"I'm the only one who will say this for publication. The physiologists agree with me on the side, but they won't go into print.
"I think the difference in muscle fibers is the reason the black athlete is a better sprinter. There'll be people who'll say, 'Well, what about Kip Keino?' He's an exception. [As noted before, he is also of a different physiological heritage than the West African blacks who came to America.]
"The black athlete is more adapted to speed, and that accounts for his superiority in sports. Football, baseball, boxing, basketball, sprinting, high jumping, broad jumping—these involve speed.
"I'm not saying the black man is inferior or superior. I'm just saying that he is better adapted for speed and power. And I'm not saying every black man. It's just that the average is higher in the blacks."
The big reason that there are no outstanding black swimmers, Counsilman says, is primarily socioeconomic. "One, he has not had the opportunity to be a good swimmer. Two, there is just a lack of money. There are not enough pools in their areas. Swimming can cost quite a bit of money. And what good does it do them to be swimmers? There are no professional swimmers. They can't elevate themselves socially or economically in swimming. In other sports there is the possibility of big contracts. In track there is the chance for a lot of publicity. Swimming, as yet, does not get that kind of valuable publicity.
"A third factor in the socioeconomic area is that there has never been a great black leader in swimming, a winner of a national title. Swimming needs a Jackie Robinson figure. The door is open, but they just haven't gone in. We need that first national or Olympic black champion. I would certainly like the first one who wins a national title to swim for Indiana."
Counsilman does have a black swimmer, John Tunstall, a junior and free-styler, but he had never swum competitively until last year. "Unfortunately," the coach says, "it's going to be difficult to help him. Swimmers have to start early—10, 11, 12. It's interesting to note that if you went to a swimming meet five years ago you didn't see any black swimmers. To discover a great swimmer like Mark Spitz you've got to have 100,000 trying. The blacks don't have enough numbers yet."
Of all the physical and psychological theories about the American black's excellence in sport, none has proved more controversial than one of the least discussed: that slavery weeded out the weak. Without doubt, the slaves were brought across the Atlantic under the most inhuman conditions. Lee Evans and Calvin Hill did not exaggerate the hardships. Only the strongest survived the passage, the "seasoning" process which followed and the rigors of labor in the New World, though most had been strong to begin with.
It has been estimated that 5% of the slaves captured in Africa died on the march to the coast or in the barracoons they were cooped up in until a slave ship arrived to trade for them. Another 13% died during the passage and some 30% died during seasoning—the three-to-four-year period during which a slave was broken to work in the fields or elsewhere. Thus for every two condemned to slavery, only one lived to labor in the New World. The majority were warriors captured from other tribes, therefore physically superior, but some were sold by their own chiefs for violation of one taboo or another. The traders, naturally, dickered for the fittest.
Even after slavery ended, a black child in America had very little to which he could aspire. Eventually sports opened a door, and now, as Elvin Hayes' former coach, Melvin Rogers, said in The Black Athlete—A Shameful Story (SI, July 1, 1968 et al.), "A white kid tries to become President of the United States...a black kid tries to become Willie Mays."