2016-10-29

Cleveland Indians



Since the Red Sox and the White Sox broke their curses in 2004 and 2005 respectively, the longest two World Series droughts have been the Chicago Cubs and the Cleveland Indians.

By humiliating the Blue Jays in a 5-game stretch to win the ALCS, the Cleveland Indians are going to have a chance to break their drought. It's their first World Series since 1954, and they haven't won it since 1948. In fact, they only have a single previous appearance in 1920. This isn't a team that has had a lot of success. But they swept the Red Sox in the ALDS, they only needed 5 games to get rid of the Blue Jays, and they're playing against a team who, even before a Billy Goat kept them out of the World Series, had a lousy track record from 1909 to the present.
The Chicago Cubs lost the World Series in 1906 and then won in 1907 and 1908. They then played in the 1910, 1918, 1929, 1932, 1935, 1938, and 1945 World Series. They won a whopping eight games in those seven World Series.

Of course, nobody wants to talk about the Cleveland Indians without bringing up the silly controversy...

The controversy, of course, is that the name "Cleveland Indians" and their delightful mascot Chief Wahoo is so offensive to Red Indians that the name needs to be changed, sports broadcasters have to stop using them, and a massive Twitter campaign called #NotYourMascot has to be formed to hector and harass those who would call the Cleveland Indians the...Cleveland Indians.

This is, of course, bunk on numerous levels. As with so many things involving Red Indians, there's a certain lack of perspective by those who are so upset with this. Let's go through these issues one by one.

Issue 1: Red Indians are "marginalized" and therefore need to be treated differently than other racial groups. Typically when defending Cleveland Indians as just another sports team named after a racial group, it will be countered with the claim that because Red Indians are "marginalized" then the Cleveland Indians name is offensive in a way that the Notre Dame Fighting Irish isn't.

The "marginalized" argument is on thin ice to begin with. In Canada the Red Indian isn't marginalized, he's subsidized to the tune of $14.75 billion dollars a year. The American taxpayer isn't quite as badly burdened (understandable since they represent only 0.9% of the American population versus 4% of the population of Canada) but still costs the federal treasury $8B annually. That's a lot of direct cash...some of the rest of us wish we could be as "marginalized". Moving from financial to sociological grounds, "marginalized" is itself a nebulous concept. (Currently) the Wikipedia page defines it as...
Social exclusion is the process in which individual of people are systematically blocked from (or denied full access to) various rights, opportunities and resources that are normally available to members of a different group, and which are fundamental to social integration within that particular group
Again, in Canada there is a racial group "systemically blocked" from opportunities...whites aren't allowed to benefit from the Aboriginal Business & Enterpreneurship Development program, as an example. When asked to provide a relevent counter-example the #IdleNoMore weenies routinely fall flat. The only rights and opportunities and resources not available to a Red Indian is the right to leverage or sell on-reserve property for financial benefit. A similar problem exists in the United States. They don't own the land, the band does. Of course, every once and a while it is proposed that this occur, and you know who are the first to scream in complaint? Yep, that's right, the very people who complained about marginalization 30 seconds earlier. They enjoy considering themselves "marginalized" in the absence of any real evidence thereof. It helps them feel empowered when their victim status, not their personal choices, are the cause of any real or perceived hardship in life. A lot of times, the answer to "how can you demonstrate you're marginalized" is "can you imagine any other team with a name like the Cleveland Indians?" Then when you mention some, they say it's not the same. It's a complete catch-22.

There's nothing "offensive" about the Fighting Irish, but isn't there something very weird about them being the team name for the University of Notre Dame du Lac, which was built by a man from Laval France at the behest of a Frenchman from Indianapolis. The catch here is that the man from Laval (sounds like a great start to a limerick, speaking of the Irish) brought eight brothers from his order with him in 1842, and some of them were Irish.

Issue 2: You cannot compare teams like the Redskins or the Indians with teams like the Spartans or Vikings, since Vikings aren't alive anymore and Indians are. This is very similar but a slightly tweaked version of the first issue, and is equally bunk. Vikings are of course still very much alive, they're simply called the Swedish. Likewise Greeks are still totally a people. There are even people who live in Sparta to this very day: 35,259 of them. I touched on this argument a bit in my post last year about why all 94 TRC recommendations are garbage, but these team names aren't even necessarily about modern-day Red Indians. They are instead about a historical, mostly romantic, partly inaccurate portrayal of a group known to be powerful and full of vigour, energy, and spirit. The modern day Swede is completely unlike any Viking you can picture: they sloth around on the slowly decaying foundation of the public welfare state and life in fear of violent young Muslims mass-imported on dubious grounds. Likewise the Greeks are nothing like the Spartans of old: the only thing they fight for is more government entitlements, and they burn innocent workers alive in their violent protests to secure another paycheque for doing nothing.

Sports teams are all about endorsing a view of drive, competition, excellence, and perserverence. When they are named after animals, they typically pick bold and/or handsome specimens to venerate and emulate: Cardinals are known to be brightly coloured birds, for example, and "a lovely shade of cardinal" was already the colour for St. Louis's baseball team stockings. The San Jose Sharks, Vancouver Grizzlies, the Atlanta Falcons, Charlotte Bobcats, and Philadelphia Eagles were all named after animals known to be strong predatory creatures: great symbols of verility in the world of hunting, much as a team would be known to hunt for a championship trophy. Denver Broncos, Jacksonville Jaguars, Florida Panthers, and Indanapolis Colts are all named after animals known to be sleek and fast, typically horses. When it comes to naming teams after animals we don't care if the reality isn't quite on par with the fantasy: Grizzly bears eat more berries than freshly killed elk, more moths and pine nuts than salmon or bison. They don't even hunt as a general rule, prefering carrion already killed by wolves or the elements. The same applies when we're naming teams after human groups, both ethnic and otherwise. The team has to be called the Fighting Irish to distinguish themselves from normal Irishmen, who only "fight" in the sense of having the highest crime rate in the British Isles (even after the IRA troubles have ended). The Edmonton Oilers are named after the men who toil for black gold under the harsh Albertan winters, while a decent chunk of their fans are signing onto punitive carbon taxes and the less said about #OilersFistCaptain the better. The University of North Carolina is named the "Tar Heels", which was the "nigger" of 1865 but was later enthusiastically embraced by North Carolinians. If you're a resident of elsewhere and wear a "Tar Heels" jersey are you any worse than a white in a Cleveland Indian jersey? No? Why not?


Issue 3: These images are promoting false stereotypes. I suspect that this is part of the reason that Indians get so upset about sports teams being named after their racial group: the vast disconnect between their ancestors proud fighting ways, and their more modern SJW nonsense. Unlike Vikings, who didn't actually wear those funny hats, Mohawk warriors of old actually looked far more bloodthirsty than their cartoon representations look today. The Huron, who they stole the style from, looked even more sinister. The problem isn't that these are false images of who Red Indians used to be, the problem is that they are true. Pace the T-shirt Hell image posted above, the stereotype of what Indians used to be is a positive one regardless of its truth. As I noted in the Issue 2 discussion, sports teams are chosen based on positive characteristics whether stereotypical or not. The Berea College sports teams are called the "Mountaineers" which imparts a mental image of stalwart and strong men like Paul Bunyon able to forge across a great untamed frontier. In reality Berea College (alma matter of NCIS actor Muse Watson) is a "Fair Trade Unviersity" that spit out a Secretary of State until Jimmy Goddamned Carter. Likewise when you think of the Chicago Blackhawks you think of the legend of Black Hawk, the Sauk Indian who fought U.S. Settlers and formed a group of feared warriors uniting the Fox and Sauk clans. You don't think of his predecessor Quashquame who got piss drunk and gave away his entire nation in return for a partiularly good vintage of Lysol, nor his rival and contemporary who betrayed Black Hawk and became the only Indian from the Sauk tribe who the Americans dealt with. Perhaps the Black Hawks were the exception to the rule while the Quashquames were the norm? Which would you prefer, a false image of nobility or a realistic depiction which just falls under a different stereotype. Not that "stereotype" is necessarily a bad thing anyways. You have a stereotype of a Ukrainian but not of a Kazakhstani...not because you have a more rounded view of a Kazakhstani but because you don't have any view of him at all! Talk about being "marginalized". Indian team names are keeping this race in the collective consciousness. You might think that you would prefer to be recognized individually for your own individual achievments, and that's fair. But there are surely successful folks from Kazakhstan. I can't name any, can you?

The problem is that while Red Indians love co-opting their (possibly false or highly exaggerated) warrior culture, it doesn't reflect who they have become today. That isn't the fault of the Cleveland Indians, anymore than its the fault of the Minnesota Vikings that a Norwegian today is nothing like his seafaring ancestors of old. Demanding the team change the name to avoid you being shamed by your sins in failing to live up to your cultural legacy is not only unfair but highly counterproductive. Like the virgin in college bragging about his high school sex exploits, Red Indians embrace their warrior culture to compensate for the fact that they probably didn't have one. While it may be inaccurate for the Atlanta Braves or the Cleveland Indians to use a warrior motif related to Red Indians, it isn't like whites made this stereotype out of thin air. You ask us to believe that your culture is the North American equivalent of the Spartans of "300" fame, and then are shocked that we take it on face value and act upon it.

Issue 4: Only Indians are allowed a position on these team names. This is probably the most ludicrous and offensive take on it all. Whenever anybody who doesn't have a vested interst in a policy has an opinion on it, it's typically a sign of a level-headed view not tied up in petty tribal politics or a real or perceived sense of being wronged. As Ted Byfield and Lord Justice Leveson have said, policy should never be set by the victims. That should be doubly so when the victims are only victims in their heads. Yet when dealing with identify-group politics such as this, we're often told the exact opposite: only Indians can discuss if "Cleveland Indians" is a valid team name. There are actually two major problems with this issue. The first, and it's the one that Trevor Norris would argue, is that when you actually poll Red Indians to learn what their opinion is on the topic, you find that the majority aren't actually offended by them. This is a valid point, and it's worth making (which is why you're reading it in this blogpost), but it's not the strongest argument against this ludicrous "you aren't allowed to discuss it" claim, and you might have already guessed it when you see that 9/10 Indians don't mind "Redskins" (and presumably 1/10 oppose it).

That second problem is that "Indians" are a group of individuals with their own beliefs, concerns, attitudes, and experiences. As with any group of people who only exist as a group through an arbitrary and involuntary definition, you cannot say anything about them. For all practical purposes, "Indians" don't actually exist anymore than "whites" exist. After all, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are both "whites". And is President Monkey a "white" or a "black"? He's 50/50 in the racial makeup lines. Similarly are Metis or other half-Indian people allowed an opinion on Cleveland Indians? Half an opinion? If Elizabeth Warren weighed in on the team name and logo, would she only get 1/32nd the airtime? Because of this, and this is a very important point, the name Cleveland Indians, the Chief Wahoo character, and the entire debate cannot belong to them either. Being of the same ethnic group as the historical peoples being honoured/borrowed for these team names doesn't give you any right to control what the team does with the name and logo. Those belong to the Cleveland Indians organization (who belong to a guy, who is ironically a Fighting Irish) and the organization alone. Everybody can have an opinion on them, and nobody has the right either moral or legal to tell Larry Dolan what he can do with them.

Which is why the idiotic Douglas Cardinal attempt to use the courts to force the Cleveland Indians, the professional baseball league they belong to, and their partnered media organizations to cease using their name was so brutally offensive. Cowardly Red Indian activist Jesse Wente tried arguing that "I fundamentally disagree" with the idea that "nobody owns history". As such, he and other Red Indian extremists have tried to deny people they consider "racially unclean" from "owning" the historical (or faux-historical) nature of their culture. To that end, of course, why did Cardinal go to court (invented by the British)? Why did Wente-the-Coward go on the radio? These aren't things invented or created by their prehistoric culture, so what gives them the right to co-opt them for their own purposes like this?

In general, this is the thing you'll notice about this desire to take "offensive" Red Indian team names away: those who oppose take the most simplistic and one-sided view of the issue, believing that their culture gets special dispensation not available to any other. So, if they really want to push this, below is a poll. Please vote and tell me which name you prefer for "the Cleveland baseball team".