Stepping Up to the Plate

Seventh game of the World Series. Bottom of the ninth. The home team is down by one run and there are two outs. But -- the bases are loaded. The manager calls back the next batter (he's in a terrible hitting slump) and looks purposefully into the dugout for a pinch hitter. Standing there, eager to get into the game, are three players: one white, one black, one brown.

The big question: Which player should the manager send up to the plate -- the white guy, the black guy, or the brown guy?

Ridiculous, right? There isn't a fan in baseball -- or anyone else in the world, for that matter -- who would say that the manager should, or even would, make his decision based on skin color. The manager wants to win the game, so his decision would be based solely on performance: Whose hitting percentage is better against the pitcher on the mound? Who swings the bat best under intense pressure? Who has what it takes to be the hero?

Sports are a great equalizer. If you were to take baseball cards going back fifty years, turn them face-down, and cover up the names on the flipsides, would anyone be able to guess the color of the person's skin based solely on the statistics?

Perhaps that's one reason why people enjoy watching sporting events so much. The outcome (except for the occasional blown call by an ump) is based entirely on performance. Everyone on a particular team pulls for everyone else on that particular team. And the folks in the stands of the home team cheer for the entire team to win, not just one particular color on the team.

Then we come to the game of "racial politics." In this particular game, skin color can be used quite effectively to trump merit.

In a recent "series" a couple of Novembers back, one player had quite a long list of accomplishments and service (some of it physically sacrificial) to his team. His performance, when it came to being a team player, for getting big hits when needed made for very impressive stats. The other player...well, his record was a little light, even sub-par. In fact, a closer examination of the other player's stats would have revealed a man sorely lacking in the essentials needed to get the big hit.

And ever since that November when the wrong player was sent to the plate, the American team has been paying the price by losing game after game after game.

It would have been interesting to see which player Dr. Martin Luther King would have backed in 2008 had he still been in the game. Those who say he would have automatically sent the black guy up to the plate would show misguided thinking in who Dr. King was and what he truly stood for.  His decisions were carefully thought through, measured, and ultimately deep-rooted in faith.

King had progressed beyond race, beyond the politics of skin color. He was always about lifting up "content of character." That was the way he knew to best raise up the winning percentage of an entire nation.

So now, America has gotten what she voted for: a man who made history based on the color of his skin. And maybe in 2012, this same person will be voted out of office based on the content of his character.

But until then, come this November, when baseball's World Series is taking its final swings, our country can at least begin to show signs of better managerial decisions.

Let's hope it does. After all, it's the bottom of the ninth for team America, and we're dangerously close to losing the game. We can't chance leaving better hitters in the dugout.

Albin Sadar is an author, television writer, and voter living in New York City.
Seventh game of the World Series. Bottom of the ninth. The home team is down by one run and there are two outs. But -- the bases are loaded. The manager calls back the next batter (he's in a terrible hitting slump) and looks purposefully into the dugout for a pinch hitter. Standing there, eager to get into the game, are three players: one white, one black, one brown.

The big question: Which player should the manager send up to the plate -- the white guy, the black guy, or the brown guy?

Ridiculous, right? There isn't a fan in baseball -- or anyone else in the world, for that matter -- who would say that the manager should, or even would, make his decision based on skin color. The manager wants to win the game, so his decision would be based solely on performance: Whose hitting percentage is better against the pitcher on the mound? Who swings the bat best under intense pressure? Who has what it takes to be the hero?

Sports are a great equalizer. If you were to take baseball cards going back fifty years, turn them face-down, and cover up the names on the flipsides, would anyone be able to guess the color of the person's skin based solely on the statistics?

Perhaps that's one reason why people enjoy watching sporting events so much. The outcome (except for the occasional blown call by an ump) is based entirely on performance. Everyone on a particular team pulls for everyone else on that particular team. And the folks in the stands of the home team cheer for the entire team to win, not just one particular color on the team.

Then we come to the game of "racial politics." In this particular game, skin color can be used quite effectively to trump merit.

In a recent "series" a couple of Novembers back, one player had quite a long list of accomplishments and service (some of it physically sacrificial) to his team. His performance, when it came to being a team player, for getting big hits when needed made for very impressive stats. The other player...well, his record was a little light, even sub-par. In fact, a closer examination of the other player's stats would have revealed a man sorely lacking in the essentials needed to get the big hit.

And ever since that November when the wrong player was sent to the plate, the American team has been paying the price by losing game after game after game.

It would have been interesting to see which player Dr. Martin Luther King would have backed in 2008 had he still been in the game. Those who say he would have automatically sent the black guy up to the plate would show misguided thinking in who Dr. King was and what he truly stood for.  His decisions were carefully thought through, measured, and ultimately deep-rooted in faith.

King had progressed beyond race, beyond the politics of skin color. He was always about lifting up "content of character." That was the way he knew to best raise up the winning percentage of an entire nation.

So now, America has gotten what she voted for: a man who made history based on the color of his skin. And maybe in 2012, this same person will be voted out of office based on the content of his character.

But until then, come this November, when baseball's World Series is taking its final swings, our country can at least begin to show signs of better managerial decisions.

Let's hope it does. After all, it's the bottom of the ninth for team America, and we're dangerously close to losing the game. We can't chance leaving better hitters in the dugout.

Albin Sadar is an author, television writer, and voter living in New York City.