People in the sporting world in 1950 were just as racist as people in other parts of society--but people in the sporting world got over it a hell of a lot faster, because we cared more about winning than we did about discriminating. Because the sporting world was always ahead of the rest of the world in breaking racial barriers, black kids came to perceive sports as being the pathway out of poverty. For this we are now harshly and routinely criticized--as if it was our fault that the rest of society hasn't kept up. Some jackass Ph.D ex-athlete pops up on my TV two or three times a year claiming that a young black kid has a better chance of being hit by lightning than of becoming a millionaire athlete. This is nonsense as well as being a rational hash.Look, it's not our fault that the rest of the world hasn't kept up. It's not our fault that there are still barriers to black kids becoming doctors and lawyers and airline pilots. Black kids regard the athletic world as a pathway out of poverty because it is. The sporting world should be praised and honored for that. Instead, we are more often criticized because the pathway is so narrow.Which, I agree, is a real problem. I would never encourage my children to be athletes--first because my children are not athletes and second because there are so many people pushing to get to the top in sports that 100 people are crushed for each one who breaks through. This is unfortunate. We are very good at producing athletes, and maybe we are too good at producing athletes. Sometimes the cost is too high. We should do more to develop the next Shakespeare and less to develop the next Justin Verlander.
Age discrimination affects us all. Who cares about youth? James Hamblin turns to his colleague Jeffrey Goldberg for advice.