Sports Rap: Looking Back At Four Decades

By Ralph Cooper
Updated: September 18, 2007

HOUSTON — Sitting in front of a computer putting this piece together, the thoughts of what a blessing it has been to cover sports the past 40 years!

40 years ago, Bob Gibson was still pitching and Frank Robinson was batting. One has to wonder how much the pair would be paid if they were playing today when you consider the big bucks given to Alex Rodriquez and Roger Clemens.

Muhammad Ali was in exile. Joe Frazier was making a name for himself and George Foreman was an Olympic champion. All still live today and Foreman is making millions selling cooking grills.

Black caddies were working unlike their situation today (the lack of work). Charley Sifford, Lee Elder and several other Black golfers were battling racism on and off the golf courses. Now Tiger Woods is taking the game to another level breaking long standing records.

When young people talk of great basketball players today they mention Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Lebron James, Dwayne Wade, Shaquille O’Neal, and that’s great.

But hey, they didn’t see guys in their prime of life like Oscar Robertson, Wilt Chamberlain, Bill Russell, Elvin Hayes, Walt Frazier, and many more. The young has to be sit on the knees of their elders and given the history.

Long before ESPN, the internet, and other various outlets of media, Black faces in the press box or the locker room or sidelines could be counted in most cases on your fingers.

Black reporters like the late Sam Skinner, Brad Pye, the late Sam Lacy, George “Bud” Johnson, Bill Nunn , and several others covered Blacks in sports faithfully.

The novelty of a Black face in sports reporting has changed. Blacks can be spotted reporting on ESPN. The black hosts on sports talk show, radio and television are more evident than ever before. Blacks are calling athletic events and offering advice as experts these days.

Back in the day, those were solely jobs for white men. There of course is still room for improvement. Reports are only four Blacks act as sports editors for the many newspapers in this nation. That is a disgrace when you consider the number of newspapers and Blacks in sports.

The other amazing thing to me is not only the fact that racism in the media still exists today, but how many of the new “NEGROES” in the sports media understand the price paid by those before them to attempt to change the makeup of sports reporting.

That is another story for another day. This is 2007!

What a blessing to see two bronze faces coaching in the Super Bowl, Tony Dungy and Lovie Smith. What a blessing to see a Black as general manager of a NFL team in Houston! Rick Smith! What a blessing to see all of the Black quarterbacks in the NFL.

What a blessing to see all of the Black assistant coaches in the NFL! Remembering when the press boxes and coaching staffs were lily white is great, but one has to wonder what is the future of Blacks in the sports arena.

40 years ago, who would have thought the hair of Stephen A. Smith and James Brown, nationally known sports reporters, would be doing what they are doing with their hair still jet black.

But again that’s progress when you consider that Walt Frazier is marketing “a get it right hair product”.

Let me shutdown the computer until another day and count the gray hairs.

It’s a blessing!