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Saturday, August 06, 2005

NCAA Bans Intelligence in Sports

By now, you must have heard that the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), the sanctioning body for inter-collegiate sports, has decided to ban certain team names, descriptions and logos from its events. The ban is aimed at schools whose traditional team names have been derived from American Indians (Native Americans). Which means that generations of students and alumni are now falling victim to the senseless epidemic of mindless political correctness that is sweeping America.

Mind you, I'm no sports fan. I could care less what a school calls its teams, much less how they brand them. I also have no issue with people who object to being portrayed in a demeaning fashion. In fact, I always wondered why it's taken so long for Native Americans to voice their dissatisfaction with the team name "redskins." As Al Franken noted decades ago, you never hear about the St. Louis Niggers or the Washington Kikes.

This issue is a tad different, though. Actually, a lot different. And it shows just how dumbed-down America has become, even at the college level.

To really understand the mindset behind this idiocy, you have to go to the source, particularly one Cindy La Marr, "former president of the National Indian Education Association and executive director of Capitol Area Indian Resources in Sacramento," according to the Los Angeles Times. The Times reports that Ms. La Marr is also on the steering committee of the "California-based Alliance Against Racial Mascots." Ms. La Marr is quite pleased with the NCAA's latest ruling, "A sports team creates a division because one team wins and one team loses."

Duh. Now there's a mystery solved. Who'd a thunk that the notion of sports, nay, the entire Darwinian concept of life as we know it is about competition? You know, where one wins and another loses?

Ms. La Marr's ill-conceived thought process wouldn't disturb me so much if it weren't nested in so many inconsistencies. For example, did you happen to notice about two paragraphs up, that BOTH of her organizations refer to the indigenous peoples as "Indians"? What happened to the "Native American" thing? Or does this political correctness only apply selectively?

Lest you think that La Marr is alone in her quest, California Assemblywoman (note that politically correct office title) Jackie Goldberg (D-Los Angeles), echoes these sentiments, claiming "I'd prefer nicknames were not for living people. I prefer colors, flowers, animals, that's my own personal preference." Great. Then what happens when the Grizzly Bear Alliance sues the NCAA for promoting them incorrectly as a mean, aggressive species? Who will protect us from the Dandelion Anti-Defamation League?

Stupidity isn't the lone province of politicians any more. And before you get too worked up about it, let me just say that I have no beef with anyone expressing his (or her, to be politically correct) opinion. The problem I have is the rationale behind those opinions.

In the NCAA's case, its stupidity is revealed with their acceptance and approval of the team name "Aztecs", simply because Aztecs were native to Mexico, well outside of the NCAA's jurisdiction. Florida Seminoles, on the other hand, don't have it so easy. They're out. And to make things really weird, dig this: even with the Utes' tribal blessing, their name can't be used, either.

So what you've got is another White Man knowing what's best for everyone involved. Sort of a Manifest Destiny over the Sports page, where ivory tower simpletons make decisions based on bad information.

Finally, if anyone at the NCAA had been thinking, they would have studied their history to find out how the concept of team names originated. Just as the Green Bay Packers were named for the meat packing employees of whom they were composed, most -- if not all -- team names are given out of honor, not humiliation. When a college adopts the spirit and imagery of a noble American warrior, they typically are paying homage to Indians for several reasons:

1. Face it: There are no great, inspirational, tribal warriors who are white.
2. They are paying tribute the nobility and pride of their regions' local ancestry
3. There is, to be certain, a fair amount of regret and honor involved

When schools and colleges adopt tribal names, they're adopting all the good they hope to emulate from those tribes. Sadly, this is a country that decimated its native population. Yet what would the NCAA have its latter generations do? Erect a few obscure statues, hidden away in corners of the country? Why not keep the presence and spirit alive on national TV? Why not remember WHY these tribal names were admired and adopted, especially when its done with respect and the tribes' blessings?

Like life, this is a brand thing. It's the school. Its culture. Its heritage. And its choice. As America inevitably spirals downward into a gray morass of indistinguishability, the feeble-minded, politically correct will have their day. When that day comes, I sure know what I'm going to do:

I'm going to Notre Dame University, find a Fighting Irishman and buy him a drink.

11 Comments:

Anonymous Kevin Gianni said...

Rob, good editorial. In terms of branding, dumbing down the mascot leaves a less memorable impression. Though I can see that there is more in your voice than just the branding issue.

My concern is misguided energy. I'm concerned that the time these particular politically correct people spend trying to change semantics only obscures a darker part of our nation's history and the PRESENT DAY struggle that still exists for the native americans. There are very real and horrible things happening at the reservations... alcoholism, violence, poverty. I wish focus would be on preserving the people, not worrying about whether or not a tomahawk chop is an appropriate celebration for the extra point.

Ian Frazier's book, "On the Rez," is a great place to start.

8:47 AM  
Anonymous Dawn said...

For the record, the first time I heard that Native Americans were protesting about the name of the Washington Redskins was in one of those quasi-news reports aired during the pre-game show before Superbowl XXVI in 1992.

At the time, it stuck in my memory because of all the people talking about why Native Americans shouldn't mind. Sort of like, "So what if I'm stepping on their toe? It doesn't hurt that much. They should get over it."

No, of course, they shouldn't, I thought at the time. Meanwhile, tune in to Monday Night Football next week, when the Seattle Spics battle the Detroit Darkies.

As for Kevin's comment: I wish focus would be on preserving the people, not worrying about whether or not a tomahawk chop is an appropriate celebration for the extra point.

This reminds me of a principle in recovery psychology called dynamic homeostasis. This is when people expend all kinds of energy dealing with the symptoms of some problem rather than summoning the courage to confront the source of the problem. It's a mindset that encourages people to believe that running in place is constructive problem-solving activity, but leaves the actual problems untouched. So, the more things change, the more they stay the same.

In many ways, the problems that arise from race issues of all sorts are perpetuated by this kind of thing.

10:28 AM  
Blogger Rob Frankel said...

Thank you both for your comments. Kevin, I happen to agree with you and feel powerless and somewhat frustrated about how little I personally do to support Native American causes. Then again, as the child of Holocaust survivors, I empthize with all genocide victims, especially the letter day Armenians and people of Dufar.

If you sense "more in my voice than just branding issues," you're right on target. The amount of energy wasted on short term issues is tragic.

I think Dawn's diagnosis of Dynamic Homeostasis is accurate. Or is that just code for "lazy and ethically bankrrupt"?

2:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am very disappointed in the type of journalism that is being portrayed by NCAA’s decision to ban certain American Indian team names, descriptions and logos from its events. Being a former NCAA athlete and a sports fan, I am very proud of the NCAA for taking a stand on this matter. This type of racism has gone on far too long.

Mind you, I’m no journalist, but I am a mother of a son who is American Indian. My son is not a mascot, nor do I want his culture, religion and honor to be portrayed in a demeaning fashion.

First of all, as a journalist, you might think about doing a little research before giving your opinion on a subject matter you obviously know nothing about, especially if you “could care less” and are not a sports fan. You have no business writing carefree comments and statements filled with ignorance and idiocy.

Secondly, if you really want to “go to the source”, channel your comments towards the NCAA. You have some nerve speaking of how “dumbed-down America has become” when journalist, such as yourself, promote racism and criticize anyone who advocates on behalf of it.

Thirdly, your ill-conceived thought process on Cindy La Marr’s comment of how “A team creates division because one team wins and one team loses,” couldn’t be anymore disturbing. In competition, there are two teams, each with fans and mascots. When a team plays another team with an Indian mascot, fans naturally throw out racial slurs about Indians. I have seen it personally happen, and in front of my son. Because of such racism that is portrayed in America’s sports and team mascots, my son denied being Indian until he was 8 years old, undoubtedly affecting his self-esteem, self-perception and self-worth.

Lastly, Indian mascots do not “honor” Indians. These mascots dress in costumes, only to make a mockery of the religion, tradition, and culture of Indian people. I know sometimes people can’t understand this until it becomes personal to them. It is personal to me. Indian mascots do not honor my son.

Indians are not mascots. My son is not a mascot. Please educate yourself before you strike out at people.

1:43 PM  
Blogger Rob Frankel said...

Well, here's proof that if you're going to write something profoundly narrow-minded and ill-conceived, you might as well submit it anonymously.

Congratulations for making it all the way through the piece and not understanding a word!

1:53 PM  
Anonymous Regina said...

Profoundly narrow minded? I laugh at your ignorance, but feel deeply sorry for you, as well. FYI – I did try to post it several times with my name, but it would not go through.

2:34 PM  
Blogger Ramona said...

The N word has connotations far beyond what you can understand. Please don't use it in any commentary, ever. You see, you block out a whole group of people who stop reading and hold no credence to what you have to say after that.

I too am a branding expert. Check us out at www.inteligit.com (just a little plug).

I recommend you take the time to get to really know someone of a different race. I mean get to know, like if the truck came by you wouldn't snitch and put them on it get to know.

Be open-minded and sensitive to learn why some find it demeaning to have a sports team referred to as the Cleveland Indians w/ mascots, etc. At first glance, it can look like it's another politically correct issue carried too far, but look again and not only at what justifies your position.

Unfortunately, do to our past in this country, virtually everyone has reason to be sensitive to something.
Hey, but that's what makes this country great, diversity right!

At least that's what my horny ancestors thought- with surnames like Goldberg, Haas, Festerman, Johnson, Freeman, Sweetlake, Li, Primus and Lopez (smile). They may have gone to far in creating me so I can be a true pain in the ass on your blog just wreckin' yo theories, etc.(smile)!

Peace.

2:57 PM  
Blogger Rob Frankel said...

Look, the whole point isn't that there are right ways and wrong ways to celebrate ethnic and racial pride. The point is that the reasoning behind these decisions are all cockeyed and inconsistent.

See?

I have no interest in who names what. I'm one of those "do what you like as long as you don't hurt anyone." But even that has its limits. What happens when someone is just way too sensitive? Where do you draw the line?

This country used to have a sense of right and wrong, where people who chose team names after Indian tribes had nothing but admiration for those tribes. Maybe it's because several generations of cynical people who sue at the drop of a hat no longer possess that kind of ethcial decision-making ability that this issue has become what it has.

For the record, they haven't created a race or ethnicity that I couldn't or wouldn't befriend.

7:10 PM  
Anonymous dawn said...

Ramona wrote:
The N word has connotations far beyond what you can understand. Please don't use it in any commentary, ever. You see, you block out a whole group of people who stop reading and hold no credence to what you have to say after that.

Well, actually, that depends on the context in which the word is used. Unless, that is, the reader happens to be a cretin with a chip on his shoulder, who is too closed minded to be aware of subtle things like tone and nuance.

It seems to me that both Regina and Ramona completely missed the point. So -- begging your pardon, Rob -- let me spell it out for you ladies.

Indulging in something like renaming sports teams is a meaningless gesture when you don't, as a society, take a look at those offensive behaviors in the stands and confront the thinking behind them.

And the proof is in the pudding ... as in the NCAA deciding to make the Florida Seminoles change their name but, evidently, feeling that the Aztecs were not entitled to the same kind of respect because they are not a tribe originating in what is now the U.S. Unless you're a flaming hypocrite, what the heck does geography have to do with it?

You can change your language and twist yourself into all kinds of knots trying not to offend this or that group, but if you leave the thinking in place, what have you really accomplished? Have you actually done anything to improve the lives of the racial or ethnic group that you claim to be so concerned about? Not with a move like this.

All you'd wind up doing is to make yourself feel good for awhile that you are doing your bit to stamp out racism. You'd also be kidding yourself.

That's the point.

10:12 AM  
Anonymous Regina said...

Point taken Rob, but YOU are not understanding the NCAA's decision to do this to begin with. If you want to get my drift and really try to understand what Cindy La Marr is saying, please go to:
http://www.indiancountry.com/content.cfm?id=1096411388

Indian Country Today is a good resource. NCAA is making a good decision.

4:50 PM  
Blogger Rob Frankel said...

What, are you kidding me? Dawn understands what it takes to get to the solution of problems, preferring real tactics to political band-aids.

As for the link to Indian Country, thank you for posting it. Always helps to get others' perspectives. However, in this case, it simply bolsters my own point of view that Indian Country's position is nothing more than a narrow, self-interested point of view that also misses the bigger picture while pushing its own agenda.

10:19 AM  

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