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September 9th, 2005

Go, Unnamed Team!

SLIGHTLY OFF THE MARK
I am sick and tired of being politically correct.
The latest piece of moronic garbage is the attempt by the National Collegiate Athletic Association to ban certain mascots from their sports teams. They’re all worried that people will be offended by names that might seem racially, ethnically, or nationally abusive.
Oh, a hundred year old team name might suddenly be unbearably offensive. Well, boo-hoo.
Look, I’m well aware that the idea of offensiveness changes over the years. Maybe, someday, we’ll all feel as uncomfortable when someone is described as “black” as we do now if the word “negro” is used. Negro used to be a perfectly acceptable term, but that doesn’t mean I’ll use it now.
But trying to change something to be politically correct doesn’t necessarily make sense. Who came up with “African-American”? That’s offensive. If I was a person whose family has been on this continent for hundreds of years, I’d be greatly offended if somebody suggested I was so recently off the immigration boat that my nationalization needed to be hyphenated.
Come to think of it, my family has been on this continent for hundreds of years. No one would consider calling me an Irish-American. If you want to describe me, I’m a white male, dark hair, sexy and debonair. (Or, you could tell the truth.) If I have to physically describe a black person, I’ll call them black. It’s just a color, and not offensive unless someone means it to be. African-American? That’s offensive. If you’re an American, you’re an American, pal.
Now, I have little interest in sports, except for cheerleaders. Oh, wait – do you consider that comment offensive? Sure you could. I should objectify an athlete just because she wears a short skirt? That could be very offensive, unless you realize it’s not meant as a serious insult and it’s just a joke, dummy.
I feel very strongly about this.
Mostly this NCAA junk is aimed at Native American mascots (we used to call them Indians) such as Warriors, Chiefs, and – Heaven forbid – Redskins. Let me point out that I am one eighth Native American. One eighth of me is not offended. Why? Because those names are not meant to be offensive. If some drunk Irishman in a bar starts calling me a redskin to start a fight, yes, that’s offensive.
Hey, wait a minute. Drunk Irishman? Isn’t that offensive? Yes, in that case it is, because it insinuates the guy is drunk because he’s an Irishman. What about Notre Dame’s Fighting Irish mascot? Doesn’t that icon offend? No, it doesn’t, because it’s not insinuating anything.
I know it’s not always as simplistic as that, but in the universe of mascots it’s exactly that simplistic. Waving a tomahawk at a football game isn’t aimed at insulting Native Americans – it’s just a way of firing up the team at a sporting event, or maybe getting the snack vender’s attention. It’s all in the intention, you see.
Where will it end? Did hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans Saints because the name Saints insulted the Heavenly Host? Are Anaheim and their Angels in line for the next big earthquake? Are the cheese heads of Wisconsin upsetting the world’s dairy farmers? Are the Hornets poking fun at bee keepers? What about the Indianapolis Colts, or the Chicago Cubs? Won’t the ASPCA have something to say about that?
What about the White Sox? Don’t they shame every single cotton pickin’ sock maker, darn it? How many people in America are twins, and how do they feel about Minnesota? Do kids have nightmares after seeing there are still Pirates in the world? Don’t the Warriors threaten our fledgling peace movement? Do NASA workers cringe whenever the Rockets flame out? Should you have to live with a team named Jazz in your city if you prefer rock and roll? What about the Cleveland Browns? Shouldn’t they be the Grays?
And the Tampa Bay Devil Rays … don’t even go there.
Why don’t we just name all our teams the Blands? New York Blands 1, Chicago Blands 2, San Francisco Blands 3 … Or would that insult the world’s numerologists?
People, there is not one name in America that might not be insulting to someone – someone who allows themselves to be insulted. It’s in the intention and the meaning, not the name. Let me tell you Buddy Hackett’s story about the effect of words, with some changes for language:
Hackett was a very dirty mouthed comedian, and he encountered a female in the audience who he tried to get – unsuccessfully – to curse. Finally he told her that the word “hand” was a much more offensive word than the word “butt” (only “butt” wasn’t the term he used.)
Say you’re walking down the street one day, and a guy comes up to you. He has a gun in his hand. It’s pointed at you, and his finger is tightening on the trigger. This is a bad thing, right? In this case, “hand” is a very bad word.
Okay. Same scenario, same guy walking down the street, only this time the gun is in his butt.
For you, not nearly as bad.

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