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The Triple Option: Team Names Are Silly. Mascots Are Sillier. So Why Fret?

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Four stories you should read today.

Notre Dame v Stanford Photo by David Madison/Getty Images

It’s Thursday! I took a day off work to celebrate my youngest son’s sixth birthday and I’m getting some SERIOUS MONDAY VIBES now.

Here are four stories you should definitely read today:

THE MERCIFUL END OF THE MASCOT WARS?

I’m not sure who introduced me to Michael Weinreb’s newsletter, but I gravitate toward sports stories that offer a historical perspective that can’t be found with a simple Google search. Weinreb’s piece today is about our attachment to team names and, by extension, mascots and I caught myself nodding along while reading it today.

Here’s the best part:

I’ve read enough about Buddhism and downloaded enough meditation apps to know that human beings are inexorably fighting against their inherent fear of change. I understand that this holds especially true for sports, because sports feel like a sea of stability in a changing world. (This is why so many of us are having such a hard time without them these past few months.) I have a friend who I would otherwise consider a “rational” human being who still cannot get over the fact that the Seattle Seahawks moved from the AFC to the NFC. (By the way, there is no such thing as a seahawk, especially in Seattle, where there are no seas.) But let’s take the wedge political issue out of the equation and ask ourselves: What in the hell are we really arguing about here? Why would anyone want to take a principled stand on the patently ridiculous concept of a sports-team nickname?

My own experience: In 2014, I was the communications director for a state legislator who had introduced a resolution asking his state to urge the Washington professional football team to change their nickname. This legislator represented an area that included Native American tribal land, so it seemed sort of like a no-brainer. These resolutions aren’t law; they aren’t even binding. They just express the sense of a body of lawmakers.

The reaction from the constituency was overwhelmingly negative, and broke down in three predictable ways:

  1. You are in the pocket of the tribe, who must be bankrolling your re-election campaign.
  2. This is political correctness culture run amok.
  3. Don’t you have better things to do?

This body of lawmakers had spent about an hour debating what should be the state’s official snack — yogurt prevailed! — so the third answer felt like, “Yeaaaah.”

The second argument is the one I could never understand.

“Redskin” is a dictionary defined racial slur. At the time, the US Patent and Trademark Office wouldn’t approve any submissions with that word in it because it considered it denigrating to indigenous people. There was also a survey that suggested that the majority of natives thought the name had contributed to racism against them or was denigrating. (The PTO ruling has since been reversed by courts and regular national polls suggest the opposite conclusion than the one I linked to, that the majority of Native Americans aren’t offended.)

Here’s a story that may sound familiar:

In 1974, a group of Chinese-Americans publicly objected to Pekin, Illinois’ high school team and mascot, the Chinks. The following year, the students overwhelmingly agreed to keep the name.

In 1980, Pekin got a new superintendent and he unilaterally made the decision to transition the school from “Chinks” to “Dragons.” There was an uproar, but the decision was final. Attendance did not drop off. People moved on.

I’ve said it before, but those who think that forcing Washington owner Dan Snyder to change the name of his football team starts the slippery slope to forcing Notre Dame to change its mascot are committing the grave error of false equivalence. You simply can’t use the arguments against the R-word and make them the arguments against “fighting” or the leprechaun.

Here’s what I haven’t asked before: Why would we be so worked up if Notre Dame were to change its name? Will Notre Dame somehow fail to be the same great university if it’s simply the Irish and not the Fighting Irish? Team names are silly. Mascots are sillier.

If Notre Dame wants to ditch the “fighting” out of Irish or the leprechaun, I’ll be curious about what made them do that (especially since it isn’t a racial slur and no one serious seems to be complaining). But I won’t suddenly forget a bunch of courageous students “defied their leaders’ pleas to ignore the Klu Klux Klan” and drove the hate group out of South Bend.

Let me know in the comments what you think. What is the compelling reason to die on the “my sports team needs to be named this one thing” hill?

RECRUITING SLOWDOWN: REASON VS. EXCUSES

Can we get back to football, please?

I’m probably always going to suggest you read articles from UHND’s Greg Flammang, because we’ve got a mutual admiration society going on here.

We talked about this point extensively on the podcast, but Greg and I are like minded in his conclusion:

It’s understandable for fans to be frustrated or critical. I’ve gone back and forth on this myself. But, we should let things unfold before declaring X coach is doing a lousy job, or that coach is blowing it. Things looked really good in March for a reason, and there is plenty of time for the program to get back on the right track this cycle, as cloudy as it looks today.

It’s July 9. Let’s figure out where we are in November — especially if official visits can resume for gamedays — and freak out if it hasn’t gotten any better. For now, I’m going to be patient.

MUSICAL INTERLUDE

Lula Wiles is a trio of female musicians; none of them are named “Lula.” Their vibe is folk, with a modern sensibility. I have a weakness for tight female harmonies, so I gravitated toward this one. Fair warning for those listening at work: There is a well-placed F-bomb in this one.

EICHENBERG, HAINSEY ARE NFL-READY

Here’s Schulte’s concluding paragraph:

Notre Dame has had a phenomenal run of producing NFL offensive linemen. Eichenberg and Hainsey are outstanding prospects in their own rights, but guards Aaron Banks and Tommy Kraemer, as well as center Jarrett Patterson, are all draftable players. With the amount of experience and talent returning to the Irish in 2020, I fully expect Notre Dame to be in the running for the Joe Moore Award.

WHAT MIGHT A BYU SCHEDULE LOOK LIKE IF LEAGUES GO TO CONFERENCE-ONLY?

If this season is going to happen without the Pac-12, then Notre Dame should seriously consider ending the season in Provo. (I’m also not opposed to starting the season with, say, the TCU Horned Frogs and moving the Navy Midshipmen to October, as Bryan Driskell suggested.)