Friday, June 20, 2014

Of American Football and the Team Once Called the Washington Redskins

American football is one of those games that people seem to hate or love. There are very few of us who are in the middle of the spectrum. If the game is a good one, i'll watch. If it's boring or terribly lopsided, i lose interest in it pretty quickly.

Himself is an American football fanatic. He knows scads of facts about the game in general, and can tell you about a great many of the players. It's how i came to learn so much about the game.

Teams have changed names over the years, chiefly because they changed locations. Many fans were outraged when the Oakland Raiders moved to L.A. then back to Oakland, and now they just go by the name, "the Raiders," since it seemed ludicrous to have the team in L.A. still refer to itself as "Oakland." And yet, the NY Giants and Jets whose home field is now in New Jersey (i still think of it as "The Meadowlands") do NOT call themselves the Jersey Giants or Jersey Jets, and i think, each team would think it anathema to do so. They are NY teams, dammit, no matter that their home pitch has moved across state lines.

Then there were the Cleveland Browns who left town, but had to leave the name behind. This was in 1996, and also known as "The Move," when the team formerly called the Cleveland Browns, left town and moved east to Baltimore. The Baltimore Colts, who'd been there since i could remember, and as ignorant of the game as i was as a kid, knew that Johnny Unitas was synonymous with the Baltimore Colts--yes, those Baltimore Colts had skipped town and went west to Indianapolis. It just didn't have the same ring, Indianapolis Colts. Baltimore Colts effortlessly rolled off the tongue, but Indianapolis Colts felt like a real workout to say. A few sports commentators called them wrong city a couple times.

So, the now nameless team who had arrived in Baltimore became known as the Baltimore Ravens. Some sportscasters will refer to that Indianapolis team as "the Colts," much the way baseball's Brooklyn Dodger fans couldn't fathom/stomach the Dodgers having another hometown in front of their name.

I always thought it was neat that in St. Louis, both the baseball and football teams were known as the Cardinals. Then St. Louis's football team moved to Arizona, and are now called the "Arizona Cardinals."

I don't care if teams want to change their names when they move, and in some cases, such was when the Cards moved to Arizona, it's an idea that seems to make sense. When i think of Arizona, i don't think of cardinals, but of roadrunners. Shrug.

I can't remember a time when the Washington Redskins were anything but the Washington Redskins. I do remember cheering for them in 1971, wanting the "over the hill gang" to win it. I never thought about the name or felt it deregatory, but then again, i'm pretty white, even for a Caucasian. There've been murmurings for awhile how the name was racist or derogatory, and it should be changed. I thought of when Himself and i went out west for a visit, and passed by some schools that had large Native American populations, and the teams were known as the Redskins. We were there during high school football playoffs one year, and i saw a number of kids wearing school colors or holding signs saying "Redskins pride" as they looked forward to the game. Some kids were white, some Native American. All of them excited to see their school's team having a chance to win in the playoff game. Not one sad face in the bunch.

Now, this was in the dark ages of the early 1990's, before political correctness had gotten the strangling threshold it seems to have had for awhile now, and i might be showing my age just a little, but i really don't see what all the fuss with the name is about.

Still, i listened to those who said how deplorable the name was. Someone on facebook had provided a link to an article that showed the reason the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) cancelled the federal trademark of the Washington Redskins based on the grounds that the team name is disparaging to Native Americans.

I did happen to read a few of the comments made below the article. One woman was saying that for those of us who didn't find it offensive, maybe we'd find it all right if we called an all-black team the [city name] Niggers or a mostly Asian team the [city name] Chinks. I refrained from replying to her comment, but thought that her logic was skewed. I don't think there are any Native Americans currently on Washington's roster, and what happens if the racial or ethnic balance changes? Change the name based on that? Oh, and in case she hadn't gotten the memo, the "n word" as it's now known, is disparaging only when it comes out of a white person's mouth. Darker skinned people have a free pass to use this word as much as they like, in its entirety, with no backlash, although most darker skinned people i know who are my age, near it, or older are as infuriated about that stupidity as i am. It's like saying the word "fuck" is only a bad word when green-eyed people say it, otherwise it's perfectly acceptable. I had that logic when i was four years old, only i said the word "shit" when i couldn't pull off my boots. My mother asked, "What did you say?" and i told her. She told me that was a bad word to say. I told her, "But i didn't say it TO anyone, Mommy, i said it because i couldn't get my boots off." She explained that the word was a bad word, no matter when it was used.

Um, okay, let's move on from the comments and digression to the article itself. Show me the proof how this is disparaging. And i don't say that in a taunting voice, but really and truly, i am open to increasing my awareness. And they showed footage from the 1960's through the 1990's. Use of the what was then known as the Indian headdress in the marching band. Same headdress worn by the cheerleaders. Nothing from the 21st century, i noticed. And quite frankly, if you watched footage from the 1960's in general, you'd see that it was a very white world then on tv. White makes right and all that. Since that time, the cheerleaders don't wear headresses, and i can't remember the last time i saw a marching band at a professional football game. So, yes, it may look disparaging to those of us who live in this decade of the 21st century, but--and here again i may be just too damn white--i haven't seen anything in recent memory that would be considered disparaging.

What i find far more appalling is the undue hype these players receive, their outlandish salaries, and quite frankly, in ANY job i ever held, had i been found guilty of killing someone, i'd have lost my job. Then there's the blind eye turned to domestic violence, although that has been mentioned once or twice in the last decade. I suppose it's simply what the market will bear; if the money flow suddenly stopped because people were outaged by team names or the actions of some of its players, then i think we'd see changes occurring PDQ.

For now, the name stays, but i do see a time in the near future where this will be the all-consuming news story so we can hyperfocus on this instead of real problems. The old create a diversion to keep them from seeing and wanting to address the real stuff once again. Instead of simply changing the name, how about making *real* reparations? Yeah, i thought the silence would be deafening, and, alas, i am correct.


  1. You know much more about football than I do. Reparations generally seem a good idea to me. The U.S. hasn't done nearly enough for our indigenous people, or for the Japanese forced into interment camps during WWII (I think those people, many of whom were born in America, have received an apology from our government and some money, but certainly not enough to "make up" for their suffering), or for the African Americans who are still denied basic civil rights. I guess my list could go on and on. I have one football story. Favorite Young Man played trombone in the band at his high school. Their director also directed the Baltimore Ravens band. He arranged for the high school to play during halftime at a Ravens game. When FYM returned home, I asked him what it was like to play in front of all those people. He said, It was just like any other time. My hat fell over my eyes and I couldn't see anything.


    1. And yet, during the halftime of any game other than Super Bowl, we don't get to see the entertainment. That's a shame because sometimes, the talking heads really have nothing to day during the halftime, and i'd much prefer to hear the marching band.
      Himself loves the halftime shows when they talking heads discuss The Game in general or other games being played. Well, as i said, he's a real fan of the game, i just watch if i find it interesting.

    2. It would have been nice to see the high school band playing during halftime. They always had such elaborately choreographed shows.

  2. The Washington Native Americans sounds OK, or what about The Washington Indigenous People, or The Washington Injuns? PC makes me sick.