What's In A Name?

Redskins helmet

Photo courtesy of CBS News/Boston

What's In A Name
| published June 27, 2014 |

By Earl Perkins
Thursday Review associate editor

The Washington Androgynous Opaques. I just solved the Washington Redskins renaming controversy so we can move on to more serious matters of state, with the remaining teams in all sports being assigned a number.

Those who are androgynous are not clearly male or female, so I just cured the argument concerning sexism. Also, with this scenario we won't risk insulting people, animals or colors, and I believe everyone agrees there must be an ultimate solution to this egregious miscarriage of justice.

Opaque makes something impenetrable to light, but it's not a color. It means an object is neither transparent nor translucent, although its other definitions include dull, stupid or unintelligent. Ok, it is still a work in progress.

Somewhere over the past century or so, sports teams, mascots, colors and logos became significant to teams, communities, players and fans alike, entwining into the fabric of America. Figuratively, people have lived and died rooting for their chosen team, memorizing statistics and stories from time immemorial. And now the United States Government is sticking its nose where it probably doesn't belong—like that's never happened before.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office's decision to withdraw the Washington Redskins Federal trademark status could have widespread ramifications impacting teams, businesses and communities nationwide. If this ruling comes to pass, the decision will almost certainly trickle down through colleges, high schools and every other type of organization with a name, because it's next to impossible to overturn decisions made on a Federal level.

Your leaders will tell you what you can or cannot name your business, based on their interpretation of what is proper. Remember, those who scream loudest almost always go straight to head of the line.

In case you were asleep or watching only soccer, here’s what happened: The Trademark Trial & Appeal Board (of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office), ruled against the Washington NFL team, declaring that the word “Redskins” is racist and disparaging. The team’s owners are not being forced—at least not yet—to change the name. But the ruling means that the NFL’s cherished and multi-billion dollar control over the word “Redskins” has been rescinded, and that means that any individual or company can now market Redskins merchandise. For the NFL, this is a big deal.

Now that the Patent and Trademark Office has made this ruling, other sports teams are now in the cross-hairs. Those that most easily come to mind include the Chicago Blackhawks hockey team (their logo is strikingly similar to that of the Redskins); the Kansas City Chiefs football team; the Cleveland Indians baseball team; and of course the Atlanta Braves, who as far back as 1986 banned their original mascot, “Chief Noc-A-Homa” from games and appearances.

For the past 75 years there was no major drive to force the Redskins to change their nickname, but now a politically influential group has turned its eyes toward this “problem.” I've certainly heard many say they should disassociate themselves from Washington, considering all the idiotic decisions and monetary blunders that have emanated from the national capitol.

But if my plan were to be instituted, then there would be no reason to ever argue about this subject again. A communist country would have a seamless transition with no controversy or complaints--government makes all decisions for you. After all, this country is already moving toward a socialist system, so it wouldn't be any great stretch.

Also, we would no longer be looking down on meat packers, Canucks, trolley dodgers, Gorloks, carp, syrupmakers, anteaters, hokies, bonnies, loons, mud hens, hooters, etc. The list goes on and on, and the stories make for fascinating reading.

Stanford, sometimes known as a bastion of sensitivity training, goes by the nickname Cardinal (the color). This from a school that was named after an infamous railroad robber baron. They were known as the Indians until 1970, when they switched to Cardinals, finally dropping the S in 1981. Administrators claim they never did have a mascot, but today at big games you can watch a member of the Stanford band dress up as a Redwood tree and run about. I kid you not—you can look it up.

The St. John's Redmen became the Red Storm in 1994, in a nod of sensitivity toward those of Native American heritage. And throughout the South in recent years, numerous sports teams changed their names from Rebels or Rebs to whatever else was handy.

One of the few college teams out in front of this wave of political-correctness was Florida State University. The school approached the Seminole Tribe of Florida several decades ago, working out an agreement that gave FSU all rights associated with marketing and the name. This cascade of name-changing will almost certainly work its way around to Tallahassee eventually, but where does it stop?

At any rate, with my potentially smooth transition, nobody's feelings need to be hurt, and we certainly won't need to show any more pride or unity associated with those horrid sports teams. We can just keep printing money and outsource everything, including people who fight our wars. Children can raise themselves and do whatever they want when they get older.

Until recent times in America, you didn't really need to worry much about your children, because parents at school events, or church, or even in the community, watched out for others and helped raise the next generation. If you were acting up in public, your parents heard about it with a quickness.

Now, everyone worries about bigger houses, fancy cars, expensive vacations and eating out constantly. It takes two incomes for a family to survive this way, and people who think that way are unlikely to get along forever. Ironically, divorce rates are up slightly, but not for the reasons you might think. Partners evidently didn't feel financially able to divorce, but are now getting on with their lives as the economy strengthens.

At any rate, we may not be worrying about this topic a whole lot longer, considering that the National Football League recently uncapped potential awards in a lawsuit brought by former players who suffered physical and mental injuries while playing.

Insurance companies hate lawyers, and without insurance, youth sports will die, along with feeder programs for colleges and pro leagues. These facts, coupled with continuing high school sports budget cuts, may spell the end of contact sports in America. Meddlers and lawyers are showing up in droves, more than happy to kill the goose that laid the golden egg if there's a buck in it for them.

But now I have evidently digressed from the subject at hand, which is the Washington Redskins and their nickname and rights associated therewith. I was told as a youngster that what goes around comes around, and maybe that's what happening in this country.

It's getting me so confused all of a sudden. I thought it had something to do with the Golden Rule, but now I'm starting to think it could be a combination of Manifest Destiny, slavery and Indian massacres. European massacres of Native Americans date to 1539.

Citizens don't seem to study history very much anymore, and not all of it is a rosy picture. Listen to Johnny Cash's rendition of The Ballad of Ira Hayes, and then tell me about the wonderful things this nation has done for America's Indians. The major massacres were in South Dakota, Nevada, Colorado, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

Indians were rounded up and driven, sometimes a thousand miles on foot, to reservations on desolate and useless land. Then settlers discovered gold, silver, timber and minerals on those lands, and they were driven out again.

Look up Trail of Tears and Wounded Knee, and how the buffaloes were slaughtered almost to extinction by so-called Americans. This was the Indians' primary food supply and what they made blankets from to survive harsh winters. 'Gentlemen' were too lazy to ride horses to shoot buffalo, so they invented a sport by mowing them down from trains.

Killing a buffalo was a sacred act to the Indian, and it was out of necessity: a single buffalo might last the family an entire winter—meat, skin, fur, even tools. They almost never wasted food or water because they were precious resources.

Maybe it's a cross between some folks being dissatisfied with their present condition or others are just tired of getting along, and they're going to take what they want no matter the consequences. Many people resent millionaires and their possessions, so they derive pleasure from manipulating the rich.

I may not have the answer, but let me borrow from Malcolm X, who took from Chaucer—maybe the chickens have come home to roost.

Don't forget: root for the burgundy, gold and white. Hail to the Redskins.