Since I’m on a Scoop Jackson is one overly dramatic dude kick, I figured I’d dig into my scrap heap of posts that I drafted but never posted for whatever reason and find another Scoop gem. Just in case you think I’m lazy or something because I don’t post much, there’s over 75,000 posts in that file.
Since this was from a Scoop Jackson column from 2006, we’ll call it the “classic edition”. See we here at GGAS aren’t very creative and we’re fairly lazy, so from time to time the 7 person research team will just dig up an old column that we vented about in our executive board room over a game of RBI baseball but didn’t blog about because we didn’t know about this whole “internet” thing (who did, in 2006?) Scoop has a unique style, but that’s okay. But sometimes the drama is a bit thick.
In this piece from 2006, (insider only) Scoop writes a story about racism in journalism. Not racist journalists writing about racist stuff, but instead the lack of black journalists and editors. I have no problem with the general premise of his story, as Scoop is black and works in the business and knows a lot more about the subjects than I do. I think, overall, his point is a good one, and it’s an interesting perspective. My points are around the drama described as a result of what he says to groups of high school/college students.
There's a story I tell whenever I go to a high school or college to speak.
I ask everyone to tell me how many black professional basketball players they know. Depending on the size of the room, 90 percent of the time, the students say they can name most of the players in the NBA.
This makes sense, as when I was in high school I watched so much NBA that I could name, from memory, about a half dozen dunks thrown down by total scrubs, like a couple of nasty reverses that token white guy David Wood threw down in garbage time, or that near half court alley-oop half windmill that the Pacers’ Kenny Williams caught and threw down in New Jersey. I could see a few students being like that (dorks), in the room (depending on the size). Most of them would struggle to name “most of the players”, but whatever, I’m down, Scoop.
There are roughly 350 players in the League, about 85 percent of them black. We usually round to about 300 -- therefore, the students claim to know for a fact that there are 300 professional basketball players.
Okay, that’s weird math, but I think I’m with you. It seems odd that they do this quick math and then say the product of it is “fact”. I mean, it looks like you’re saying that 50 of the players in the league aren’t professional players or something. I think you meant to say “black” professional players, but this is a long piece and you don’t have an editor. According to this, the number was 75% which amounts to 330 players. So pretty close. Last year the number was 73%. Insignificant difference. Go on Scoop.
Then I ask them to name 300 black sportswriters.
The room always gets eerily quiet. Beyond mortuary.
Michael Wilbon's name comes up, Stephen A.'s, "that black man with the beard who's on 'SportsReporters' a lot" gets mentioned (for the record, William C. Rhoden), and, if they're seriously official with their sports journalist knowledge, Phil Taylor and Ralph Wiley will get nods.
Past that, more silence.
I’m not arguing Scoop’s general point, which means I’m going to pick on little things and semantics and just be a jerk-ass. Here’s my quick problem with this line of questioning, which led to such dramatic results.
Scoop asked, “Can you name 300 black sportswriters?” I’ll remove a word. “Can you name 300 sportswriters?” I bet you 2 American Dollars that they couldn’t. Can you name 100 sportswriters? Can you, the reader of this awesome blog, name 50 sportswriters? Maybe, right, but not quickly? Do you see where this is going? I’m not saying his general point is wrong. But the drama described around that line of questioning is pretty silly, when you think of the question.
Then I make a point.
"Do you know why you can't name 300 black sportswriters?" I say to them. "Because 300 of us don't exist."
The room becomes less quiet. Mumbling. Private conversations break out.
I seriously doubt a room full of teenagers would react to that question with “stunned silence”. I bet it’s more like, “how the hell would I know 300 black sportswriters - even if they did exist? I can’t name 300 sportswriters + book authors + columnists + cartoonists – white or black, living or dead….you crazy man. Now tell us some stories about NBA players and make it long so I don’t have to go back to class.”
Then I make the point: "Which means you all have a better chance to make it to the NBA than you do doing what I do for a living."
I wish I wrote well enough to describe the looks on their faces. Every time.
My guess is: Way way beyond mortuary?
Actually I think that look could be described as, "why are you lying to us?" I’ve seen a bunch of different statistics on this, but the odds of a high school basketball player (on the varsity team) making the NBA are a few thousand to 1 and I’ve even seen 5 digits quoted there (10,000 or greater). Whatever it is, I doubt that the odds of a good black high school journalism student (good enough to make a ‘journalism team’, if one existed) who wants to write about sports becoming a sportswriter are higher than that. A better way of saying this would have been, “there are more black NBA players than black sportswriters”. Unless he’s talking to a room of athletic males who play basketball very well and project to be easily over 6 feet, what he’s saying just can't be correct.
Again, semantics, but the drama he describes these semantic differences creating is what gets me. His overall point is valid, and the column is much longer than the intro that I've put up there (and I haven't read it in a year, but I think the rest of it was fine). Not trying to pick on his message, just the drama - and the fact that his conclusion doesn't seem correct.