Racism and Adversity in Professional Baseball

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Baseball is known as America’s favorite pastime. Incorporating baseball to a sociological perspective, you can begin to understand how the game is viewed to function in the society in which it is played, and how society impacts the game. Northern American sports has suffered immensely from the division, labels, and stereotypes that have been encrypted on specific individuals of a certain race or ethnicity.

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Relating to the fact that adversity and racism are at a direct conflict within our society, 42 represents the pride and courage of a discriminated African American baseball player, who stood as a sign for racial progression in America. Both sport and race are sociologically problematic because they appear to be crucial aspects of human life that precedes our socialization.

42 was about an African American man, Jackie Robinson, who gets signed to play professional baseball under the Dodgers. The film takes place in the generation in which America was largely segregated and racism plagued the entire country. This generation was known to be during the 40s and 50s. Although this was a factor, Jackie never doubted his ability and strength, and he kept his head held high while pursuing his passion for baseball without physically fighting against racism. Jackie Robinson’s strength against all racism related obstacles showed America how wrong they were in their ways. It shines a light on the national conflict of racial integration of American professional baseball. After World War II, African Americans would come home to racial segregation, inequality, discrimination, and a time where their life would be more difficult than ever in their communities. Jackie Robinson, like many other African American athletes at the time, were deprived opportunities that contributed to the equity issue in the sports world and was racially discriminated. Robinson pursued a passion of his regardless of the hatred that he got in return. He represented courage and integrity to the defeat of adversarial stereotypes on black individuals.

At the start of the movie, Jackie braves the hostility of racial prejudice on and off the field of the unspoken color line, from player and fan alike. Branch Rickey, a major league team executive with a bold idea once states, a black a man in white baseball, can you imagine the reaction (Movie 42). This quote represents the whole idea behind 42 and the reactions are simply the acceptance and disproval of those being influenced by Jackie’s position in society. This hostility proves a major challenge not just for Jackie anymore, but his family. The main plot of 42 is not one single idea. From time to time, people try to treat the across nation debate about race as something with no importance, less about hatred and violence, and more about people simply not being careful with the words or pictures they use. Those who see racism in different ways are accused of practicing political correctness, which has become a pejorative term in society instead of a reminder that people should want to act correctly. The history of racism in America is full of ugliness and horror. This ugliness was practiced openly, even in the American temple that we call the ballpark. This movie shows that, not so long ago, racism was commonplace and often accepted. It took a few men to stand up to a racial coach, to stand up for Jackie, and to stand up against the racial like words that forced people to consider both the nature and cost of hate. Jackie Robinson was more eager to make a point about individual determination and the way individuals and societies can change. Robinson was a sign of racial progress in American for his braveness in the face of bitter abuse.

The idea that baseball is known as America’s favorite pastime allows us to crucially investigate the nationalism of the sport. Baseball was used as a symbol of American values in World War II by promoting patriotism (Fitts,1994, p.76). Northern American sports have always been a part of a division based on the color of one’s skin and this sheds an intense impact on our society. Baseball sociology is a way of viewing how the game functions in the society in which it is played, and how society impacts the game. Racism and adversity in baseball relate to sports sociology through the investigation of racial discrimination on issues of equity and opportunity to measure the degree of meritocracy in sports. Sociologists have used cultural studies, ideology in sports media text, and ethnographic methods to understand how racial identity is constructed in sports and its intersections with class, nation, gender, and sexuality. Sociological issues are throughout the entire movie, one focusing on the gender aspect. Gender roles were seen in the movie when Jackie was constantly taunted by other coaches through unfair racist remarks. According to 42, the coach justified his action with insensitivity and not wanting to treat him too soft. This could be seen as reinforcing masculinity as men are seen as masculine, and showing weakness to a black individual at the time was wrong.

Society puts this social idea in our heads of what is masculine or feminine, and what is acceptable or not. Sociologists have studied the rise and then decline of African American players in the sports world. They have analyzed racial salary differences and the longevity of a career and documented how broadcasting and management positions are primarily white. A large sociological belief shows that African Americans are minimized through placement in decentralized positions. Relating to the movie 42, Jackie Robinson was the only black player on the Dodgers baseball team and represented racial division on sports teams, and this national accomplishment promoted more African Americans to pursue what they love no matter what racial harms were to come out of it. Out of respect for their teammates, baseball players that come from all over the world, especially the Dominican Republic, undertake the learning of the lyrics for the national anthem because Americans hold great value for the nation’s symbols of the land of the free. From massive new data available on pitchers, we’ve learned that umpires are more likely to widen the strike zone for white pitchers rather than minorities (Gamson,1964, p.70).

This not only represents the racial inequality that still continues to live in the baseball world today but also, the stigmas that other stakeholders put on African Americans. In the end, the jobs of umpires are being expressed in the wrong way by treating African Americans unfairly, with disproportionate equality based on the color of one’s skin in what is supposed to be a fair game. Stadiums are prime spots to engage in the study of cathedrals of consumption. At games, fans become a spectacle by cheering on teams, singing along to music, and engaging in provided audience games (Kahn,1991, p.402). We become accustomed to what we support and largely engage in within our social groups in society. Continuing with social problems in professional baseball, the video includes spectator violence, cheating by players and officials, and greed of owners and players. Throughout the movie, spectator violence played a huge part in racial discrimination. Fans would yell out the n-word and speak with the highest level of cruelty to show that they aren’t in favor of African Americans playing on the same team as white people. Families in the crowd would bring their kids and these young children would start yelling the n-word or things like you don’t belong here because they copy what their parents do. Cheating was a big social problem in the sports world because of being a different race from everyone else. Officials would call Jackie out at first base after clearly being safe, just because of his skin color. These multifaceted issues influenced both society and sport as a whole.

Sociological issues that are still widely known but are not shown in the movie 42 includes gambling, crime by athletes, drug enhancement, and the media. Gambling has remained an issue of concern to the MLB for many years. According to Fitts, gamblers’ interest in baseball pre-dated the Civil War, and more bets were placed on MLB games than any other collective sport in the nation (Fitts,1994, p.79). Crime by athletes is more prone to happen because they seem to have an easier chance to get away with things. Athletes hold a higher position in society and this fact allows them to have the ability to commit a crime without the worry of being punished. Such crimes could include taking drugs to enhance your performance or to create a bulkier look in the sport, just to gain a greater advantage than someone not taking steroids. A sociological issue that has a huge impact on the sports world is the media. Media in baseball changes fans views on some topics and puts labels on athletes. In the end, media changes the beauty of the actual game. Sports viewership varies by gender. Men’s sports that are typically viewed live or on television include football, basketball, hockey, baseball, and while the women’s sports that area covered include gymnastics, skiing, and diving. People would say sexism plays a role in the idea that men’s sports are covered more often than women’s sports both in print and on television.

After watching 42, I have learned the importance of equality and leadership. The importance of equality and leadership are crucial factors in this movie. People cannot change without making a sacrifice. The sacrifice isn’t always tangible, but rather a change to how a person views themselves, or the world. In the movie 42, as with most change that happens in the world, different groups display different attitudes; some welcome him and treat him with equal fairness. For those who struggle, it is because Robinson’s arrival challenges their sense of belonging and understanding of their own personal identity. Having learned and being influenced by these two factors, I can relate them to the class, textbook, and articles that I engage with. Like class discussions and textbook or online resources, the importance of equality and leadership is in almost every unit we learn about. Equality is what shapes us as a society and leadership is what encourages us to stand up for what we believe in. As an example, in class, we have discussed many positions of inequality that are incorporated in the sports world between men versus women, black versus white, or sports versus media.

In the face of opposition, change requires personal courage and an ability to live with discomfort. In the movie 42, there was a very powerful scene between a teammate and Jackie. Robinson receives a folder full of death threats against himself and says, I just want to play ball coach. When teammate Pee Wee turns up at the next game, he makes a show by putting his arm around Robinson’s shoulders to show his family and friends in the crowd what he stands for. This sacrifice represented the fight for equality and the importance behind the movie. One day, we will no longer see the world with divided lenses, but we will participate solely for the love of the game with a shared spirit of powerful group morale.

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