June 03, 2003

My Sordid Past

I have to come clean. My history is not clear of suspicious team associations.

When I went to Ossining High School, we were the Indians. Actually, strictly speaking, the jocks were the Indians — I was on the Debate Team and the newspaper. Last fall, the High School dumped the Indians mascot, despite the historic association of the town with the Sintsink Indian tribe. (Originally the town was called Sing Sing, but the infamy of the prison led to a name change in the mid 20th century.)

Our arch-rivals were the Headless Horsemen of Sleepy Hollow. No one objected to that name, I guess because the headless don't have a constituency in America (or as my wife said, they don't have a voice). This despite the number of them in Congress.

McGill University's teams are The Redmen. (The women are The Martlets, and the baseball team The Redbirds.). I'm not certain if Redmen ever referred to an Indian mascot (I suspect it did, maybe someone can enlighten me). The school colors are Red and White so that is apparently the imagery they encourage now. Given the origin of the James McGill fortune, we're just lucky they weren't The Beavers, I suppose.

{By the way, McGill was critical in the history of football, inventing many of the basics back in 1872-1874. For more.}

Apropos of nothing perhaps, I wanted to point out that my son's High School has an elaborately complex set of team names, since apparently they could never agree on a single image. Makes reading the school paper confusing at times.

Stuvesant High School:
Boys —
baseball, tennis, soccer: The Hit Men
basketball: Runnin' Rebels
Football: Peglegs
Swimming: Pirates
Handball: Dragons
Girls —
basketball: Phoenix
swimming: Penguins

Peglegs because Peter Stuyvesant had a wooden leg, of course. I hate to think of the origin of Hit Men (must have been when the school was on the lower east side).

My son is on the cross-country team. Needless to say, they don't run as the Peglegs, just Stuyvesant Track.

Posted by campbell at 11:38 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Team Names Redux

In my new-found role as an oppressed minority member (Celt)*, I find this an interesting development: The Minneapolis Star-Tribune may revise its ban on "insensitive" team names.

Notice how the editor posits it as a return to accuracy in reporting (as opposed to "sensitivity" or political correctness, I presume).

Gyllenhaal said the paper intended to replace the ban with a series of guidelines aimed at being sensitive to readers while leaving language decisions in the hands of writers and editors.

Those guidelines include using alternative logos for potentially offensive ones — a script "I'' instead of the Cleveland Indians' Chief Wahoo logo, for example — and avoiding slang terms or abbreviations such as "Skins'' for "Redskins.''

"This isn't nearly as much about Indian names as it is about the paper's responsibility toward accuracy and realism,'' Gyllenhaal wrote. "Over the past decade, sensitivity over language has increased dramatically with the rise in conflicts among global religions, bitter divisions in the Mideast, cultural wars at home. When there's an outright ban of any words on one topic, it becomes difficult to justify why we rely on mere guidance on other topics.''

I'm unclear how "Redskins" is less denigrating than "Skins". Of course, references to "warpath", "scalps" and "scalping" (except about tickets) shouldn't be tolerated.

On the other hand, has anyone thought about how Minnesota's use of "Vikings", "Twins", "Wolves" could be deemed objectionable to Norwegian-Americans (or People of Color: Blond), multiple-birthed Americans, and endangered species?

Me, I still haven't ordered my "Fightin' Whities" T-shirt.

*I don't know how many Americans have encountered Canadian Tire Money, but for a striking example of insensitivity to Celtic sensibilities:

Posted by campbell at 11:07 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack