Baseball for Republicans

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The newest SportsLetter ponders whether Seabiscuit is the best-selling sports book of all time, and doubts that David Beckham is the world's most popular athlete (Ronaldo anyone?). There's also an interview with Todd Boyd, the USC professor of critical studies and author of the forthcoming Young, Black, Rich and Famous: The Rise of the NBA, the Hip Hop Invasion, and the Transformation of American Culture.

SportsLetter: The number of African-Americans playing baseball has plummeted — to about 10 percent in the Majors. In the book, you write that "Baseball, as America's national pastime, is just that, past time." Why has basketball replaced it as the sport of choice among African-American youth?

Boyd: Baseball is a sport that was conceived — and reached its zenith — before television was around. There was a time when watching this slow, tedious game unfold was popular, but people don't live that way now. Today, the game's not suited for the way people live their lives. The other thing is, baseball is very Republican. It's so invested in tradition to the point where tradition hinders the game from growing.

Basketball is more contemporary, more suited to the aspirations of contemporary African-American youth. An individual player can make a huge difference for his team and elevate himself in society as a whole. Look at Larry Bird: Boston had nobody before he came along. Michael Jordan by himself made the Bulls a playoff team.

SportsLetter is the from the Amateur Athletic Foundation of Los Angeles. Michael Hiltzik's "Golden State" column in the L.A. Times today also looks at the arrival of the National LaCrosse League. It's model is, unfortunately, the struggling NHL.


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