Letter from the Editor

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Offended? If not, you aren't trying

You just have to figure that it's going to get interesting when a gymnasium committee and a Multicultural Nonsexist Committee get together.

That's what is going in Spirit Lake, where keeping or dropping the school sports nickname "Indians" is under discussion. With a new gym project, the school is trying to decide what it should, and shouldn't, put on the walls.

The issue is nothing new, of course. People have been throwing a fuss over some pro and college sports nicknames for years, and of late, both the Cherokee "Braves" and Sioux Center "Warriors," among other high schools, have discussed whether their names or mascots should get the politically-correct heave-ho.

The Iowa Department of Education has expressed concern over Native American-related team names for a decade or so. Nobody wants to get sued or embarassed.

Aside from just plain stupid names, like "Redskins," or the Braves' former mascot "Chief Knockahoma," I've never seen anything wrong with school names like "Warriors" or "Braves." They are intended to honor the Native American legacy in a community, not make fun of it.

Though I'm Norweigian, I have yet to picket the Vikings, who have enough troubles without that, and the touch of grandma's emerald aisle in my veins is hardly boiled by the "Celtics" or the "Fighting Irish."

"Indians" is in a gray area. It is not intended to offend, yet is a term that indiginous people do not prefer in this day and age, and their feelings should be respected. But how many Native Americans (as opposed to those very caucasian PC committees) have really expressed cultural pain with basketball games at places like Spirit Lake and Cherokee?

It's more than a PC debate. Costs for replacing decor and uniforms might possibly hit $100,000 in a time of strained school budgets. Bad pun, but that would give me reservations.

One idea is to replace the Indians name and mascot with something designed to offend nobody - a "SL1" logo.

But not so fast! That might make for some real confusion when, every season, the Lakes Conference school in every sport plays Storm Lake, which also uses "SL" logos on its clothing.

I suppose if someone were looking for a reason to be upset, the Storm Lake Tornadoes might appear insensitive to storm victims. One can always find something to get upset about, if getting upset is your mian goal in life.

I remember when the NBA's Washington Bullets had to change their name to the Washington Wizards, because somebody thought the name sounded like it was promoting gunplay.

There's a lot stranger fare out there in high school sports, according to one list maintained by a prep athletic association.

The worst is probably the Yuma, Arizona "Criminals."

Or the "Vandals" in Van, Texas. Or the "Outlaws" of Rawlins, Wyoming. Whose idea was all that, the county prosecutor's?

And how about the "Maniacs" of Orofino, Idaho? Is no one upset by the "Hilbillies" of Ozark, Arkansas? The "Whitefaces" in Hereferd, Texas? The "Norskies" of DeForest, Wisconsin? The "Sultans" of Hesparia, California? Or Sheiks of Hollywood High?

I can see taunting problems for the "Lady Meloneers" of Rocky Ford, Colorado.

The wimpiest name is perhaps the "Bunnies" of Fisher, Illinoism but I'll bet PETA is ticked anyway.

The Point Hope, Alaska, Harpooners surely must offend Greenpeace. The "Midgets" over in Estherville must chaffe the little people.

There's the "Nimrods" of Watersmeet, Michigan. People are probably offended, but they don't dare say so. The Zeeland East, Michigan girls are known as the "Chix." Vineland, New Jersey has the "Fighting Clan" (Careful, not Klan).

I'm somehow offended by the "Hodags" of Rhinlelander, Wisconsin, without even having a clue what a Hodag is.

My favorite team name of all time might be the "Macon Whoopee," the former minor league hockey team. Followed closely by the University of California Santa Cruz Banana Slugs.

Frankly, I think they should change the "Indians," not because it is politically incorrect, but because it isn't very creative.

Let's see - we could go with The Spirit Lake "Spirit."

It's cold up there - maybe "The Ice."

Or, perhaps... the Iowa Lakes Traffic Snarlers.

Ultimately, its a bit silly for adult committees, not to mention newspaper editors, to be sitting around stressing over kid's athletic team nicknames. There's bigger fish to fry. Why not let the students come up with a list of ideas, and take a vote on it.

Indians, SL1 or whatever else, it's not so much what's on the jersey as what's in the hearts of the kids rapping away underneath. As conference opponents who hook it up often, we've gotten to know that Spirit Lake has some great young people. Give them a shot at it. And whatever gets a little school spirit beating should be good with the adults, too.

Thought for the Day

Why is it that a SLIGHT tax increase costs you two hundred dollars, and a SUBSTANTIAL tax decrease saves you thirty cents?

* Dana Larsen is the editor of the Storm Lake Pilot-Tribune. He can be reached at dlarsen@stormlakepilottribune.com