I like sports because you can occasionally see a really good scrap — sure, some folks win by being faster or bigger, but there are also those underdogs for whom tactical innovation and hustle are their way to victory. I like the epic showdown between a hitter and a pitcher. And I like it because I thought it was basically fair. Of course I was a fool.
This is exactly what Southern Methodist University’s researchers did when they examined more than 3.5 million pitches from 2004 to 2008. Their findings say as much about the enduring relationship between sports and bigotry as they do about the synaptic nature of racism in all of American society.
First and foremost, SMU found that home-plate umpires call disproportionately more strikes for pitchers in their same ethnic group. Because most home-plate umpires are white, this has been a big form of racial privilege for white pitchers, who researchers show are, on average, getting disproportionately more of the benefit of the doubt on close calls.