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Monday
Aug182014

Who Wants to be a Human Mascot? I Mean Really, Think About It!

 

The other night I was watching baseball and for some reason got to thinking about team names. I grabbed my handy tablet and had a look. In Major League Baseball (MLB) there are thirty teams. I broke the names down into four categories:

  • Teams named after Animals – e.g. the Baltimore Orioles, Arizona Diamond Backs, and the Tampa Bay Rays;
  • Team names associated with Location, in some way reflecting the city or area where the team is based – e.g. Texas Rangers, Milwaukee Brewers, Washington Nationals;
  • Team names I classify as Other, meaning there is no direct association with a mascot or location – e.g. Los Angeles Dodgers, Houston Astros and the San Francisco Giants;
  • Teams named after Native Americans – e.g. Cleveland Indians and Atlanta Braves.

 

Here’s how it breaks down in the MBL:

  • Animals                     =  8
  • Location                    = 10
  • Other                         = 10
  • Native Americans    =  2

I turned to the National Football League (NFL) which has 32 teams:

  • Animals                     =  15
  • Location                    =   6
  • Other                         =   9
  • Native Americans    =   2

This isn’t an exact science and I’m sure there have been books written about why we name our sports teams what we do. But it was really late at night and I had had more than a little wine with dinner. The Animals category is plain enough. Animals make good mascots for teams and imply that the team possess some of the animal’s virtues – speed, strength, fearsomeness. My Location category is also pretty obvious. Name your team after something unique or identifiable about the city or area in which the team is located and you quickly establish identify and loyalty. I admit my Other category is pretty much of a big net, but how do you classify names like Dodgers, Twins, and Red Socks (and who thought of naming a team after a pair of socks anyway?). If truth be told, I as too tired to break it down further. But the strange one is naming your team after Native Americans, or more accurately characteristics and qualities the dominant culture stereotypically associates with Native Americans.  Here are the MBL and NFL team names linked to Native Americans:

  • MBL: Atlanta Braves and the Cleveland Indians
  • NFL: Kansas City Chiefs and the Washington Red Skins. (And of course the award for the most racial offensive names goes to...the Washington Red Skins).

And we can add to the number of teams associated with Native Americans in the professional ranks:

  • National Hockey League – The Edmonton Eskimos and the Chicago Blackhawks (the team was actually named after the teams founder’s military unity the Blackhawk Division, but the mascot character on the team jerseys is a Native American, so you decide);
  • National Basketball Association – the Golden State Warriors.

I got to wondering why we don’t have teams named the Boston Italians, or the Missouri Negros, or the Cleveland Polocks (or Polacks if you prefer). The notion is totally absurd, ludicrous! But the Chiefs, Red Skins, Braves, Indians, Warriors, Blackhawks, and Eskimos are apparently acceptable. One does wonder why.

Of course, there is a huge controversy surrounding naming teams after Native American tribes or their racial and cultural characteristics. In favour is the argument that making Native Americans team mascots is an honour. Perhaps, but then why not the Missouri Negros or the Cleveland Polocks? Wouldn’t African Americans feel honoured to be called the Missouri Negros? I guess the question is this: Would you want to be a human mascot for a sports team? Would being compared to a bird or fish honour your history, traditions, your existence as an individual and a people? Would it make you feel respected and dignified. It’s great to say your mascot is a fish or a tiger or a bird, but a human being? Perhaps we could have the Tennessee White Trash mascot with the appropriate cultural signifier on the team uniform.  

I did wonder if we turn Native Americans peoples and all that they are into mascots for our sports teams because somewhere did down in our collective memory and attitudes Native American fits best in my first category: Animals. My mascot is a tiger. Well, mine is a Brave. My mascot is a snake. So, mine is a Chief. My mascot has a red breast. Well big deal, mine has red skin. My mascot is a buffalo. Yeh, well, mine is an actual Indian. After all, when we invaded their continent we did find them in the forests and plains apparently just wondering around, not a fence anywhere and absolutely no sign of Jesus (let’s not mention the cities and continental trading routes and the social, cultural, political religious realities). And we did hunt them down, like we did the buffalo.   

Crazy I know. I stayed up too late and the game wasn’t even that good. My apologies.

Tonight it’s the Missouri Negros versus the Tennessee White Trash.

Go White Trash!

Give me a “W”! Give me an “H”! Give mean “I”!...

Copyright © 2014 Dale Rominger

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