The nation’s capital is gripped by an ongoing and heated controversy of dire proportion, but, as Paul Simon once noted, “that’s not unusual.”
Oh, the budget, you ask? No. Immigration? Obamacare? Income inequality? No again. Climate change? The Ukraine? Forget it. These are all problematic, but hardly in the same league as:
“Why doesn’t that bastard Snyder change the name of his football team?”
Because, despite years of mounting protest, tankerloads of printer’s ink and the outrage of native American spokespeople everywhere, the NFL franchise in D.C. persists in calling itself the Washington Redskins.
The whole “indian” motif used to be quite popular among the athletic set. Some have quietly or not-so-quietly changed their names: the Dartmouth Indians are now “The Big Green;” Stanford is now the Cardinal (giggle). Some have not, for various reasons. The Cleveland Indians? Still with us. The Florida Seminoles? Ditto, but they actually “lease” the name from the tribe itself — which, I guess, makes it kind of okay, but I can’t think how.
Sports team “names” over history seem mostly to be driven either by regional/local factors, images of ferocity or just whimsey. We have the New York Knickerbockers, the San Francisco Forty-Niners, the (originally) Milwaukee Lakers and then Brewers, the Brooklyn Dodgers (a sly stickball reference), and so on. Then there are lots and lots of Tigers, Lions, Eagles, Bears, and so on, if you count all the college/high school teams. Which is probably how we got to Indians and Redskins — scary folk, along with Pirates, Buccaneers, and others of that ilk. And for whimsey, my favorite remains Klinger’s hometown Toledo minor league baseball team. I just can’t imagine what kind of meeting took place where everyone finally said, “Well, Mud Hens it is.”
But none of this history gets us any closer to resolution of what to do about Washington. Part of the problem is the reluctance of Snyder and others to abandon a brand that is nationally known, but it’s been done before. When the Browns moved to Baltimore, in a strange little hat tip to one of Baltimore’s more notable residents, they became the Ravens, achieving a first: no other team in sports, to my knowlege, is named after a poem. Nor should one be.
Then there’s the issue of, if not the Redskins, then what? The Diplomats? Hardly an image to strike fear into the hearts of the foe. The Senators? Freighted with doom, misery and failure after decades at the bottom of the (National? American? Who remembers?) league.
What we need here is a name that combines all these previous ideas: something fierce and frightening, and, if possible, an animal, to avoid pissing off anyone that can talk. One with a feral gleam in its eye, and a ragged jaw dripping with the juices of the kill. Something cunning and swift, and preferably, one that works as part of a team. And finally, something uniquely evocative of the local culture.
Which leaves us with an obvious and indisputably appropriate, even natural, selection:
Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the Washington Jackals.