and was recently traded.
Polish players were very popular draws among America's large Polish fan base. Great players like Stan Musial, Ted Kluszewski and Carl Yastrzemski helped Polish people feel pride in their ethnic group. Even Jewish people desired athletic heroes. Hank Greenburg was a hero to thousands of Jewish boys eager for someone to cheer for. The Dodgers, perhaps baseball's best team at pandering to ethnic groups, presented a potential Jewish superstar to the people of Brooklyn, a wild but blazing fast left-hander named Sandy Koufax. Unfortunately Koufax did not bloom until the Dodgers had left for Los Angeles, and then the Dodgers were pandering to a new ethnic group: hispanics.
Of course the Dodgers pulled off the mother of all pandering by signing and playing Jackie Robinson. We hear today how wonderful a gesture this was by Branch Rickey but all it was about was getting black people to go to Dodgers games instead of Negro League games. In fact the Dodgers and Giants killed off the Negro leagues by signing the best black players and outcompeting them in the one place they made lots of money - New York. Blacks got to play major league ball, but whites took all the money from the black entrepreneurs that ran the Negro Leagues. Something you won't hear from Bud Selig next time he lionizes Jackie Robinson.
So all this previous pandering leads us to today and my question "What happened to all the ethnic pandering?" I ask this because now the National Football League has taken over from baseball as the national pastime and unlike the old Major Leagues the NFL doesn't care a whit about appealing to ethnic groups. Now the group that is underrepresented in the NFL is players of European descent: German, Irish, English, Italian, Polish, etc. Other than the guys that kick, some quarterbacks, and some offensive lineman, whites are almost nowhere to be found.
So why doesn't the NFL play a few token whites at running back and cornerback? Wouldn't this appeal to a larger fan base? Right now the NFL while profitable, still has franchises with poor fan turnout. Why not appeal to those white fans that are disappointed that there aren't more white players to cheer for. Youngsters are turning away from the NFL to NASCAR, hockey, extreme sports and pro-wrestling. What do those sports have in common? Guess.
It seems in fact that the NFL doesn't want any more white players. The only important position dominated by white players is the QB position. And the NFL is working hard to "segregate" that position. How about some segregation in the defensive backfield? One hates to label a problem a conspiracy but some situations seem hard to explain otherwise.
Take a case in particular. White running back Brock Forsey. Forsey was a back-up running back for the Chicago Bears as a rookie last year. When the starter, Anthony Thomas, went down with a sudden injury, Forsey started in his place. This in itself is unusual. Whites are almost never allowed to run the football in the NFL. But Forsey played well, running for over 70 yards and had a 17-yard touchdown run, practically all the offense the Bears managed in a win against the Lions. A few games later he subbed again. This time he starred, running for over 100 yards. It seemed Forsey was a rising star with a future. Certainly if a black player played well at a traditionally white position the media would call for him to play more. But the media did not in this case (which is no surprise), however the fans did.
I'm no expert on Chicago Bear fans, I know a few though and they do resemble the "DA BEARS" crowd from Saturday Night Live fame. I do know they are not generally big fans of multiculturalism and affirmative action. So naturally they loved Forsey. The press called it "Forseymania."
Is it a big surprise, white fans pulling for a white guy? I'm sure it increased fan interest which usually means more money for the team. You would think a lousy Bears team would ride this wave out. Try to milk it for all its worth. That's what most businesses do, capitalize on opportunity. So what did the Bears do? This year they cut Forsey from the team! Just let him go. Said to him: "go away." We don't want your popularity anymore. They didn't even keep him as a fifth-string running back. Football teams typically over-stock their rosters. They keep about five running backs and really only the first one or two ever play. If the first stringer goes down then the team scrambles like mad to sign some retread running back (always black) that was let go by another team, usually because he is lousy, sometimes because he is a criminal liability, but they always go after a guy that has run before.
When the number one guy goes down the team tries to get someone that has run up some good numbers before, like Forsey. But the Bears wouldn't even reserve a low roster spot for a young guy who has played well, is not making a lot of money, and as a bonus has a huge fan base.
I think this is odd. I think it is intentional. I think it is part of the caste system that prohibits white players from playing certain positions. I guess you would call that a conspiracy.
Mr. Cash writes for Castefootball.