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    • Reasons For Hope (1): The Solutions Are Known
      Ok, this place has mostly been about how fucked we are, and how we’ve fucked up. Blame is more on our leaders than us, but as a species we’re on the hook. But there is cause of hope because mostly we know what we have to do. We know we have to reduce CO2 and Methane emissions. We even know mostly how. We pretend we don’t, because the how will involve changin […]
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What’s in a Team Name?

I was looking at some football scores, and the site had scores from various sports, and I saw two NHL hockey scores. a sport I do not follow at all. But I saw the team name San Jose Sharks, and I thought it must be the original Los Angeles Sharks, and that they moved to San Jose. (I remember the advertising jingle they put on the radio, when they were first starting. “Sharks! Sharks! LA. Sharks!”) And they were playing the Buffalo Sabres, I wonder how they got that name. The other game was between the Chicago Blackhawks and some other team.

When I was a boy, learning about the various sports, I sort of rooted for the Chicago Blackhawks, because my father was born and grew up there. Their most famous players were Gordie Howe, and then Bobby Hull, I think. Remembering that team name, I tried to recall whether Blackhawks came from an Indian tribe in Illinois. As for my writing “Indian”instead of “Native American” in this context, please note that I am not calling a person an Indian. But these were Indian tribes; and I noted that with endless ads regarding two Propositions on this year’s California ballot about gaming in casinos, many of the ads featured Native American spokesmen who spoke of “Indian tribes,” and “Indian gaming rights.” So I guess it is okay to use when talking about tribes, as I am doing here.

Anyway, I was musing about the brouhahas which came out of various Native American groups or individuals complaining about a team name, mostly in college sports, some in pros. And I certainly can understand that, though it seems to be selectively employed.

I am doing this from memory, so someone might point out an error here and there, but I hope there are none. I well remember college sports team names. Stanford University was for decades called the Indians, why, I do not know. I think they had a mascot in headdress. But this was changed, and they became the Cardinal, because their colors are red and white. Marquette was the Warriors, and criticism caused them to change their name to the Golden Eagles. Dartmouth College. a proud Ivy League school, was the Indians; now they are the Big Green.

St. John’s were the Redmen, and I am not at all sure that this had anything to do with Indian aspects, but pressure caused them to become the Red Storm. Syracuse was the Orangemen, probably just because their colors were orange, and as a complement to St. John’s name, but they ended up changing that, too, to the Orange.

Interestingly, Florida State was the Seminoles, and there was a push to get that changed, but the members of the Seminole tribe said that it was a honorable name for the school to identify with. If you ever watch Florida State football, you will know that right before kickoff, a member of the tribe, wearing full headdress, rides on a horse, and plants a flaming spear on the grass on the sidelines. I think that he is always named after the famed Seminole chief Osceola.

So there are exceptions. Going to pro sports, I remember the cantankerous owner of the NFL Washington Redskins, George Preston Marshall, saying that he would never change their name as long as he owned them And he did not, but eventually new ownership came in, and many years later, the Redskins changed their name to the Commanders. Actually, for two years or so, the Redskins name was removed; and I guess while the franchise was figuring out what name to take, or trying to find one which no one would complain about, they were called the Washington Football Team. Seriously!

In baseball, there was the very old, maybe original, franchise, the Cleveland Indians. They unfortunately had a logo of an Indian, named Chief Wahoo, grinning, and that occasioned complaints; and finally they recently changed their name to the Cleveland Guardians.

The Boston Braves were a longtime National League baseball franchise. They moved to Milwaukee in the early 1950’s, and kept the name. Then they moved to Atlanta in the late 1960’s, and kept the name. They still have the name; remember the “tomahawk chop” which their fans would do in unison in the stands? Even Jane Fonda, whom I admire, did it, with Ted Turner, who owned the team. I think that the Braves finally got rid of their mascot, Chief Nocahoma (“knock a homer,” ha, ha), who looked as ridiculous as Chief Wahoo. But they are still the Braves, and their fans still chop, as do the fans of Florida State.

Oh, I forgot the Utah University Redskins, also known as the Utes, and now only by that name. Miami-Ohio was the Redskins, but now they are the Red Hawks. I rather miss those names. I think that the replacements are mostly insipid; but I am not a Native American, so I can appreciate that they did not like it and wanted it removed–though I do suspect that in some cases it was a small group of activists or headline seekers, who kept calling for the name change. But of course the school and its students and alumni and administration are the ones who have to make that choice.

When I was a boy, the Philadelphia franchise in the NBA was the Warriors. They moved to the Bay Area, and became the San Francisco Warriors, then they became the Golden State Warriors, which they are now. No one seems offended, even in the politically liberal surroundings they play in.

Now, how about Notre Dame, called the Fighting Irish? They have a little person who, at least for many years, plays the part of a leprechaun, dancing around the sidelines They also have a statue, which they call “Touchdown Jesus,” which the players might touch while going onto the field, or after a victory. Now, I think that this is tasteless, but it is their school, and that is what they do. There are some people who attend Notre Dame, who are not Catholic, and maybe even Jewish, or another non-Christian religion. But either no complaints, or the Administration doesn’t care if there are.

Illinois University teams are called the Fighting Illini, surely in tribute to the Illini tribe in that state. No complaints that I know of. And there are those schools with Devil in their name: the Duke Blue Devils, the Arizona State Sun Devils. Their mascots are dressed in devilish attire. I think there is a pro hockey team called the Red Devils, too. Apparently no complaints, no one vehemently offended. What if some were, what would happen? Holy Cross is the Crusaders, bringing up images of the carnage that they caused in the Dark Ages and Middle Ages.

Sometimes I think that all sports teams should have the same name. The Lions. Or the Bears. There are many universities with the team name Tigers: LSU, Auburn (in the same league), Missouri (in the same league as the other two!), Memphis, Princeton. The University of California has several campuses We all know (well, some do!), about the California Bears, and the UCLA Bruins. But do you know that UC Irvine has the team name the Anteaters? I like anteaters! And UC Santa Cruz is the most arty, and proudly untraditional of the UC schools; and when they chose a team nickname, they sarcastically came up with various names. and Banana Slugs won. Of course, I don’t think that they play any team sports there.

There is no significant point involved in my recounting all of this, but it is interesting. I am not a big fan of pressure campaigns to change team names, but I understand the motivations. Maybe every team name should be of an animal, but various armadillos and walllabies might be offended as well. Anyone can find something to be offended by, but I think that team names are not the area to battle over, though I guess it gratifies some people to “win” in getting a team to change its name.