Are Blacks More Error Prone?
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Earlier: Black Cops Screw Up More

An interesting question is whether blacks tend to be more error-prone than whites, all else being equal.

Sports can provide some data, although I don’t see anything conclusive. There are a handful of positions in American sports where there is little upside for talent and a lot of downside for messing up. The clearest example is the NFL’s obscure position of long snapper, centers who come in on fourth down to snap the ball upside-down to punters 15 yards back and placekick holders about 8 yards back. There’s no way to be the G.O.A.T. at long snapping, but there is always a way to be the goat of the game: snap it over the target’s head.

Virtually all NFL long snappers are white.

Punters have two duties: one, obviously, is punting the ball to the other team on fourth down. Some punters are definitely better than others at punting, but there’s also diminishing marginal returns on how far a punt can go due to air drag. So a big part of the job of punting is to not screw up: don’t drop the long snap, don’t shank the punt, etc. The other duty of the punter is to be the holder on placekicks. (They used to use second-string quarterbacks as placekick holders, but they eventually figured out it makes more sense to have the long snapper, punter, and placekicker go off and practice by themselves, which the second string-quarterback can’t do.) This is like being the long snapper in that the only time you’ll be noticed is when you screw up.

Placekicking used to a pretty heroic job, but the skill level has improved so much that now it’s mostly a don’t screw-up job. Once again, there are severe diminishing returns on how far a field goal can be kicked so there aren’t real superstar kickers.

In these three jobs, virtually all NFL players are white (or other non-blacks). How much of this is that whites are better at executing at mostly downside jobs? Hard to say, but it’s interesting.

It could be that those three NFL positions are completely dominated by whites because football-loving whites are more realistic about their potential, or perhaps practicing is easier in the suburbs. (E.g,, you need a bunch of footballs to practice with and a place to practice where nobody will steal them from you before you go shag them.)

There are other mostly downside tasks in American sports, such as playing first base in baseball. First basemen aren’t expected to be spectacular defensive players, they are just expected to virtually never ever drop a throw. Most of them are very good at this. I haven’t noticed much of a racial pattern in who is bad at dropping throws at first. Of course, most major league players are exceptionally good at defense compared to anybody you ever played with. E.g., 6’4″ 250-pound slugger Jim Thome played shortstop in college.

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