What does the state of a nation’s professional sports say about it?
Ann Coulter, as is her wont, recently wrote a scathing column in the context of the World Cup, saying:
“Any growing interest in soccer can only be a sign of the nation’s moral decay.”
The piece is mostly hyperbole and controversial statements, as is typical of Coulter. Her best point is to remind us that liberals want Americans to like soccer – like they want us to like other things – because it is popular in Europe – and that isn’t a good reason to like anything.
In addition, she points out that soccer is not nearly as popular as those who would foist it upon us would have us believe. The US vs. Portugal had 18.2 million viewers; 20 million people watch the average Sunday Night Football game. Again, a reason for liberals to love it: few Americans do, so their interest makes them elite. Liberal policies are not that different in that we are constantly told that everyone supports them except for the crazies, when it is patently untrue.
Ironically, Coulter created a conversation livelier than the sport the original column was about. Just like the slapstick routine of carrying the piano up the flight of long stairs, we can see what will happen a mile away and yet it is still funny. Liberals had a hissy fit.
Some conservatives scrambled to condemn Coulter and remind the world that we aren’t all like that. But let’s be honest: that too is predictable.
She says what she says to get a rise out of people and get them to read her columns. It works. She feigns conviction in exaggerated opinion and we read them (or some piece claiming to tell us what she said) and feign outrage. She expands readership and thus money and attention; we get to show our superiority by rejecting her ignorant views. Everyone wins.
Soccer may not be a terrific sport like, say, rugby, but neither is it a sign of a nation’s moral decay, a fact that most sensible people recognize. Just as something being European is not a reason to love something, neither is it a reason to hate it.
If you’re looking for an example in professional sports of American moral decay, the controversy over the Washington Redskins’ name is a better fit. It has been going on for some time now, with liberals and a handful of vocal Native Americans calling the name racist. The issue escalated quickly when the United States Patent’s Office determined that it would no longer protect the Redskins’ trademark.
For liberals — the perpetually offended — the issue is settled. It simply remains to settle it for everyone else, and what better entity to do that then the federal government?
It became “necessary” in the liberal mind because very few people – and Native Americans in particular – are actually offended. George Will noted a poll done in 2004 that found that 90% of Native Americans had no problem with the name “Redskins.” Another poll found that Americans of all ethnicities who did not find the name inappropriate outnumbered those who did find it inappropriate 79% to 11%.
It is a fair objection that we can’t necessarily decide what is offensive by democracy. Historical use matters as well. Predictably, history is not on the side of liberals. Ives Goddard, a linguist who has done extensive work on the subject, found the following, as noted on Indian Country Today Media Network:
It was the Native Americans who first used the term “red” in order to differentiate between indigenous, white, and black people. When not referring to their individual and other tribes collectively, why would they use Indian, Native, or other adjectives to describe their obvious skin differences back then? Ives Goddard is a senior linguist at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of History. Goddard wrote the book, I am a Redskin: The Adoption of a Native American Expression (1769-1826) and notes the earliest uses of “red skin” were in recorded statements from Natives by the French who generally traded amicably with them. The French were careful to denote the “red” distinction was made by Natives themselves.
Further, in The Washington Post:
“Color didn’t originate with Indian-white relations but with slavery,” said University of Connecticut historian Nancy Shoemaker. “It is slavery that makes color seem to be a way to organize people.”
Like Goddard, Shoemaker said that by the end of the 18th century, Native Americans were using “red” to describe themselves and to assert their pride of being North America’s original inhabitants.
So why ignore this history in discussions of the Redskins’ name? Says Goddard, “While people seem to be happier with the agonistic interpretation of past events, when you get on the ground, the real story is much more complicated and much more interesting.”
A side lesson for both the Left and Right: politicization of history deadens it. Treating it in all its complexity brings it to life. But politicization is more useful, of course…
So “redskins” is not a historically offensive term. Neither is intended to be offensive today, but in fact honorific. As Redskins’ owner Daniel Snyder has said, “what [the name] means is tradition, what it means is competitiveness, what it means is honor. It is not meant to be derogatory.”
But liberals, and the Patent Office, know better.
Perhaps they should enlighten us as to how to recognize the unnamable names. An article in The New York Times on names that have been blocked by the Patent Office and names that have not, despite requests to do so, show one thing: the office has been pretty inconsistent on the issue of denying protection to certain trademarks on the basis of possible offense. It’s clear that equal protection is being denied here because it is a popular issue for a (liberal) vocal group that certainly doesn’t represent all people of Native American descent.
The real sign in professional sports of America moral decay is not found in adopting a sport from abroad, but in caving to faux, historically-sketchy outrage. When a name is used proudly today because it is thought to convey virtues inherent in those who gave that name to themselves with pride centuries ago, finding that name derogatory today can only be the result of ahistorical, agenda-driven and narrow-minded progressivism.
That is your moral decay.
The Redskins have so far shown fortitude in sticking with their traditional mascot. If there is an example flying in the face of American moral decay, it is this. How long they will be allowed to stick to their guns is anybody’s guess.