Friday, December 18, 2015

Nicked in the name

Well. At least that's done.

 The students have voted and the North Side Racial Slurs will henceforth be known as the North Side Legends, which sounds exactly like what a bunch of teenagers would come up with, and begs the question what the logo and mascot will look like. A former colleague of mine, and a disgruntled North Side grad, wondered if the mascot would be Freddie Mercury.

 Me, I'd be more inclined to go with the obvious and just trot out a John Legend lookalike. Or maybe Larry Legend. Or maybe, for a logo, a giant embossed L casting a long shadow in which, discreetly, an eagle feather peeks out, just to appease the cranks who hated the idea of ditching "Redskins" on account of it was grotesquely offensive.

Which, of course, it is. Its derivation apparently goes back to the practice of early New England settlers selling Penobscot Indian scalps, which they dubbed "redskins." Trying to say that term is in any way a salute to Native Americans, therefore, only makes you sound like a blithering idiot. It's a racial slur. Period. Move on, nothing to see here.

 But we see it anyway every time a school or professional athletic entity decides to dump the Racial Slur, because nothing is so visceral as a fan's allegiance, and nothing flees logic more readily. And so the Racial Slur becomes a term of endearment. It becomes "tradition." It becomes exactly the opposite of what it actually is.

 Take a calm, reasoned step away, of course, and it becomes much ado about nothing. It is, after all, just a nickname. I'm a New Haven Bulldog, class of '73, and if PETA or some other pack of ninnies had the political clout to declare "Bulldogs' harmful in some way to the family pet, I wouldn't turn a hair. Call 'em the Fightin' Stumps, for all I care. It wouldn’t diminish my memories or the accomplishments of a Cory Jacquay or a V.J. Beachem an iota.

Which is not to say North Side didn’t completely miss the boat here.

The obvious nickname, if you’re gonna eighty-six the Racial Slur, is River Rats. It’s been North’s unofficial nickname forever, or at least for the 60 years I’ve been walking the earth. And you could work up a cool logo and mascot in no time – a fierce-looking rodent wearing an eyepatch and carrying a papier-mache cutlass, say.

There would be history back of it, too. Evansville once had a minor-league baseball team named the River Rats at the turn of the 20th century. Good enough for them, good enough for North Side.

Or, not. Somehow, River Rats never turned up as an entry. Legends, however, did, and also Falcons, Raptors, NightHawks, Nations, Thunder, Rockets and Mustangs. Logic tells you just about any of them are infinitely inferior to “River Rats.”

But, hey.  It’s the kids’ school. It’s their allegiance. Logic doesn’t apply.

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