But my penny-pinching, yet astutely observant friend Scotty Pulse recently raised a silent inequality seldom addressed in regards to racial divide. As Scotty so clumsily points out, there’s another word that’s offensive in that it’s rarely used to describe the white athlete. A sin of omission rather than commission, that “g-word” is: “Greatest.”
It’s a glaring fact that our African-American brothers have a disproportionate claim on greatness at their particular sports. Mohammad Ali will always be known as “The Greatest.” He was forced out of boxing for three years, changed his religion, changed his name … and he was still The Greatest.
Oh, we’ve had our “white hopes.” I loved Jerry Quarry, but when he or Gerry Cooney found themselves on the ropes after a few rounds, Ali, Frazier and George Foreman reduced them to disoriented bobble-heads. They fought gamely, but alas, soon found themselves on the undercard of some Polish contender bout.
Baseball has its bona fide legends like Mickey Mantle, Don Drysdale and Lou Gehrig, but it took “the Iron Man” dying a horrible death to become a household name. In the tearjerker “Brian’s Song,” Brian Piccolo was the mediocre player on his death bed, while his best friend and legendary running back Gale Sayers remained heroically by his side.
It could be said the black man gains immortality with swift running, adhesive-like catching and devastating punching. The white man gains global acclaim with gasping, coughing, and eventually passing away. They get trophies and championship belts. We get touching eulogies and diseases named after us. Where’s the equality?
While I must agree with Scotty’s hypothesis, I draw the line when reparations are mentioned. I mean, history is just that — history, and none of my relatives were ever replaced in a lineup by a black athlete. We’ve come a long way, baby; thus, I seek no compensation.
The playing field was leveled, albeit briefly, with “affirmative traction” back in the ’80s. If you recall, white batters were given four strikes and boxers forbidden from punching white fighters in the face. That experiment was short-lived, though. When we still had lower batting averages and were knocked out at a greater rate than our black counterparts, the rule changes were reversed.
The Anglo-Saxon heyday began fading in ’47 when Jackie Robinson — his biography was the first book I ever voluntarily read, and loved — broke baseball’s color barrier. Until then, most white standouts batted around .275 with five home runs and three stolen bases a year. Without the courageous Robinson, Cooperstown might have been named, “The Hall of Sameness.”
Babe Ruth was incredible, but let’s face it: he was a fat binge drinker with little girl legs that ran like a penguin on steroids. Can you imagine how he’d have run if they actually had steroids then? Picture those cartoon speedsters whose legs took on the appearance of a blurred, spinning saw blade.
The Babe had the luxury of playing against other white guys, most of whom probably would have been roofers in today’s market. White athletes have dominated the bowling and golf circuits, but it took Tiger Wood’s white wife smashing the two-timer’s windshield to get his hot breath off the necks of Palmer’s and Nicklaus’ legacies.
Then there’s your field goal kickers; a bunch of pasty-faced trolls. When it comes to working 15 minutes a year, they have no equal. Relief pitchers are no slouches either, but at least they have to pitch up to two innings in four days to ruin the starting pitcher’s near-perfect majority of the game.
Blacks and whites were created impartially by a colorblind, all-loving God. He granted us all our individual gifts and unique skill sets, so we white men have to quit crying about not excelling in the macho sports, and frequent those bowling lanes until our total dominance is irreversible.
In and around the Bowling Hall of Fame in Arlington, Texas, we have every right to hold that giant, foam finger high while shouting “We’re number one!” Around those parts, Hammerin’ Hank Aaron wasn’t worthy of carrying Strikin’ Dick Weber’s jockstrap.