Leave the ‘Skins Alone!

Slate magazine today declared that the name of the Washington professional football team, the Redskins, is forever banned from its pages. The name, apparently, is simply too offensive and Slate is taking a stand.

Which is actually a bit weird. Slate admits that the name “is not an open-and-shut outrage” and that it “has a relatively innocent history.” It acknowledges that the name’s creator, original team own George Preston Marshall, “was almost certainly trying to invoke Indian bravery and toughness, not to impugn Indians,” and even that current team owner Dan Snyder probably “is[n’t] lying to us or to himself when he sees only the bright side of the name.” Why, then, is Slate so adamant about joining the bandwagon to get the Redskins to become, well, something else? Because, it says, times have changed.”[T]ime passes, the world changes, and all of a sudden a well-intentioned symbol is an embarrassment.”

Well, yes, time has passed, and the world has changed. But the only really relevant change is the fact that the term “redskin” no longer possesses whatever derogatory connotations it might once have had. Why? Precisely because it is the name of the Washington football team. When was the last time anyone heard the word used in a context outside of a sports team name, in a derogatory manner? Google the term “redskin” and the only results you will get…the only results, page after page…will be references to the football team. In fact the use of the term as a team name has pretty much eliminated its effectiveness as a slur, even if someone wanted to use it as such. To the average person in America the term means and brings to mind only one thing…the Washington football team.

It is rare to be able to take a slur (again, to whatever extent it ever was one) and eliminate the sting inherent in the word. Some critics of the name have tried to press their point by asking us to try to imagine using other ethnic slurs as the name of a sports team, like for example the Washington N-words. Absurd and offensive, of course. But imagine that just such a thing had been done in a long distant, less sensitive time, and imagine further that, as a result of its repeated and common use in that context, no one ever used the term as a racial epithet anymore. To use the word was to refer to a sports team, not to demean a black person. Wouldn’t that actually be a welcome change from our current situation in which the word – a simple word! – is so powerful and taboo that mature adults have to act like embarrassed grade schoolers reporting to the teacher that they heard someone cursing (“He said the f-word!!!”)? Of course we have no hope of that ever happening with the dreaded n-word, which will forever carry its historical implications and therefore will also always be banished from polite conversation. But that is precisely what has happened with the term redskin, even if not by design. Why shouldn’t that achievement be embraced?

Besides, consider the following:

Washington Redskins Fighting Irish

Now you tell me, which of these is a more offensive stereotype: the staid, dignified Native American of the Washington Redskins, or the impish, belligerent, and almost certainly itching-for-a-brawl drunk of the Notre Dame Fightin’ Irish? If the latter isn’t too offensive to be mentioned and seen in polite company, neither is the former. Leave the ‘Skins alone.

The AL MVP Debate

It’s Friday, so how about something on the light side?

We’ve discussed some weighty topics here at ATiM and, with the exceptions of Scott and QB, we’ve all managed to be right once or twice. But we have yet to tackle a topic as important or divisive as: Who should win this year’s American League Most Valuable Player award?

Like the Presidential race, there are two candidates: Mike Trout of the Anaheim Angels and Miguel Cabrera of the Detroit Tigers.

As in the Presidential race, the sides have dug in and the mud-slinging has begun. There are many other similarities as well, but let’s just get to the arguments.

Mike Trout:

.326 BA, 30 HR, 83 RBI, 49 SB, 10.4 WAR (via Fangraphs)

Pros:He’s one of the best center fielders in baseball and is a rookie! He’s having one of the best rookie seasons in the history of baseball.

Cons: His team didn’t make the playoffs and he faded the last month of the season.

Miguel Cabrera:

.330 BA, 44 HR, 139 RBI, 4 SB, 7.2 WAR (via Fangraphs)

Pros: He just won the Triple Crown, meaning he led the American League in Batting Average, RBIs and Home Runs. He is the first player to do so since 1967. He played his best in August and September with the Tigers trying to make the Playoffs.

Cons: He’s not a good defender and he is not a good runner. His team had a worse record than Mike Trout’s team.

Some of you may be asking…what in the world is WAR? WAR is a “new” statistic that stands for Wins Above Replacement and has become somewhat of a dividing line between the Pro-Cabrera and Pro-Trout camps. From Fangraphs: WAR basically looks at a player and asks the question, “If this player got injured and their team had to replace them with a minor leaguer or someone from their bench, how much value would the team be losing?”

So, according to WAR, if Cabrera was replaced with a minor league player, the Tigers would win 7 fewer games while the Angels would win 10 fewer games. Now I could go on and on about these arguments and am happy to do so in the comments, but the bottom line is I’d be voting for Trout. He’s nearly as good of a hitter as Cabrera and he adds a lot more value with his running ability and defense. Who’s got your vote?

Top 10 Worst Olympic Moments (so far)…

So yesterday I posted that I am “growing to detest” the Olympics.  That is somewhat of a mis-statement.  I love the idea of them.  I love the competition and I am a sap for the stories that we hear about the atheletes.  I am amazed at some of the things I see them do.  I guess I am growing increasingly tired of the IOC and the way they are run. And the judging.  So, the list of things that I already love about these Olympics is long and probably boring…from Gabby to Phelps and beyond.  Truth be told, after the IOC rejected any acknowledgement of the 40th anniversary of the Munich game terrorism, I was ready to boycott them altogether.  But that was kind of like holding the atheletes responsible for the sins of the organizers.  So I have been watching.  All that said, they still piss me off for a number of reasons.  And here is my top ten list in no particular order:

1)  PC run amok – Banning the Greek triple jumper Voula Papachristou for a “racist” tweet (With so many Africans in Greece … at least the West Nile mosquitos will eat homemade food!!!) and Swiss soccer player Michel Morganella (I want to beat up all South Koreans! Bunch of mentally handicapped retards!).  Let me see if I have this correct.  The Olympics can be held in Nazi Germany but somehow these tweets merit removing people from the Olympics?  I’m glad no other atheletes harbor any prejudical thoughts.

2)  Head in Sand – The decision to not have an official moment of rememberance for the Israeli atheletes killed 40 years ago.

3)  Gymnatics I – The Tiebreaker. Women compete on each of the 4 apparatus for the all-around best gymnast.  They are judged to the thousandth of a point.  After the 4 events, two woman are tied, down to the thousandth, for the third best score.  Only one gets a bronze medal.  Why?  The tiebreaker procedure which drops the score of the worst event and then looks at the scores of the remaining 3.  Idiotic at best.   How is it that an ‘all-around’ competition when the result comes down to only 3 of the 4 apparatus?  I think it should be labeled not all-around but “three quarters-around”.  But the rules dramatically change year after year so next time,I am sure  they will have fixed this issue.

4)  Gymnastics II – A limit of 2 per country on the number of gymnasts that can compete in the all-around.  So if your country has the 3 best gymnasts in the world, one of you is out of luck.  If you are not going to let the best compete, how can the eventual winner be declared the best?

5)  Olympic Events I – Team Handball, Synchronized swimming, trampolin and no softball or baseball.  Really?  Just as an aside, the trampolin was won by a Chinese guy named Dong Dong…oh the places I could go with that name.

6) Olympic Events II – Synchronized swimming.  I understand that while the hammer throw is a classic, no kid says I want to grow up to be a hammer thrower.  But Synchronized swimming?

7)  Fairness (or lack thereof).  With time running out in one of the two semifinal matches for the women’s individual epee competition, South Korea’s Shin A Lam led Germany’s Britta Heidermann by a single point. Officially, Heidermann had just one second to launch an attack and score a touch, which would advance her on to the gold medal match to face the Ukraine’s Yana Shemyakina, a lack of time which all but ensured that Shin would advance.  Instead, the timing mechanism on the piste became stuck, giving Heidermann extra time to complete her attack and win the bout, which earned her the spot in the gold medal bout. Officials, unsure what to do without a true, official protocol to follow, eventually decided to award the victory to Heidermann. That decision alone is remarkably bad.  Ah…but it gets worse.  As one might expect, Shin and her coaches were enraged with the decision, and launched an immediate appeal. Yet the appeal itself proved to be incredibly lengthy and also contained a unique bylaw that required Shin to remain on the piste throughout its duration. Unable to leave the playing surface, Shin bawled uncontrollably for the first 10-15 minutes, often shading her head in a towel while occasionally looking out to the crowd before rubbing her eyes again.  At long last, after more than 30 minutes of a delay that included the Korean federation having to expedite a payment for the use in the official appeal, Shin’s attempt to overturn the result failed.  Naturally.  And  as a final insult, in order to make themselves feel better, they offered her a “competitor” medal, which she rightly rejected.  I don’t speak Korean but it looked like she said you can take that medal and shove it up your something or other.

8)  Oscar Pistorius – this will easily be my most controversial one.  Pistorius is a South African runner with 2 prosthetic legs that has been allowed to compete in the Olympics.  Now as someone who has a brother with muscular dystrophy who we have taken everywhere and helped him do most everything we do, I have to say the decision to allow Pistorius to compete with prosthetic legs is wrong.  He comes across like a great and inspirational guy and in many ways I will be pulling for him.  But he has artificial feet.  Whether they make him faster or not, he is not running on the same playing field as everyone else.  He should not be competing on the same one as everybody else either.

9)  Bad Bad badminton – Pairs from China, Indonesia and South Korea deliberately tried to lose to secure an easier draw in the subsequent knockout rounds.  The embarrassing scenes quickly attracted the attention of officials and media, and led to the expulsion of the eight players involved.  One of them, Yu Yang of China, pointed out to the sport’s administrators that she was playing within the rules and said she would quit the sport.  I am not sure exactly how I feel about this.  Am I more annoyed that teams were trying to lose or that players get kicked out for following the rules?  Maybe we should leave the sport to our backyards and not have it in the Olympics…

10)  Boxing – It amazes me that Olympics after Olympics, we continue to have what one could legitimately call rigged matches.  This time, AIBA, the governing body of amateur boxing, dismissed referee Ishanguly Meretnyyazov of Turkmenistan on Thursday after a bout on Wednesday between Satoshi Shimizu of Japan and Magomed Abdulhamidov of Azerbaijan. Shimizu knocked Abdulhamidov down six times in the third round, but Meretnyyazov didn’t rule any of them a knockdown. Meretnyyazov kept ordering Abdulhamidov to get up, as if Abdulhamidov was going down of his own volition. He was hurt by punches thrown by his opponent, who should have won by stoppage in the third round. But when Meretnyyazov didn’t called them knockdowns, the bout went to the scorecards, where the byzantine computerized scoring system that was put into place to prevent just such atrocities committed yet another one. Abdulhamidov entered the decisive third round with a 10-7 edge. The third round was scored 10-10, so Abdulhamidov won a 20-17 decision he clearly didn’t deserve.  The Japanese immediately protested and AIBA overturned the outcome.  However, one could have foreseen this because there was a BBC report from September that alleged Azerbaijan was promised two boxing gold medals in exchange for a $10 million loan to the AIBA.  AIBA investigated itself instead of having an outside body look into the allegations. Not surprisingly, it found the report was “groundless and unsupported by any credible evidence.” So it’s just coincidence that nine months after it dismissed that report as groundless, an Azerbaijani fighter was on the receiving end of an Olympic referee’s incomprehensible decision.  In the Olympic history of boxing, this might not make the top five list of worst offenders

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