The Words Donít Match the Pictures:
by Steve Sailer
This was the introductory chapter to a book I proposed writing in 1996 on race and sports. But I fell sick and by the time I recovered, I had learned that Jon Entine was quite far along with his book on race and sports, Taboo. So, I gave up my book proposal and helped Jon out some with his book. (Taboo turned out well, so that was the right decision.)
Gentlemen, letís face it: youíre probably going to devote somewhere between 10,000 and 100,000 hours out of your life to sports: to playing sports, talking sports, reading sports, thinking sports, and mostly just sitting around watching sports.
If you give only 20 minutes a day (and, of course, 30 on weekends) to sports, thatís still a solid year out of your threescore and 10. But say youíre a fairly normal sports-addled individual devoting four or five hours on Saturdays and Sundays and two hours on workdays to sports. (Thatís not counting the playoffs, when you get serious.) Thatís 1,000 hours per year. Over your average American male lifespan, youíll end up giving seven to nine years to the lure of athletics. Believe me, thatís a lot more time than youíll devote to the care of your children, or the care of your immortal soul, or your duties to your country, or your education, or your Relationship, or just plain sex, or even eating. Only sleep and, maybe, work will consume more of your life.
So, what have you gotten for this extravagant expenditure of time? (The women in your life may have asked you this already.) There are of course the obvious aerobic benefits of sports: e.g., climbing in and out of your golf cart, searching under the cushions for your channel changer, etcetera etcetera.
What Iíd like to propose is a surprisingly novel answer.
Beyond all those other undoubtedly wonderful reasons, youíve actually
learned from sports a remarkable amount of raw data about human nature.
You exposed yourself to a huge number of facts
about how people excel and how they fail
about how they best compete against each other and how
they best cooperate together
about how blacks differ from whites, and how whites differ
from Asians, and about all the ways that everybody is really the same
and about how people of all races can all get along
and about what masculinity is and isnít.
Your body of sports knowledge is enormously relevant to
the most controversial social issues of the 1990ís, all those bitter
questions revolving around race and sex and age, discrimination and
quotas, gender gaps and gays in the military.
This book points out those widespread patterns in human
nature that anybody who wants to think in a hard-headed manner about
whatís best for society must
take into account. This book might (or might not) make you a better
citizen. It may well help you go through life less often blindsided by
unpleasant surprises. But it will certainly make you a better debater,
especially when you are arguing with that arrogant sister-in-law of
yours. After all, youíve already memorized 10 megabytes of sports
trivia, and she hasnít ... so isnít it time for you to put it to
Why are sports
such a good source of knowledge about the human animal?
The statistics, the millions and gazillions of numbers.
Nothing else in human experience is so voluminously quantified.
In an intensely unfair world, sports offer just about the
most level playing field weíve got, the closest approach to a real
world laboratory. For example, few things symbolize poverty and
just-plain-getting-a-raw-deal-in-life as abjectly as a barefoot
Ethiopian. Yet, way back at the 1960 Olympics, a barefoot Ethiopian
named Abebe Bikila astonished the world by running away from his
wealthier, more privileged rivals to win the marathon. Since then, East
African men, whether from decently-ruled countries like Kenya or from
hell-holes like Ethiopia and Burundi, have increasingly dominated long
distance running, showing us new feats that we hadnít known human
beings were capable of.
But, then, if there is so much of pressing importance to
be learned from athletics, why hasnít anybody before attempted to do
this systematically? Good question. I think there may be three answers:
First, thereís been a seldom challenged assumption that
sports are just fun and games, with no connection to the serious
business of Real Life. For example, a common topic for journalists in
this decade has been the miserable relations between blacks and whites
on Americaís more elite college campuses. As has been repeatedly
noted, the only integrated lunch tables at many colleges belong to the
varsity jocks. The pundits then typically plunge into deepthink
explorations of the cause: Is it white racism? Black nationalism? And
what are the cures: More affirmative action? Or less? Likewise, baffled
college presidents hire expensive consultants to come onto campus and
lecture them on diversity sensitivity. Oddly enough, after noting that
the blacks and whites on the basketball team get along pretty well at
lunch, almost none of those brilliant writers and pricey consultants has
continued on to ask the natural next question: what are the differences
between the jocks and the rest of the student body? And college
administrators never seem to think to ask their own football and
basketball coaches -- who happen to be their own highest paid, most
publicized employees -- how they get black and white students to strive
Second, we Americans have long preferred moralism over
realism. For example, almost all discussions of homosexuals in the
mainstream media are couched as ďGays: Sinners Against God or Victims
of Society?Ē Whether depicting homosexuals as perverts in the past or
victims in the present, the press has always found it less mentally
tiring to preach whatever morality is fashionable than to try to
understand reality. In contrast, before expounding on what other people
should do and think, the realist might first try to answer some nagging
questions that donít seem to fit into either the Right or the Leftís
moralistic framework for thinking about homosexuals.
For example, when you visit a park in the trendy part of your
city on a pleasant Saturday afternoon, why do you find the lesbians
furiously competing at softball, while the gay men sunbathe, untroubled
by any urge to hit a ball with a stick? Or, in a small town with only
one bar for homosexuals, why are the lesbians shooting pool while the
gay men dance? Why has AIDS decimated male figure skaters, while leaving
pro golfers virtually untouched? Why has the percentage of lesbians on
the Ladies Professional Golf tour been estimated by a lesbian-feminist
sportswriter at 30%, while the number of gay men who are golf nuts is
practically zero? And does that having anything to do with why golfers
wear such appalling pants?
These may seem like trivial concerns, but if you ask enough
questions, and search hard enough for honest answers, certain patterns
emerge that offer surprising perspectives on a host of social, legal,
and political issues. For example, black men rule the sports like
football, basketball, and heavyweight boxing that are most demanding of
strength, power, and aggression -- in other words, the most masculine
sports. In contrast, Asian women excel at sports like figure skating,
gymnastics, and diving that emphasize grace and beauty -- the most
feminine sports. Intriguingly, this identical pattern is seen in
interracial marriage. According to the 1990 Census, black men are 2.5
times more likely to be married to whites than black women, while Asian
women are 2.5 times more likely to be married to whites than Asian men.
And the small number of black-Asian marriages are overwhelmingly black
husband-Asian wife. Asian husband-black wife couples are virtually
unknown. Why? Well, opposites attract and some types of interracial
couples tend to be more opposite than others. This would appear to offer
an important insight into why African-Americans and Asian-Americans tend
to follow radically different lifestyles.
Finally, many people in positions of power in the media
simply refuse to let certain questions about sports be aired because
they already know what the only reasonable answers are. The most
forbidden involve racial differences. For example, in the last four
Olympics all 32 finalists in the menís 100 meters, the race to decide
The Fastest Man on Earth, have been black men of West African descent.
Since people of West African origin make up roughly 8% of the worldís
population, the chance of this happening purely by luck is
0.0000000000000000000000000000000001%. As the Olympic running races have
become a more equal opportunity competition, the results have become
more segregated. Why?
Elite writers and editors
believe itís best to block average sports fans from noticing black
domination because it threatens the orthodoxy that all groups must be
equal in all ways. Itís best to keep us oblivious to the obvious. As
well-intentioned as this journalistic cover-up may be, it suffers one
flaw: it doesnít work. Fans donít have to read about black
superiority, they see it for themselves round the clock on ESPN, and
discuss it endlessly in every sports bar in America.
Sadly, barroom blather has its
limits for improving our understanding of race. And thatís the real
problem with trying to airbrush this fascinating topic out of the press.
The taboo certainly doesnít slow down those whites who merely want to
believe that since blacks are more athletic, then whites must be more
intelligent, end of story. The good news is that thereís more to the
story. The bad news is itís not getting heard.
Not only do black sports
triumphs often begin with physical advantages over other races, they
also often stem in part from what appear to be common black mental
superiorities over whites and Asians in improvisational decision-making
(e.g., think of Magic Johnson directing a fast break or Miles Davis
leading a quintet). Unfortunately, the current dogma of absolute
equality puts blacks in a no win position: any evidence of any innate
racial disparity threatens to bring down the current theory, but blacks
are not allowed to cite the abundant evidence for black superiority in
many skills. When morality conflicts with the facts, you can either
close your eyes -- for awhile -- to the facts, or you can try to find a
better, more useful morality. Later in the book Iíll suggest a new,
pragmatic, and optimistic way to reconcile ourselves to the reality of
While researching this book, I was surprised to discover
that there is an enormous genre of tomes bearing titles like Sports,
Race, and Gender. College professors write scores of these books
each years (and dozens of people buy them). These tomes judge the
reality of sports by the theories of academia and find -- youíll be
shocked, shocked to learn this
-- that sports fail to live up to the expectations of multicultural
For example, today far more African-American major league
baseball players are likely to be outfielders than catchers. This is
cited as proof of a nefarious plot by management to ďracially stackĒ
blacks. A few simple questions might occur, however, to anybody who is
not a professional social scientist:
Why would the white male power structure reserve for
itself the really fun job of crouching for hours, getting dinged by foul
tips, and flattened by baserunners?
Speaking of the ďtools of ignorance,Ē isnít it a
clichť of Little League movies like The
Bad News Bears that itís always the poor fat kid who gets stuck
Why would teams want to lose games by misusing their
Since playing the outfield is mostly running down flyballs,
and catching is mostly squatting, maybe blacks play the outfield more
because they tend to be faster?
But, thatís just not the point, now is it? We arenít
supposed to ask tough questions for which we donít already possess
prefabricated answers like Racism! Sexism! Stereotypes!
In contrast, this book uses the reality of sports to
assess the reigning theories of how the world works. (Short answer: they
donít work.) Yet, I try to avoid mere bashing of the politically
correct. (But, hey, Iím human, I canít always resist.) In truth, the
multiculturalists raise many fascinating issues that the rest of us need
to come to grips with. This does not mean, however, that the evidence
cited by the multiculturalists actually supports their dogmas. In fact,
an in-depth examination generally leads to insights 180 degrees from
their smug premises. Yet, neither will all conservatives be comfortable
with some of these new perspectives on human nature.
what about those racial
disparities by position in big league baseball? The politically correct
are likely to deplore it, and the politically incorrect to ignore it. But doing some thinking about it raises a new, more
interesting issue: Go back far enough into the bad old days and these
differences in positions played disappear. In other words, we find, once
again, that integration has lead to segregation of roles. For example,
during Jackie Robinsonís era (1947-1956), five black Brooklyn Dodgers
won the Most Valuable Player or Rookie of the Year awards. Oddly, they
each played one of the three positions least frequented by
Catcher: Roy Campanella
Pitcher: Don Newcombe, Joe Black
Utility Infielder: Jackie Robinson, Junior Gilliam
And, of course, if you go back to the Negro Leagues,
blacks were represented in all the positions in perfect proportion. When
blacks werenít allowed to play with whites, they were trained to fill
all nine positions. In todayís integrated game, they specialize in
positions where their competitive advantages in speed and power are most
valuable, and competition from whites and Mexicans is weakest.
Of course, once you recognize that in sports desegregation
often leads to racial specialization in jobs, youíll also notice it
elsewhere. For example, the radical increase in the diversity of
American society in recent decades due to integration and immigration
appears to have had the unintended consequence of nearly obliterating
the African-American shopkeeper class. Beyond that, it leads to a new
perspective on affirmative action. Are quotas necessary to prevent
resegregation? Or is specialization the key to economic progress, and
all quotas do is lure blacks into fields where they donít possess
comparative advantages over whites?
In summary, this is a serious book about serious issues. That doesnít mean it has to take itself seriously. Enjoy.
Steve Sailer (www.iSteve.com) is president of the Human Biodiversity Institute.