25 years after Jimmy “The Greek” Synder blathered about how black athletes were bred to be better athletes, inexplicably conjecturing that “the slave owner would breed his big black to his big woman so that he could have a big black kid,” we are still wondering what makes blacks seemingly superior in sports Americans care about, football, baseball, and basketball.

Now instead of listening to “The Greek,” NPR asked David Epstein — a Sports Illustrated senior writer who wrote a book called The Sports Gene, which relied on science to explain the role of genetics in sports.

Here is what Epstein had to say about race and sports:

“Most of our ancestry as humans has occurred in Africa, so people have been in Africa for far longer than they’ve been outside of Africa. So genes for hundreds of thousands of years were evolving, changing inside of Africa, and then just a tiny group of people — maybe no more than 150 people, or a small group — left East Africa en route to populating the rest of the world. At each stop, their genes changed to accommodate their environments and sometimes just by random chance. … But what this means is that most of the genetic differences that have been built up in our history are all still in Africa. All of us outside of Africa are just tiny subsets of a tiny subset that left Africa. So if you got rid of everyone in the world outside of Africa you would lose a little, but you would preserve most of the genetic variation for all of humanity.

“… [For] a particular trait, you might find the most diversity within an African population, as opposed to comparing someone in an African population and someone in a European population. So you might find the fastest 10 runners and the slowest 10 runners. But nobody is looking for the slowest 10 runners.”

It looks like there is no sports gene (how surprising … not!), but this seems to be a book full of interesting facts pertaining to modern athletes.

around the web


  1. This is very interesting and I’m going to look into this one.

Leave a Reply