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Go team go!

By now most of us have read about the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s efforts to disallow the use of Indian-theme nicknames and mascots for tournaments beginning in 2006.Teams such as the Florida State Seminoles and University of Illinois Fighting Illini would be allowed to use their existing names and mascots during the regular season but would have had to come up with new names to call themselves before they would be allowed to compete in the NCAA tournament next March. (The NCAA subsequently recanted in the matter regarding Florida State under threat of lawsuit.)But before the threat of litigation, it made no difference to the NCAA that many tribes, including the Seminole tribe of Florida, had given explicit permission to use their names and images. Logic, tradition and consent were apparently not as important as cleansing the nation’s collegiate gridirons and basketball courts of insensitivity.For those so inclined to debate the issue both sides of the argument can be presented cogently. Nevertheless, I cannot help but wonder if this isn’t simply political correctness run amok. Considering the graduation rates of the student-athletes who participated in last year’s NCAA tournament, one might think that the NCAA would have bigger fish to fry when examining collegiate athletics – say like working with the universities to assist those student-athletes to actually finish college and earn a degree. But why should political correctness stop there? It seems to me that Native American names and mascots aren’t the only ones that should come under scrutiny. Could there be a more “hostile and abusive symbol” in collegiate sports than the Long Beach State Baseball Dirtbags (yup, an actual collegiate nickname). What about the San Diego State Aztecs. The Aztecs were one of this continent’s great civilizations, so doesn’t plastering Aztec symbols on T-shirts, coffee mugs and seat cushions demean an entire culture along with millions of Mexicans living in the Southwest? Or perhaps some feel that the University of Miami Hurricanes should change their name to the Miami Breezes in deference to hurricane victims.But maybe you don’t find Native American, cultural or meteorological nicknames offensive and view them as being little more than traditional representations. Well then, surely nicknames that deify the devil (Sun Devils, Blue Devils, Blue Demons, Demon Deacons, etc.) could be deemed offensive by the more religious among us. We could be headed down a very slippery slope.Recently, Mike Downey of the Chicago Tribune asked where the line on collegiate nicknames should be drawn. After all, millions of Irish Americans could take offense at the name “Fighting Irish.” Besides, is there a more stupefying and stereotypical mascot than the jig-dancing leprechaun seen at all of Notre Dame’s games? But then calling Notre Dame the Fighting Irish is mild compared to how newspapers referred to the university when they first began competing in collegiate athletics. Years ago it wasn’t uncommon for schools to be referred to by their religious affiliations (Methodists, Baptists, etc.) and Notre Dame’s teams were commonly referred to as “The Catholics.” Some early press releases from Indiana papers referred to the teams from South Bend as “the Papists,” the “Horrible Hibernians,” the “Dirty Irish,” and even the “Dumb Micks.” Just think what a field day the PC police could have had then.Nonetheless, the real topper comes to us from the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA.) It seems that Jacksonville State University (Alabama) and the University of South Carolina have ruffled feathers at PETA and the animal rights advocacy group is asking the NCAA to do something about it. PETA sent a letter to the NCAA asking it to extend the recent ban on nicknames considered hostile or abusive to ethnic groups so that it would outlaw the term Gamecocks. (The dictionary defines gamecock as a rooster bred and trained for fighting.)PETA has been very clear on the matter. “Our position is that since cockfighting is illegal in 48 states in this country and a felony in South Carolina – you go to jail, period – we don’t think schools should be promoting this illegal act with their mascots,” said Dan Shannon of PETA. “With the NCAA decision about Native American nicknames, we hope that might spur them on, no pun intended, to adopt a nickname more respectful to animals.” PETA coordinator Allison Ezell said, “The ban on nicknames offensive to Native Americans sends a message that old-fashioned and offensive representations are not appropriate, and we would like to ask that you extend this sensitivity to animals by banning team names and logos that suggest hostility or abuse toward animals.”Ezell later said, “Jacksonville State and South Carolina glorified a hideous blood sport that, like spousal abuse, bank robbery and driving while intoxicated, is illegal in both South Carolina and Alabama.” Regardless of how the NCAA addresses PETA’s concerns, at least we can be thankful there aren’t any Islamic madrasses fielding athletic teams. Can you imagine a badminton match-up between the Susquehanna University Crusaders and the Southeastern State Jihadists? Now that would be a REAL rivalry! Butch Mazzuca of Singletree, a Realtor, writes a weekly column for the Daily. He can be reached at bmazz68@earthlink.net. This column, as in the case of all personal columns, does not necessarily reflect the views of the Vail Daily.Vail, Colorado

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