Wednesday, September 07, 2005

I'm a Lumberjack, and so far, that's okay

ESPN's "Outside the Lines" this evening featured an remarkable discussion on the NCAA's vaguely psychotic attempts to end the use of Native American mascots in college sports. Remarkable, for a number of reasons: First, it represented the first time I'd witnessed ESPN using an NPR correspondent (Juan Williams) as an expert. (We're not including the all-sports cable network's occasional use of NPR sports commentator Stefan Fatsis as a play-by-play guy for their televised Scrabble coverage.)

Remarkable, too, since ESPN is hardly shy when it comes to using Native American imagery in their footage of sports events, whether it's the mascot at Florida State Seminoles games or the war paint worn by Washington Redskins fans.

The NCAA is clearly (ahem) sending some mixed signals with their decision to ban the use of Native American team names and mascots, from its championship playoffs. The message here is that, well, using Native American mascots is demeaning to a group of people who have been trodden upon for centuries -- unless you're a lousy team, in which case it doesn't really matter all that much. This would have been great news for my college baseball team, except we were called the Rams (though we played a brand of baseball that could have been deemed insulting to all members of the Ovis canadensis family).

Here at the university which hosts the 19 Minutes World Media Headquarters, we're watching the debate with some interest, the feeling being that if the effort to quash demeaning mascots is successful, the NCAA could come after idiotic mascots next.

Northern Arizona University's sports teams are called the Lumberjacks. Not the most terrific naming concept in the world, but not as bad as say, the University of Tulsa Golden Hurricane, whatever that is. Until recently, the NAU athletic department carried an equally innocuous logo. The Skydome, the stadium where the football and basketball teams play, was guarded by a cheerful-looking lumberjack guy who was modified from his original use as a Muffler Man mascot. Louie the Lumberjack is still there, but the teams he represents now feature an all-new logo best described as "Frightening Zombie Lumberjack":

The powers that be here at 19 Minutes University say the new logo "preserves the tradition of using Louie the Lumberjack" while incorporating the new school colors of sage green, blue, and gold.

Our main complaint, aside from the fact that we're a little reluctant to bring our 15-month old to football games, is that the new Louie is clearly not from northern Arizona. With 300+ days of sunshine a year, his complexion should definitely not have that adipocere look the new logo sports. Also, the logo designers should have been aware that "murdering your opponent" is merely a colorful figure of speech in the sports world, and that opposing teams shouldn't upon viewing the logo, actually fear for their lives.

The sage green, on the other hand, is okay.


Anonymous said...

How about just changing the team name to the NAU Ax Murderers?

Anonymous said...

I second the NAU axe murderers!