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Fixing problems may require a little Magic

August 01, 2012|By Clark Jones | For RedEye

As a proud and loyal South Side Cubs fan, I'm familiar with adversity.

As an African-American, my devotion to the team Waveland and Addison surprises people because Wrigleyville is not the most "colorful" neighborhood in Chicago, so how could my fandom arise?

Simple, the exposure of seeing the Cubs every day (thanks to my dad and WGN) was all I needed to make up my mind that it was the team for me. These players became my heroes because not only were they good, but  they looked like me. Shawon Dunston, Lee Smith and Andre "The Hawk" Dawson and his thunderous, hacksaw swing were the epitome of cool.

Even Ryne Sandberg—with whom I admittedly don't share a resemblance—influenced me to wear No. 23 as a Little League second baseman because I wanted to emulate his smooth and easygoing swing I saw every day.

Seeing is believing.

Which brings us to Ervin "Magic" Johnson: The super-wealthy, charming activist/former NBA superstar who this year became part owner of theL.A. Dodgers.

It doesn't take Christopher Columbus to discover baseball is not the most popular of sports in black neighborhoods. One could blame the cost of equipment or lack of usable diamonds, but the biggest reason is kids in these communities don't see enough of themselves on the major league fields and feel disconnected.

Ken Griffey Jr.is a baseball god, but sadly even his popularity was overcast by the steroid era. And you could probably name on one hand all the African-American superstars currently in the league.

What Magic Johnson is doing with regular appearances on "SportsCenter" is showing kids that not only is baseball a cool sport to play, but that owning a team one day is possible.

This move won't end gang violence or stop senseless murders in communities, but a step like this, with him running the same team that gave Jackie Robinson a chance, may have more inner city kids dusting off cleats, swinging for the fences and, hopefully, believing in Magic.

Clark Jones is a RedEye special contributor.

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