New NCAA rule on Native American nicknames goes too far

Scott Swanson

Notes From The Newsroom

The latest advance in the march toward political correctness on our fair shores is the NCAA’s decision to bar American Indian mascots from postseason tournaments.

To be more specific, nicknames or mascots deemed “hostile or abusive” will not be allowed on team uniforms or other clothing beginning with any NCAA tournament after Feb. 1.

That means if the University of Illinois men’s basketball team makes it to March Madness, the Illini can’t have any Indian names or symbols on their uniforms and Chief Illiniwek has to stay home. Same with Florida State Seminoles’ Chief Osceola.

In 2002, the Morning Star Institute, a nonprofit American Indian civil rights organization, reported that over the past 30 years, more than half of nation’s 3,000 schools with Indian mascots or nicknames have changed them. Stanford University replaced its “Indian” with the “Cardinal” in 1972. Among schools that have changed nicknames in recent years are St. John’s (from Redmen to Red Storm) and Marquette (from Warriors to Golden Eagles).

I’ve always had a hard time feeling the pain of those inflicted by the fact that athletic teams bear Indian names. Sure, there will be occasional taunts directed at those associated with these schools, and some Indians may not appreciate that bile directed at their forefathers. To be sure, the Native Americans have suffered many injustices over the centuries since the arrival of the white men. But being selected as a paragon of bravery and valor isn’t one of them.

Come on. Aren’t there enough more substantive issues that Indians today deal with ? problems such as unemployment, alcoholism and other social problems on the reservations ? and how successful casino operations should invest their money for the day when the casinos are no longer the cash cows they are now for the long-downtrodden-but-suddenly-successful Indian tribes?

I’m a Viking, for Pete’s sake. Approximately half my ancestors were, apparently, marauders who, I suppose, went out and pillaged English monastaries and villages. I’m not proud of the abuses they probably were guilty of, but shoot ? they did know how to fight, didn’t they? And I feel zero resentment when somebody like Portland State or that Minnesota pro football team want to use my heritage as a symbol of grit and determination and conquest.

The next thing you know, the animals will be complaining that we’re taking their names in vain. The Mustangs, the Eagles, the Banana Slugs and ? dare I say it? The Huskies. Because, you know, dogs are people too.

* * * *

On a more sane note, my introduction to the Oregon Jamboree left me, well, very impressed. What really moved me, more than the hordes of people who blew off the hot weather to sit for hours and listen to country music, more than the quality of stars who showed up and actually seemed to have a really good time here, and how great the food was (for a festival-type event), was how the people of Sweet Home stepped up to make this happen.

I realize that some of you have been doing this for 13 years, but it was still impressive to watch how everybody donned their fluorescent T-shirts, put on their nametags, and got busy to make it happen. Congratulations not only to Event Manager Peter LaPonte and his staff, but to all the rest of you as well.

I have to say that I was disappointed we couldn’t get more photos in last week’s edition, at least in color. But we got as many as we could in and we’ve added a few more today with our followup story. No, I don’t hate Travis Tritt (who, many thought, put on the best show) or SHeDAISY. Sometimes we choose photos because of how they fit the page and the two best ones we had of them wouldn’t have gotten justice if we’d tried to jam them in last week.

I confess I do feel more than a little goodwill toward Neal McCoy. Not being much of a modern-day country fan (I tend to like a lot of old-time bluegrass and country ? the artists who preceded Merle Haggard), I hadn’t really listened to much McCoy. But the guy comes across as a genuinely nice individual (which isn’t always true among the stars).

I happened to be backstage just before his performance, talking to one of the Jamboree staffers, and Neal came by dressed in his volunteer T-shirt. He immediately started shaking hands with all (yes, all) the stagehands, who were resting after setting up for his concert. Then he comes over and shakes my hand too. That was before he jumped down into the crowd, received a birthday cake from the Mollie’s Bakery staff, and generally had a fine old time up there. I liked Neal. So, obviously, did the crowd, from the photos we ran.

Along the same lines, a fan shared with me last week how someone she knew saw Travis Tritt in a restaurant in ? I believe it was Salem after his performance here. A cancer patient happened to be there as well and I’m told that when Tritt found out about the woman, he visited with her and signed an autograph. Guess he can be nice too.

* * * *

Reader Clifford Smith stopped in to tell me the other day that if anyone is planning to go to the Snake River to fish for catfish, they’d better check on conditions over there. Clifford said he drove through Vail to the Huntington and Richland areas on July 28, as he generally does every year, and found a river full of dead fish. He said folks over there didn’t know why the fish were dying, and he said he was scared to eat the ones he caught. “It was bad enought to stink a maggot off the gutwagon,” Clifford said. “It stunk bad.” He suggests that you do some research before making that 800-mile round trip.

* * * *

My wife, for one, is a happy diner with the reopening of Tortilla Garden restaurant. Born and raised on the Central Coast of California (near Santa Barbara), Miriam is picky about her Mexican food. In short, she doesn’t like “Americanized” Mexican if she can get the real thing. And that’s what Tortilla Garden serves. The Gonzales family had closed the business after their 2-year-old son Lucas was struck and killed by a hit-and-run driver in Lebanon May 25. But they’ve decided to give it another shot, so if you like the Real Thing, stop in and let them know you appreciate their being there at 4804 Highway 20.