POP!, October '00
INERTIA is the guiding force in WIT
MEMO's life . . .why do now what you can put off until tomorrow,
or even until a half hour from now, if there's a decent chance that if
you shilly-shally long enough, some highly-motivated self-starter will
get disgusted and do it first? And naturally, WIT
MEMO jumps at any chance to kill two birds with one stone. So
when a few strokes of the pen by the right people would delight folks on
both ends of the political spectrum, end a longstanding, needless injury
to an historically mistreated minority, and generate bushels o' bucks for
the local economy to boot, it's time for a big-league throwdown. So let's
break out the TUPPER'S HOP POCKET and the
MAKER'S MARK, and
change the name of the WASHINGTON REDSKINS to THE RONALD REAGAN
NATIONAL FOOTBALL TEAM.
Stifle your gag reflex and hear me out: it's dazzlingly perfect, given
that the construction of some kind of monument to honor Ronald Reagan now
seems a sad reality, and that the Nation's Capital just happens to have
a flagship football team that's sorely in need of a new name. The planets
fell into alignment early last month with the coincidence of two unrelated
news events: first, the demand by House Majority Whip, former exterminator,
and impeachment warrior TOM DELAY for a "REAGAN MEMORIAL,"
even though "memorials" aren't generally erected to honor living individuals
(headline: "DELAY TO REAGAN: I WANT YOU DEAD"), and, just a few
days later, a well-reasoned presentation of the case against the name "Redskins"
by American Indian activist SUZAN HARJO during a Washington
Post online discussion of the same topic.
Delay's proposal was only the opening shot in the what's certain to
become a hagiographic drumbeat for Something Big bearing the name of the
revered-by-some 40th President. The Reaganistas' hectoring
demands will only get louder, and they will not be denied, so you might
as well dry your eyes and accept that a Reagan memorial is as dead-to-rights
a certainty as death, taxes and free kittens. You only had to catch a few
minutes of the GOP confab to grasp the God-like status that "the Gipper"
enjoys throughout the Land of the Right. Conservatives of every stripe
-- neo- and paleo-conservatives, "movement" conservatives and family values
mongers -- speak reverentially of "Reagan's 11th
Commandment" and dream of the second coming when a worthy successor will
descend from the Shining City On The Hill to make everything once again
right in our confused and morally rudderless land. To the right wing
what BRUCE LEE is to martial arts magazines, Reagan is worshiped
as the architect of the collapse of communism and the only GOPer in
40 years to last out two terms. And no matter how much you might despise
him for basing eight years of national policy on those phony anecdotes
he used to pull out of thin air, you gotta give him his due: behind a Teleprompter
he looked like a million bucks (aside from those curious, vine-like wrinkles
descending from the corners of his mouth that made his face appear encrusted
with foliage, like an old brick building), even if he did guarantee knee-slapping
blooper footage and take years off his handlers' lives every time he strayed
from the prepared text.
And don't waste your breath pointing out that there's already substantial
public works bearing the Reagan moniker. The Reaganites' lust for a tribute
worthy of their injured hero is far from stanched by a half-pint airport
and an office building chock-a-block full of the bureaucratic remorae they
loathe as a matter of principle. There's ample precedent for multiple monuments:
those Little Liver Pills didn't stop them from naming a nuclear submarine
after JIMMY CARTER.
But if there must be a Reagan memorial, then what, and where? Surely
not another neo-classical colossus on the Mall, which is so overladen with
granite and marble that it threatens to sink into the Potomac and become
the foggy fen it was two hundred years ago when canals ran the length of
what's now Constitution Avenue, and boats docked only a few dozen feet
from the site of the Washington Monument. Well what, then?
As it happens, Washington, D.C. has a top-dollar, national-rep NFL team
that desperately needs a new name. The arguments against the name "Redskins"
are so familiar that repeating them seems more of a waste of space than
this column usually represents, but it belies any gainsaying that it's
a hands-down ethnic slur, a racist anachronism from a bygone era when the
owners of other competitive recreational entities -- championship show
dogs -- thought nothing of bestowing the name "Nigger" on their ebony-coated
pets, as with several entrants in a 1930's book of championship Labrador
retrievers that WIT MEMO once came
across at a used book sale. The offensiveness
was patent to a three-judge panel at the US Patent and Trademark Office
that in April '99 canceled the team's trademark registrations pursuant
to a federal law prohibiting "disparaging" names and logos. (Meaning, presumably,
that any Tom, Dick, and Magua are free to market their own bootleg Redskins
paraphernalia; it's a wonder no one hasn't.) And the pitiably few defenses
that team management has so far offered (it honors the bravery of the noble
Indian; the first coach was a Native American; we don't give a flying fuck
what anyone thinks) are post-hoc rationalizations so feeble and phony that
even a lawyer or a real estate agent would turn blue in the face attempting
to pass them off as the genuine article.
What better tribute could there be to "The Gipper" than a professional
sports franchise? It would be the ultimate consummation of the longstanding
relationship between big-time TV sports and the cutthroat world of politics,
where familiar sports metaphors have become so trite they've fallen out
of use. And of all sports, none better does justice to Reagan that pro
football, a game full of battlefield terminology ("...continued to rain
bombs down on the hapless Denver defense" ... "we begin bombing in five
minutes") so appropriate to a cold warrior who, though he didn't see any
actual combat, is credited by his acolytes with the collapse of communism
and the Fall o' the Wall, usually at the expense of MIKHAIL GORBACHEV.
The parallels continue: it was during his early days as a sportscaster
that Reagan honed his fabulist chops, getting game updates off the teletype
and then making up play-by-play action to hoodwink his listeners into believing
that He Was There. And of all NFL teams, none would be better than the
one right here in the Nation's capital, the true "America's Team" (Dallas?
Please), whose star last shown during Reagan's presidency. And whereas
a Reagan Monument would be seen by few and soon forgotten, the fate reserved
for any presidential monuments outside the Washington-Lincoln-Jefferson
triad, a Reagan National Football Team would be seen and loved and cheered
by umpteen millions around the world, week after week. What percentage
of a Monday Night Football audience has any idea what the FDR Memorial
The mind reels at the possibilities. The Reagan National Football Team
could be nicknamed "The Gippers," and their stadium (currently the
odious "Fed Ex Field") lovingly dubbed the Oval Office (yet another
nail in the coffin of TONY KORNHEISER'S late, annoying campaign
to call it "The Big Jack.") And as the plaintiffs in the trademark suit
have pointed out, the name change would generate beaucoup bucks: Redskins paraphernalia would become valuable collectors'
items, and eager fans would line up to fork over their hard-earned dollars
to buy shirts, jackets, sweats, mugs, hats, posters and pennants featuring
logos bearing vintage images of the 40th President, he of orange
hair and empty head (and no, that's NOT a crack at his current condition).
Just like the Post Office's ELVIS stamp, merchandise could feature
either the dashing young movie star ("Where's the rest of me?"), or the older,
distinguished vanquisher of Democrats ("Our government spends money like the proverbial
sailor on shore leave, with one difference: the sailor is spending his
It's so perfect, it's a mystery no one's thought of it yet. The Post's
excellent MARC FISHER came close but ultimately missed the boat
in his September 16th column (What
Next? Reagan Brand Raisin Bran? ) depicting a somber future where absolutely
everything has been renamed after Ronald Reagan . . . everything, that
is, EXCEPT the Washington Redskins, which have become "The Sacagaweas."
Plus, he was kidding. WIT MEMO is serious.
So don't sit on your hands this time. Let 'em know where you stand.
Call, write, and email team owner DANIEL SNYDER and
the rest of the local hidalgos and demand they eighty-six the 'Skins
and bring on The Gippers. Turns out, it's just as well that Snyder
didn't heed WIT MEMO's sarcastic suggestion
in July '99 (WIT
MEMO 43) that he call the team "THE WASHINGTON INJUNS,"
and rename then-Jack Kent Cooke Stadium "HEAP BIG PIGSKIN TEPEE." Snyder
seems to have his hands full with all the flack he's lately caught for
his bungled efforts to spend his way to a national title. Now's his chance
to get something right.
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