Month: June, 2013

My Two Sense: The Washington Redskins’ Name

Sometimes I wonder what life is like in less prosperous countries where time and work are directly proportional to one’s ability to survive. Does person A get into a debate with person B about person C’s name? Of course not, they have better things to do. Unfortunately, I’ve settled on this simple idea: people will complain. It doesn’t matter how great life is (see: Jay Gatsby), each and every day a human will compose a problem out of his or her imagination. In America, we do it to an exhaustive extent. The PC–politically correct–Gestapo are out there in full force, waiting to command and conquer the world one (non) issue at a time.

When I get worked up about this, I always think back to the South Park episode where the boys call the bikers “fags.” Once the episode reaches the classic South Park denouement, we get the boys explaining how the word “fag” has changed meaning over the years. In essence, it’s meaning has evolved because it’s been abused by adolescent children. It no longer is a pejorative  for gay people; rather, it simply means–colloquially–asshole, which I guess is a bit of a paradox, but I digress. This is exactly how the Redskins have evolved. Does anyone truly think about the derogatory nature of the word? As a Packer fan, I’m fully aware of our origin story, and yet I don’t find myself cheering for Green Bay because of their fantastic meat packing beginnings.

Whenever I do read an article about this, I get annoyed (see, people without problems create problems). Published on Grantland, the author of the article writes for the Nation and is a fan of the Redskins. Oh wow, another politico weighing in on the sports arena. Hey John Kerry, how was your visit to Lambart (sic) Field? I read Mr. Zirin’s article and came away with nothing. He merely lambastes Daniel Snyder along with his perennial lackluster team. While all true, this doesn’t solve the problem. It’s simply a public relations shitball slung in Synder’s direction. And that’s how it works. No real substantive debate. No, simply a smear campaign until Synder and co. are too toxic to mop up the waste.

Now I want to make it clear. I’m not advocating for either side. I don’t care one iota what happens. I just can’t stand political correctness. Ironically enough (or maybe not, depending on your bias), it was Redskins’ QB, RG3, who tweeted this gem out there:

“You called me my real name?”

So does context matter? Is derogatory a subjective value, with the variable being the intent? Example: Many girls call their friends their “bitches” or, in some dialects, “betches.” In this close circle, an insult is actually a term of endearment. As a guy, I expect to be called a penis or dickhead (Frued was on to something, huh?) upon entering a room. It’s expected. Not giving a friend a perverse nickname is an insult in some circles. I argue that context is as important as the word itself. Stan, Kyle, Cartman, and Kenny were calling the bikers “fags” with a context that has been usurped over the years to mean 2013’s version of asshole, not Webster’s stuck up, old boring person’s original definition. Words evolve. Just read Shakespeare to find out. Anyways, what if the Redskins’ name was originally a term of endearment? This comes from Michael Tomasky:

The nickname had been the brainchild of George Preston Marshall, a laundry magnate and flamboyant showman who had bought the Boston Braves football team in 1932. As his second head coach, Marshall hired William “Lone Star” Dietz, a journeyman coach at the collegiate level whose mother was most likely a Sioux. It was in “honor” of Dietz, who coached the team for just two seasons and who at Marshall’s urging willingly put on war paint and Indian feathers before home games, that Marshall changed the team’s name to the Redskins. When Marshall, frustrated by Boston fans’ lack of support, moved the franchise to the nation’s capital in 1937, the coach was gone, but the team name stayed.

Tomasky doesn’t elaborate on his use of quotations. I’ll just “assume” he wasn’t quite sure of the real motive behind the naming. Either way, the name does have a genesis that fits my prior rant about intent. Marshall may have been a racist, but he may have also held Coach Dietz in high esteem. I suspect the two had a fairly collegial relationship, which indicates that the name Redskins indeed has an origin story filled with respect, not with hate.

Who cares, though? Well, Mike Florio does. I frequent ProFootballTalk because I’ve bailed the ESPN mothership. However, when I escape the sensationalist ESPN, I encounter the PC/NBC-owned ProFootball talk. For the media to push an agenda, it isn’t about propagating falsehoods. While that does happen on FOX, CNN, and MSNBC, it’s not the prominent driver in pushing said agenda. No. The real culprit: story selection, or media narrative. Florio obviously doesn’t like the Redskins name; thus, he will pick up on any story in which he finds parallel to his own contrived angst. I wonder if he’s ever read this article:

Robert Green, retired chief of the Patawomeck Tribe in Virginia, told the paper that he has no objection to the team’s name.

“It doesn’t bother me,” Green said. “About 98 percent of my tribe is Redskins fans, and it doesn’t offend them, either.”

Kevin Brown, chief of the Pamunkey Tribe of Virginia, said that his tribe generally feels the same way.

“I’m a Redskins fan, and I don’t think there’s any intention for (the nickname) to be derogatory. The majority of the people in my tribe don’t have a problem with it. There are a few who do, and we respect their feelings.”

It goes without saying that there will never be uniform support for any one person. Even Jesus, who is edged by President Lincoln, only has a 90 percent approval rating. No one’s goal should be to convince everyone. Rather, it should be a goal for everyone to stop caring about the menial issues that we create for ourselves. It’s exhausting. It’s stress and energy that could be spent dealing with real problems like raising children or working. But then again, when you’re job is to write about sports, you may try to make it out to be more important than it actually is, which is entertainment.

Book Review: The Outpost by Jake Tapper

What makes HBO’s The Wire a great series is, well, many things; however, what struck me most was when I’d be watching, I’d forget that it was dramatized fiction. It seemed all too real. When approached at a micro level, you found yourself cheering for violent criminals. The disconnect between the homicide/narcotics detectives and high-ranking officials in the police department made too much sense to be fiction. At the macro level, it’s a commentary on institutional dysfunction. One gets to see where seemingly objective statistics and numbers can be misconstrued as progress, where goals and initiatives can only result in a better world for all. Yet, once we see people operating with their own prejudices, biases, motives, etc., we find how organizations falter. In the same way The Wire portrays this, so does Jake Tapper in his thoroughly researched, entertaining-yet-horrific account of the war in Afghanistan entitled The Outpost. 

Enter 2006. The United States military, in act of utter hubris, decided to build a presence in the Nuristan province of Afghanistan along the Hindu Kush mountains. This is the same area the Soviets attempted to take over in the late 70s and 80s. Despite superior technology, the Soviets found themselves on the losing end. But how did that happen? A layman would shrug it off as inferior training or perhaps shallow morale. Despite all this, and despite reluctance from some lower-ranking analysts, the outposts would be built. Each one started with one name, and, when I finished the book, would end with another–named after a fallen hero.

In the grand scheme, the Army brass thought these outposts to be indicators of progress–a march forward. However, those making the decisions weren’t the ones dealing with the day-to-day operations. The goal, among other things, was to build transportation infrastructure into the region making the logistical nightmare of delivering supplies a little easier. The process came by way of employing the locals. This would prove futile as the locals, battle-hardened peoples with a penchant for playing both sides, couldn’t police the region enough to maintain consistent work. Despite the Army’s efforts, the road would never get built, making helicopter drops the only method of delivery.

Prior to this book, I’ve read my fair share of modern military accounts: Lone Survivor, Generation Kill, Fearless, and American Sniper. All of these, including The Outpost, have put into words the tragedy that comes with war. However, The Outpost is the most difficult to get through because chapter after chapter, soldier after soldier, death happens. A significant number would enter, and then another significant number wouldn’t return. Tapper, being a journalist (currently as the host of CNN’s The Lead with Jake Tapper) writes with brevity, and it works. The gruesome tragedies that incur amongst our own are horrific and detailed. This passage was one in particular that stuck out to me:

“Inside the bird, a cold calm came over the men. They knew what their purpose was. Portis thought, I’m not going to come back from this mission. This is it. This is how I’m going to die. He had written his wife, Alison, a farewell letter and given it to his brother to present to her should he not return. She would be taken care of. Portis got choked up for a second, and then he made his peace with what awaited him in the valley. This is what he signed up for…putting pen to paper, he drew a diagram and began planning with his men how they would exit the helicopter, run for cover, and then join the fight to save Combat Outpost Keating.”

To put this into context, Combat Outpost Keating was set to ship out. Word spread and the Taliban executed their biggest attack yet. The attack came in the early morning and wouldn’t finish until nightfall. Soldiers who were hurt wouldn’t be able to take advantage of the “golden hour”–the idea that if a soldier is wounded in battle, he or she has a 90% chance at survival if given medical attention within an hour. Since the only way in was by helicopter, and RPGs were falling like rain, the golden hour was awash. Soldiers like Portis in the above passage were aware of their situation. They simply made peace with the fact that they will die. The romance of dying for your country becomes negligible. These proud few willingly became the most selfless individuals on the planet because they were brothers in arms, they died fighting for each other, and most frustrating, for a whole lot of people wearing YOLO hats or a media that use these exact battles as political capital for mindless punditry.

I found it difficult to read a soldier’s heartwarming and humanizing backstory only to see him die. I would hold on hope that Hollywood would intervene with a dramatic recovery. But real life isn’t Hollywood. As the KIA numbers increased, so did my respect for what these troops did. While I sat in the basement of crummy college house slamming cheap beer with friends, soldiers my age were selflessly putting themselves in harm’s way. This is a required read just to realize how well each and every free American has it.

At the micro level, you get to see the great work that individuals did day in and day out. Work that no one ever talked about at home. Counterinsurgency, the idea of creating a bond with the locals to ensure a more open dialogue, made real progress. It took time, energy, and death. And when General McChrystal and President Obama get in a rift that becomes public in Rolling Stone, the chips start to fall. Troop levels fluctuate, eventually pulling the plug on the operation altogether, which begs the ultimate question: What was the effort here worth. Despite the small victories in battle, was the American presence in Nuristan worth it? That question is never really answered, but I’m ambivalent about it. It seems that we gained an experience that will change future operations out there. This question, along with the residents of Nursitan and it’s surrounding hamlets, is a fickle matter.

Altogether, the read is necessary for understanding why progress isn’t as fast as everyone would like it to be. And this is microscopic in terms of information needed to judge the war effort in general. I won’t pretend to have the answers, and I don’t think Tapper does either. His voice is largely absent throughout the whole book besides the epilogue in which asks a few fair questions. Do not read this and expect an endorsement of neither President Bush or President Obama. The focus is to highlight the heroic nature of our troops. What is interesting, though, is how politics directly affects real people. Rarely do the ones behind the microphone actually have to practice what they preach. In that, I find that overt praise for a high-ranking politician for a war victory to be naive. War is an animal. The president is the owner of the animal. However, the ones responsible to taming that animal are the soldiers.

I know I’m late here, but I urge any and all to read more about our troops, so on Memorial Day, you can actually acknowledge the ones who have paid the ultimate sacrifice by name rather than provide us with a generic Facebook post. I would recommend starting with The Outpost.

On behalf of 20 somethings,

Thank You!

Movie Review: The Internship

The Internship, starring Luke Wilson (left) and Vince Vaughn (right), hits theaters today.

 

Movie review: It’s PG-13.

 

Translation: Wedding Crashers on TBS is unwatchable.

 

As a Write This…

 

Coincidentally, Gallardo threw one of his best games after his DUI arrest. When asked for comment, he said, “I’m better when I’m drunk.”

 

In this segment, I write about whichever is currently lighting up my Twitter feed. Today’s story: the MLB will be pursuing suspensions up to 100 games against Ryan Bryan and Alex Rodriguez, among others. The Milwaukee Brewers (homer speaking) are out of it. Last year’s youth was a confluence of supbar fan expectations and exploited potential. As any fan knows, though, potential usually seems to subside, it reaches an equilibrium, which if you are a Brewers fan, is quite ironic considering their baseline for success is .500.

On June 4, the Brewers have posted a pitiful, don’t-check-your-outgoing-text-messages-last-night 21-35 record. They are over 16 games out of first place, and that youthful potential that seemed so promising, has fulfilled what potential usually does–it subsides. Jean Segura not withstanding, the Brewers could be on their way to an all-out foreclosure. Rickie Weeks, hitting below the Mendoza line, is as confident as Henry Rowengartner at the plate (at least he gets walks). Yovanni Gallardo isn’t developing into the ace that Attanasio and company suspected; their pitching as a whole is simply devoid of adequate talent. And Ryan Braun, the perennial all-star, now looks to be on the 100 day DL (designated liar) list.

The season is over.

If MLB: The Show wanted to hail itself as a true baseball simulator, your star player, nicknamed whichever sophomoric portmanteau one can think of, has to miss the rest of the year for injecting human growth hormones.  SCE San Diego can simply market the simulation as therapy for hapless fans like myself. The hardscrabble fandom that it takes to be a Brewer fan, however, shouldn’t demand sympathy, because…Packers. It’s June, and training camp opens in late July.

Go Pack Go