Did Sports Lead the Way?

For some people, a sporting event is mere entertainment. It might have some appeal and aesthetic value, but in general it contains no higher meaning. For others like myself, sport transcends the play on the field and provides symbolic moments that embody entire movements. When the Seahawks went to the Super Bowl and lost to the evil Pittsburgh Steelers, that moment symbolized a move forward for the Northwest as whole. However, I must now apologize for the entire sporting scene of the Pacific Northwest. The Mariners became the first team to spend 100 million dollars and lose 100 games, the Sonics were so bad they moved to Oklahoma, and my Seahawks failed to live up to my preseason prediction of going to the Super Bowl, and I’m left cheering for draft picks. Those events have personal meanings, but often sports can provide meaning to an entire nation.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock you now know that Barack Obama will become the 44th President of the United States of America. Furthermore, he will become the first non-white male president, and the first African-American president. Many people have said that this is the culmination of a 143 year struggle following the end of the Civil War. Interviewers have found individuals whose parents or grandparents were a part of the Civil Rights movements in the 1950’s and 1960’s who cannot believe that they are seeing the day when an African-American enters the White House.

There is another part of this story. It is well documented the Barack Obama loves to play basketball. On Election Day, he and his friends took some time to play some ball and blow off some steam. Obama showed a deep understanding of sport, as evidenced by his call for a national playoff in college football when interviewed by Chris Burman last Monday night during Monday night football. Wait, you didn’t realize that one of the last televised interviews done by the candidates was during a football game? Welcome to the United States. Sport has a meaning for our nation.

One of the story lines that few writers have touched is the influence that sports have had on the Civil Rights movement. The deep question that should be asked is, would we have a black president if we had never had black athletes?

History has provided several pivotal moments for blacks in athletics. Jack Johnson quite possibly could have been the greatest boxer who ever lived. Unfortunately, he only held the title for a few short years because of the color of his skin. He began boxing at a young age, and quickly rose to the top of the negro boxing leagues. Soon, it became clear that he should fight the title holder Jack Dempsey. Dempsey refused to fight Johnson, and retired and gave the title to another white man. Soon Johnson fought this imposter title holder and became the first African American to hoist a major title.

Jesse Owens provided another historic moment for African Americans at the Munich games. Hitler trotted out his Aryan Olympians destined to win more medals than any other nation. However, Hitler did not count on Jesse Owens and the other black American athletes to come in and sweep up an unprecedented number of medals.

The list goes on in achievements. These include Jackie Robinson becoming the first African American player in the major leagues, the first all black basketball team winning a college title, the first African American coaches, and recently Tony Dungy becoming the fist African American to win a Super Bowl as a coach.

Did these individuals pave the way for Obama? In all likely hood there is little to no direct influence. At the end of the day these individuals are entertainers. They may receive a good amount of money and fame, but they still just entertain the masses. What is key about the Obama victory is that they majority of the nation looked past the color of a man’s skin and looked to his qualities. In sports, this is a necessity. I guess I’m just happy that we are starting to do this in an election for our nation’s leader as well.

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