New York Yankees outfielder Curtis Granderson is looking around at the fans in the stands, and he doesn’t like what he sees.
In an interview with the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, the ever-observant and introspective Granderson takes note of the lack of black fans supporting his sport of choice, baseball.
Count the number of African-American fans,” Granderson says.
"At first, it starts off as a joke (with teammates)," Granderson said. "As the game moves on, you'll get to 10, or maybe 15. Depends on where you are, too. Places like Chicago or New York, other places it's easy. (In Texas), it's hard. So after a while it becomes, 'Told you so.' "
Back in April, USA Today reported that the total percentage of black players on opening day dipped from 10 percent at the start of last year to 8.5 percent this year, the lowest such figure since 2007. When you take into account that more than 80 percent of NBA players are African-American and more than 60 percent of NFL players are African-American, baseball’s diversity -- and in turn, the amount of black fans it draws -- becomes particularly fascinating.
It’s often been noted that pricey baseball equipment and limited participation opportunities is what prevents black youths from getting involved in baseball, a point which Granderson considered.
"I know it's expensive, but I've gone to places and there are fields," Granderson said. "You can easily get equipment donated. I don't know how you fight this one. I've heard a lot of kids just say, 'I don't want to.' That's not a black/white thing, that's a kid thing. So they play on their computer, and they say, 'I want to just stay right where I am. I'm not getting into any trouble so you can't force me.
"If you poll a lot of African-American guys that are between 20 and 40 years old (and ask) what NBA player did you watch and want to be, they're all going to say '(Michael) Jordan.' He was the best player and he looked like us. (In) baseball, you have a group 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."
While Granderson raises a fair and widely-accepted point, African-Americans don’t appear to be the only ones shying away from the game. Recent MLB All-Star game ratings (during the offseason of all the other major sports, no less) indicate that there is a dwindling overall interest in the sport, among people of all races and religions.
Which begs the question: is the MLB running low on black baseball fans or, any baseball fans?