Saturday, July 11, 2020

Still Life with Robin: Hail to the Somethings!

Photo by Keith Allison
licensed by Creative Commons
by Peggy Robin

The times they are a-changin’…..and the names, they are a-changin’, too! 

Last Saturday in this space I took up the case of the impending Wilson High School name change – and at close to 6,000 words, it was the longest column I’ve ever done. I looked at over 65 different name suggestions to use in place of the segregationist Woodrow Wilson, and that took a while! Now I am rested and ready for a new challenge. This is a familiar one for me – what to call the Washington Football Team after they drop the racist slur, Reds***s – as I have already done THREE columns on the subject, all in 2013.

1. “Hail to the Reds***s, Part 1 (Feb 9 2013)

2. “Hail to the Reds***s, Part 2 (Feb 16, 2013)   
And then half a year later (August 10, 2013) this one announcing that the Cleveland Park Listserv would no longer post messages that used the slur for the team’s name:


Back when I posted those columns, I was under the apprehension (which, of course, turned out to be extremely premature) that the team owners would not be able to resist the tide of change, they'd recognize it was time to rename the team, and it would be over in a matter of weeks -- a few months at the most. Well, here we are, seven years on, and we’re still waiting. 

But in that time, I’ve been mulling it over, and I’m no longer so enamored of my top name picks back in the day. In those days, I liked the idea of using “Red White & Blue” as a collective team name (kind of like “Utah Jazz” or “Orlando Magic”)  

On the same flag theme, I also liked The Washington Stars & Stripes, which could be shortened to “Stars” or maybe retain the "red" and call them "Red Stars".   

But now I’m thinking that’s not a good direction to go. Better to have something simple -- a single image -- and a name that rolls off the tongue. I’m also thinking, after all the historical and psychological analysis over the meaning of “Reds***s,” let’s have something without layers of meaning. No double-entendres, no puns, no literary allusions, no satirical digs at politics or bureaucracy or anything that could be taken in a partisan way.   

And of course, we should stay miles away from anything touching on Native American peoples or their culture.   

That means NO to any of the following:  

Washington Monuments

Washington Senators
Washington Presidents
Washington Federals
Washington Bureaucrats
Washington Gridlock
Washington Potowmacks
Beltway Bandits   

Let’s stick with animals then. Here are the top choices:

Washington Redtails. Refers to the redtailed hawk – but it’s also a tribute to the Tuskeegee Airmen of World War II – and their planes, called Redtails.
Washington Redhawks. Same as the redtailed hawk, but shorter…..but are Redhawks too much like Seahawks?
Washington Hogs. That was the nickname for the offensive line – back when we had a team with an effective offense. But is “Hog” too close to “Pig” (a name that is unmistakably an insult)?
Washington Red Wolves. Refers to a species of wolf once plentiful on the eastern seaboard, but now critically endangered. Will that lead to extinction jokes whenever the team is eliminated from playoffs?

If you would like to see a list of the most popular choices, you can find them in this The Washington Post article on July 6:  

You can also see the results of the Post’s Readers’ Poll here:

I suppose it’s too late to offer up a new contender…..but lack of practical impact has never stopped me before. So here's my own candidate for a new team name and mascot:
The Washington Sharks.   

It ticks all the boxes. It’s an animal. It’s simple to say - just one syllable! Sharks are fierce, fighting animals. They’re fast, constantly on the move. And they’re an apex predator. But, as we’ve learned from the worldwide popularity of the song Baby Shark – they can be fun and winsome, too! That Baby Shark song sure did give a boost to the morale -- and maybe even the performance --of our baseball team last summer. And for those who would still like to have some sort of “Washington insider” reference, “shark” is a term for an aggressive negotiator, whether in politics or in business. When lawyers are called sharks, it’s rather a double-edged compliment, but I’m sure if we called our football team The Sharks, it would be taken in a good way.  

So that’s my new name proposal, and I’m sticking to it:The Washington Sharks – doo doo dah doot de-dooo!
Still Life with Robin is published on the Cleveland Park Listserv and on All Life Is Local on Saturdays.   

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