Just in case you thought this whole Redskins name controversy was new, this is from the Lincoln (Nebraska) Journal Star back in January – January 2003.
“Readers of the sports pages may notice a change in the newspaper’s style beginning today: We have stopped using the nickname ‘Redskins’ to refer to the professional football team of the nation’s capital. When we’re reporting on that team, we’ll call it Washington.”
Native Americans aren’t the only ones who think some team names should be changed. Lots of other groups would probably like to see some changes. The Angels, the Saints, the Wizards and the Devils might offend Christians and atheists alike; the Pistons, the Steelers and the Oilers may rankle the environmentalists; the Celtics and the Vikings are too eurocentric; the Hawks, the Diamondbacks and the Devil Rays don’t mean much to city kids. Most of today’s youngsters couldn’t tell the difference between a hawk and a tufted titmouse if they were on the school lunch menu.
And some names are just plain silly. The Knickerbockers? Really? That’s what you want to call yourselves?
Wouldn’t it be better if sports teams were named after things we do now, professions we have now, not things we did hundreds of years ago? We need teams like the San Diego Dudes and the New York Gossips. The Detroit Forklift Operators or the Seattle Fishmongers. When the Washington Lobbyists sign a new pitcher to a three-year, $27 million contract, you’d never hear a real lobbyist complain that athletes are getting paid too much.
When the California Cosmetic Surgeons take on the Pittsburgh Solid Waste Managers at some future Super Bowl, who would be able to contain their excitement? Who would be able to say they don’t care who wins? People who used to tune in just for the commercials and the half-time show would finally watch for the game.
If the Phoenix Retirees beat the Florida Pacemakers in a seven-game World Series, wouldn’t that be a shocker?
Forget names like the Red Sox and the White Sox. Who cares about their socks? Rename them the Boston MBAs and the Chicago Media Planners. The Raiders? The Buccaneers? I don’t think so. Let’s go with the Oakland Entrepreneurs and the Tampa Telemarketers. The Giants? How about the San Francisco Tech Billionaires?
Think how much more fun the sports pages would be with headlines that read, “Bank Tellers trash Psychologists 27-3!” or “Cincinnati Chiropractors whip Miami Mall-Walkers in 19-18 nailbiter.”
College team names need work, too. If you think anyone on the Nebraska football team has ever husked corn or that the Fightin’ Irish are really Irish, then the last time you were on a college campus, you were wearing a raccoon coat. The alums like to pretend that everything’s the way it was when they went to school, but they’ve got to snap out of it. The parents of college-age kids might get a much-needed wake-up call if they attended a homecoming game between the Binge Drinkers and the Sexual Predators.
The way teenagers follow trends, why should high school teams have the same name each year? Maybe last year’s Bulldogs should be this year’s Vampires. This year the Eastside Werewolves could take on the Centerville Kardashians, but next year they might be calling themselves the Scary Tattoos and the Saggy Pants. If sports is a metaphor for life, let’s at least make it one that everyone can understand.
There are people, of course, who think the Native Americans are being too sensitive about teams named the Indians, the Chiefs and the Redskins. Either way, why on Earth would you name a team from Washington, D.C. the Redskins instead of the Gridlocks or the Gasbags? It’s not like they couldn’t think of something else. There used to be a horrible professional team of perennial losers in Washington called the Senators.
Oh, wait, I forgot. There still is.
Contact Jim Mullen at jimmullenbooks.com.