July 18, 2007

James Blake

James Blake: Arthur Ashe, who won the U.S. Open tennis tournament in 1968, was a representative figure of the hopeful side of the 1960s: a gentlemanly black who succeeded in a country club sport and engaged in much mild social activism, such as teaming up with a similar symbol of the nicer Sixties, Harry Belafonte, to bring pressure on apartheid South Africa.

It was a decade when black athletes were breaking through in a number of nontraditional sports, with Pete Brown and Charlie Sifford winning PGA golf tournaments and Wendell Scott winning a NASCAR race in 1963.

It was widely assumed at the time by all respectable people that Ashe was a harbinger, that men's tennis would continue to become more integrated, that black men would eventually make up 1/8th (but no more) of all professional tennis champions, but that didn't really happen. MaliVai Washington made it to the Wimbledon final in 1996, but there wasn't much follow-up.

Four decades after Ashe, the top African-American male tennis player is James Blake, who is ranked #9 in the world, and is the second best American after Andy Roddick. Blake dropped out of Harvard to play professionally, had some success, but then broke his neck a few years ago crashing into a net-post. He's made a heartwarming recovery.

As you might guess, Blake's mother is white.

African-American women have done better in tennis, but the pattern with African-American males who, unlike Blake, don't have a non-black parent seems to have become that they will either dominate a sport (basketball and football) or not play it seriously. This would have come as a shock to Civil Rights-era white liberals, but there doesn't seem to be a stable midpoint anymore where African-American men will long accept being a minority in an integrated sport.

This wasn't true in the past. For example, in golf, five different blacks won 23 PGA tournaments from 1964-1986 (an average of one per year, or a little over 2% of all tournaments), and these first couple of generations of black touring pros continued to be a small but solid presence on the Senior (Champions) Tour for years more. Since 1986, though, Tiger Woods is the only African-American to make even a splash on the PGA tour, and he's more a representative of this new mulatto elite that makes up an increasing share of African-American participation in white-dominated fields than of the general African-American community.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer


Anonymous said...

If Tig's shorty just grows into a golfer, then the embleaching will just continue. Hey, Steve - let's draft Mike Tyson. He's not busy.

Anonymous said...

Interesting point about the apparent domination or else phenomenon among black athletes.

Black participation in the highest (and lowest for that matter) echelons of golf, though, is more likely driven by the emergence of the golf cart. I'm not aware of a single black player on the PGA Tour of the pre-Tiger era that didn't get his start as a caddy (e.g. Sifford, Elder, Peete, Thorpe). Hell, there aren't even any black caddies any more.

Anonymous said...

Tennis and golf are sports where you need to start young, take lessons, have coaching, and have access to facilities. This limits the game to the upper middle class and thus to whites.

Oddly, the same can be said of cheerleading. If you look at the bios posted for the USC or Univ. of Kentucky cheerleaders, you will see that they started dance and gymnastics lessons at three have took them for all the way through school. There are few black families who would think about starting lessons at three for cheerleading, gymnastics, or tennis.

It is also much harder to spot talented golfers or tennis players than talented basketball players. The Williams sisters are unique in not only being black but being obviously more talented than the rich Eastern Europeans that make up the rest of women's tennis

Anonymous said...

If the father of the two Veni could create tennis stars out of young black kids, why couldn't somebody do the same thing with a tennis academy? That seems like a pretty direct way to create more interest in the game.

Anonymous said...

My mother is a HUGE tennis fan so I usually have a clue as to what is happening in the sport.

I know that their is one "up and coming" american star who is black. I can't remember his name, but he is from Georgia and his father is a local Sportscaster.

By his own account (he is 17 years old right now), his friends could never understand why he was playing tennis. And the only benefit they ever saw in the sport, relative to Basketball or Football, was that the tennis tournaments and camps would get him out of school fairly often.

Something else about Blake to remember is that even though he is associated with Harlem - "Harlem to Harvard" is the story they like to tell. He grew up in Fairfield, Connecticut and went to school with songwriter John Mayer. He ony took up tennis after seeing Arthur Ashe give a speech.

Anonymous said...

As is the case with Russell Porter, whom you mentioned a few days ago, James Blake looks to be quite a bit less than one-half black. I would assume that his father is himself racially mixed.

Anonymous said...

Steve- I'm missing the significance of this whole "mulatto elite" thing you keep coming back to.

The following observations are common knowledge:

Blacks pressure each other against acting white & participating in white activities.

Mulattoes feel less pressure, as (1) they often don't grow up in black communities, and (2) they are half white, and therefore less averse (or disinclined) to identifying with whites.

Black genes (on average) confer a physical superiority (along with a mental deficiency).

Having 1/2 black genes confers a physical advantage over having zero black genes, on average.

Hence, we see a lot of mulattoes in "white" activities.

Am I missing a deeper significance to this?

Anonymous said...

Female sports have a soft underbelly which is why the power of the Williams sisters could take them to the peak of the game. The Chinese recognised the same thing with swimming, which, with the aid of drugs and East German coaches, is how they managed for a time to wrest dominance of ladies swimming from the Americans and Australians.

Anonymous said...

"Am I missing a deeper significance to this?

7/18/2007 11:17 AM"

Regarding the Mulatto elite, there is the issue of whether it is good for blacks to have their most talented reproduce with white women and so take their talents out of the black gene pool.

The children of talented blacks will be likely to be successes themselves and have children with white women just like their fathers.

If you keep doing this over time, the blacks might lose more and more of the "Top Ten Percent" they have traditionally relied on to lead their communities and so black culture might get dumbed down.

Old Right

Anonymous said...

Re: the Williams sisters. I noticed this year's BBC commentary (esp when Serena was having trouble with cramps) seemed heavily laden with innuendo about "diet" and suchlike.

One to file with Barry Bonds, as dominating black athletes?

Anonymous said...

I think a lot of the commentary here is simply ludicrous. And Steve you're missing the point. The important things about the Williams Sisters and Tiger is not their race or being Mulatto but their class.

Why are middle class whites dominant in swimming, tennis, golf, and women's soccer, softball, and other non-money sports? Simple. It's economics.

You're a talented black athlete who is also poor. Your family doesn't have much money, certainly not for all those lessons. And club fees (swimming, tennis, golf requires usually non-school club fees). You want to make money out of HS as soon as possible.

Best is Basketball because the money is excellent, the physical demands less than football (Sir Charles said one game was enough for him ... he didn't like getting hit). Even better, you could have gone right from HS and made millions like Kobe and LeBron. Football is second best. Both sports don't require lots of money you don't have to pay for coaching and private leagues and equipment and so on.

What you're not going to do is spend a considerable amount of your career in the hopes that maybe maybe you win a gold medal in the Olympics and cash in for a short time (Swimmers struggle for years in near-poverty supported by their middle class families). This also applies to coaching btw. Notably only those with middle class support structures (Smith, Edwards, Dungy etc) which is mostly wives working while their husbands "pay their dues" working in near poverty for years. Pete Carroll was rooming with the assistants while with Vermeil at UCLA in near-poverty conditions. He went through that for years.

It's not the genetics but the class.

I can see why Blacks (being mostly inner-city poor) have eschewed positions requiring up-front monetary investments they don't have for some questionable returns. Baseball's declines in black participation may be nothing more than the function of blacks not having the money for extra coaching in hitting and pitching required for success now at even the HS level. While Caribbean Hispanics have access to cheaper/affordable youth coaching and no other major sports.

If I am right, then this view (economics over class) should predict blacks being relatively absent from sports and positions requiring big bucks for early coaching and deferred income; and their presence in areas where there's not much required for early coaching and money comes sooner.

Anonymous said...

On another note, one more reason why Tiger Woods is the best golfer in the world. On performance enhancing drugs on the PGA tour:

"If anything, probably out here it would be testing positive for maybe being hung over a little bit,"

Can someone explain to me why Tiger is the only player who looks like an athlete whenever I watch a golf tournament?

Phil Mickelson doesn't even seem like he's in good shape. And I don't mean for a world class athlete, just in general. I think he's said that he has a family and more important things to do. How can you be the second best player in the world and not be in amazing shape? I don't care if it's not the most important determinant in golf. If you're a professional, shouldn't you max out your ability?

Seriously, this baffles me.

Anonymous said...

Anon -- because golf is a game of skill. John Kruk was smoking in the dugout once, and a fan yelled at him for not setting a good example, closing with "you're an athlete!"

Kruk's response: "Lady I'm a baseball player not an athlete."

When skill dominates over athletic performance, expect guys to be out of shape.

Anonymous said...

Notice the underlying assumption of most of the posts.

Blacks are "super-athelets" who should dominate a sport all out of porportion to their numbers.

Baloney. Blacks have one genetic advantage. Jumping ability and speed. Neither are the crucial element in tennis.

The most important thing is hand-eye coordination. Next is quickness and lastly speed.

Jumping ability is irrelvant. And you only have to be fast "enough".

In many other sports, being faster, or being one step ahead means the difference between success and failure - not tennis.

The Williams sisters have succeded because they are "men" playing against women. Vanessa weighs almost 175 lbs, and is clearly stronger than amost every women on tour.

They win with power.

Anonymous said...

Blacks aren't necessarily super-athletes but on average, up until about 1940 or so, not only were American blacks descendents of people who lived on physical stamina and outrunning (more than outwitting) lions and such, but they were selected by white slave owners for muscle and then had to live on their own by physical activity. However, the modern welfare state is breeding some of that athleticism out of them.

With mulattoes you have hybrid vigor and also the black physical makeup without the disadvantages of black lack of IQ in many instances.

There are blacks that can compete with the average white in intelligence without white ancestry: but very few. The inner cities of America are loaded with Blacks of 60-80 IQ that are simply never going to be an asset. There are also a good number of 85-95 IQ blacks that could do useful work but which are displaced by mestizos for other reasons.

There is simply no easy answer, unless you consider separation an easy matter. Open eugenics-stopping all the lowest IQ people of all races from breeding and promoting the breedng of the more intelligent-is a start.

Anonymous said...

Golf is not very physical. You swing a club at a stationary object that you set on a tee. You walk 10,000 yards through pleasant, manicured country over the course of a long afternoon. This is physical?

No, golf is a head game. A maddening, frustrating, enraging, impossible, g damn head game.

Damn golf.

My point is...oh, hell, I've forgotten it.

michael farris said...

"The Williams sisters ... Vanessa weighs almost 175 lbs, and is clearly stronger than amost every women on tour."

I'd be more prone to believe this argument if you gave any indication of actually knowing the player in question's name. Especially since said name is simultaneously simple, memorable and very distinctive.

Anonymous said...


You're post is a perfect example as why its almost impossible to have an intelligent dicussion on the internet.

Want to address my point? Of course not! Too bad, becasue Steve has one of most thoughtful, intelligent blogs on the net.

But you just want to point out I've gotten the name wrong, even though everyone knows who I'm talking about.

Ho hum.

Anonymous said...

Indeed, I just assumed right off you meant Venus. Didnt even notice the error until MF pointed it out.

Im sure Venus would be flattered by the comparison.

michael farris said...

anonymouses, go tell it to Stewart Sailer.

carydimples said...

Enough with these racist comments about the IQ of blacks being lower than whites. As a white student who grew up in a mixed race middle-class suburb, I have found that academic achievement is not linked to race but to the value of education that a student may or may not possess. At my school there was a white population of about 60%, but we had many different races represented at the school including quite a few black exchange students from Africa and they excelled in both academics AND athletics such as basketball and football. They did better in school than almost all of the American kids white or black. In fact most of the foreign students academically out shined us American students. Why? They were raised in families that had a stronger value for education than the average American family. The truth is, their are several non-white poorer countries that do better academically and probably produce much higher IQ scores than the white dominated US. To these countries, education is of utter importance and doing well is the only way for a better future in these nations. You can't get by on luck in these countries like you can in America. For example, have you ever watched the annual spelling bee on ESPN. I would say that 2/3 of those kids are non-white and from another country. Many of them are blacks from the islands and Africa. To say that whites genetically have a higher IQ than blacks is inaccurate, racist, and unfair given the fact that blacks have been historically barred from attending higher institutions of learning and achieving the same quality of education as whites. How can white Americans deny blacks and other races the same access to education for so many centuries, then turn around and say that they are less intelligent because they are not excelling in school at the rates that whites are when white Americans have never been told that they could not attend college or even read due to their race? Many of the most intelligent, influential and insightful people in America have been black such as Oprah Winfrey, Martin Luther King, and W.E.D. Dubois. It's funny because many of these people were born into poverty and managed through hard work, wit, and exceptional intelligence to make a name for themselves and create legacies that are known worldwide. At the same token, there are plenty of stupid white people (Paris Hilton, Britney Spears) who are very wealthy. There is no master intelligent race. There are stupid people of every color and there are plenty of third world nations that produce exceptionally smart people. In fact, I bet that if you were to compare the GPA of an African exchange student to that of a white American, there is a good chance that the African's would be higher than the white student's simply because that student comes from a culture that has trained him or her to study hard and value education. Intelligence is not limited to color;it has not passed over the black race and white people definitely do not have a market on it.