CINCINNATI - Sports, by and large, are colorblind endeavors.
They're tests of toughness, talent and tenacity.
Not race, not creed nor color.
That's not to say that color hasn't mattered in sports. It took 100 years for a black person to play baseball.
Black leaders came much later.
And Cincinnati hasn't exactly been a pioneer when it comes to racial progress in sports, until recently.
Think about it.
It was January 2003 when Marvin Lewis became the ninth head coach of the the Bengals.
He'll soon start his ninth season, if there is a season.
And it was October 2007 that Dusty Baker took over the reins of the Reds. He's starting his fourth campaign.
They are the two faces, the two voices, the two leaders of the two major sports franchises in our town and they're both African-American.
No other big league city can say that.
"I think the first thing I'll say is it's probably a positive that neither one of us have thought about it that way and I think that's a positive, but secondly it shows maybe a progressiveness in thinking and I think that's good," said Lewis.
"I think the step forward has come and the ownership took a risk in you know in hiring us really. In an area that supposedly wasn't open to that," said Baker.
Did the events of 10 years ago, the troubles that spilled onto Cincinnati streets, affect the look of our sports teams?
"You're always hoping that there's progress. I mean genuine progress for everybody, not only us at the top, or so-called top as a manager, or the head coach. You just hope we can all make progress as a society and as a community," said Baker.
Coaching is only part of their function. Contributing to the community is another. The Marvin Lewis Foundation zeros in on kids, focusing on academics through the use of athletics.
"What I've tried to do is hopefully show the young African-American kids an opportunity. Something they through sports and academics to achieve whatever they want to achieve and hopefully I've made some inroads that way in encouraging these young people that way," said Lewis.
Lewis' Foundation has affected tens of thousands over the past decade.
While the Reds through their community fund renovate fields, promote baseball in the inner city and foster social interaction between urban and suburban children.
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They impressively elevated the exposure and the relevance of the Civil Rights Game, and even the ownership of Bob Castellini has taken on an investors group with a sizable number of African-Americans, which should be noted doesn't make the job of manager any easier, especially if you're black.
"Yeah, I've experienced that most of my life and most of my baseball career. You know that there are higher expectations that have to happen in a shorter period of time," Baker said.
Still, the color of the athlete isn't part of many discussions anymore.
The color of the coach is no longer much of an issue.
The bottom line as far as sports fans are concerned is winning games, claiming championships.
Regardless of your skin color, you'll be celebrated when there are victories.
You'll be blamed and you'll be roasted when there are setbacks.
"That's how it is and that's how it is and that's what we'll do and that's how I'll perform," said Baker.
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