Recently, an article for the Star-Telegram (Dallas/Fort Worth) featured a discussion with Yankees centerfielder Curtis Granderson. The outfielder talked about a small game he and some teammates play where they try to count the number of African-American fans sitting in the stands at ballparks around Major League Baseball. While it may have been done jokingly at first, he noted that as it went on, the game posed a serious question: where are the black fans?
Granderson, who is having a stellar season in his second season with the Yanks, has been lauded for multiple efforts to bring blacks back to the game on and off the field. However, he does attribute some of the lack of dark faces in the crowd to the lack of that one guy to emulate. When talking about who people wanted to be, he told the paper that “you have a group of players that are playing right now who could say Ken Griffey Jr., but he’s no longer in the game, and there hasn’t been anybody to replace him.”
The truth is, however, that he’s right. There aren’t many black fans at ballparks these days, but honestly, there aren’t numerous fans anywhere, regardless of skin color. To list the number of reasons will be exhausting, yet, there are only two that truly stand out.
For starters, the economy is still in awful shape. Over the last three years, fans have scaled back on attending live games and opted for the television instead. Despite teams providing ticket deals, what keeps fans away are the concessions, parking, merchandise and more often than not, the presence of highly drunk fools at games. Yet, that bothers anyone.
What is also overlooked is something quite simple; there’s a pure lack of interest. For years, media and baseball insiders have pointed to the popularity of football and basketball as the culprits of the dearth of black players in the game and fans in the seats. They see the money players are being paid and the increased prominence in communities across the land. However, that’s too convenient as baseball players earn more money and for fans, there are more opportunities to attend a baseball game than any other sport. Besides, no sport has a monopoly on young, emerging talents; even one woven into to black history as baseball is.
There are far more sports and entertainment interests that take up the head space of black sports fans, especially younger ones. They might be huge fans of on-the-clock sports like football and basketball, but there are swaths of black kids that spend their time skateboarding or dancing as opposed to shagging fly balls. Going to a game has little to no appeal to them.
Granderson is certainly on to something, though this can be couched into the discussion of the lack of black players in the game itself. However, within the complex web of reasons for the void on the field and in the seats, there’s still a rather simple explanation. They rather do something else.
By Jason Clinkscales