Bradbury Daily: “The Big Black and White Game”

It’s hard for me to form an opinion on this story. There’s an important thread left hanging, which I can’t address without spoiling anything. There’s the problem of racism, which is an artifact of the time period in which it was written but is hard for me to parse out as a modern reader. And there’s the fact that there doesn’t really seem to be a solid plot in place, though it certainly pretends as though there is.

The story is about an annual baseball game between the black and white residents of… honestly I don’t know if it’s all the people in the town or if it’s some sort of resort, or what. It’s not made clear. It seems like it’s after segregation was abolished but still during a time of heavy stigma about blacks and whites intermingling in anything more than a professional way — as in, a white person buying something or accepting some sort of service from a black person. As a reader with modern sensibilities it is difficult to see this society without judgement, the same way I had trouble with the sexism back in “The Golden Kite, the Silver Wind.”

As far as sports writing goes the game is described quite vividly, including the way the audience members acted. As far as the people go, they were written very realistically.

I did find it interesting that the black men were depicted as far superior to the white men in every way. Regardless of how in shape they were the black men played better and moved better and were just all around better athletes and gentlemen than the white men. It’s an interesting twist, because while there is the stereotype of black men being better at sports, in stories like this you usually see the white men depicted as superior. Here they’re shown as slovenly and, even, uncivilized.

In fact, I’m wondering if maybe that was Bradbury’s point.

When it comes down to it, it’s this reversal that really sticks out, very clearly. It certainly seems possible that Bradbury intended this story to serve as a reflection of society; in depicting and treating black people as uncivilized and unskilled, white people show that they are actually the uncivilized ones, that they are insecure in their abilities and need to degrade others to reassure themselves. I could be reading too much into this, of course; it’s like the old joke about literature classes, where the student bullshits something about what the blue curtains mean, and the teacher says it means something entirely different, and the author really just meant that the curtains were blue, because, hey, blue is a pretty color.

But I wouldn’t be surprised if I’m right. Let’s face it, Bradbury did at times use his work to illuminate social ills, the most obvious and famous being Fahrenheit 451, of course.

All in all, while I did have issue with the racism, this is a pretty decent story, if for nothing else than for the surprisingly good sports writing. Who would have guessed that someone known for his science fiction would be able to write such a compelling baseball game?

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