I wrote the following piece back when the whole Redskins ordeal was in the news and sent it in to McSweeney’s. They promptly rejected it, and I don’t think it’s the kind of piece that really fits anywhere else, especially now that the topic has faded from the news. This would be a cautionary tale against writing stuff that is time limited without it being solicited or that only works in one venue. So, for your reading pleasure:
Rebuttal to Your Assertion That the Pittsburgh Pirates’ Mascot Is As Offensive As the Washington Redskins‘
Look, I get what you’re trying to do here. By drawing a comparison between the Pittsburgh Pirates’ mascot and the Washington Redskins’, you’re making a point that the criticism against the latter’s mascot is uncalled for. I understand your point, but the basis of fact you’re relying on to make this argument are flimsy at best.
First of all, no one can disagree with your assertion that, like the Native Americans, pirates as a people have had their lifestyle oppressed and assimilated. I believe you used the phrase, “in danger of being hunted into extinction,” which I felt was verging on the overly dramatic, but I’ll let that slide for now. The problem with this line of reasoning is twofold: One, the distinction of whether or not a person is a pirate is determined by a criminal act. The act of piracy, of stealing other people’s property in a maritime setting. Two, which is a continuation of point one, piracy is a choice. The child of two pirates is not, by nature, a pirate, as opposed to the child of two Native American people.
I’m confident that research is fairly conclusive in this matter.
There’s another point I must concede. When asked why there were no representatives of the pirate community expressing outrage over Pittsburgh’s use of their image as a baseball mascot, you stated that you believed there would be if the majority of pirates were not busy trying to make a living in remote locations without access to the tools necessary to make their voices heard. I admit, I was especially touched when you implored us to think of what their reaction might be if those poor, isolated pirates were to see the outrageous imagery we invoke in their name not only on the baseball field but also on our cereal boxes and in our children’s Halloween costumes. However, since our conversation I’ve had the opportunity to do some research and have learned that modern pirates often make use of cell phones and GPS, which leads me to believe that if they wanted to express indignation at the Pirates’ mascot they could. Furthermore, I feel that your addendum that the pirate population should be especially ashamed given the performance of the baseball team in the past few years was absolutely uncalled for. Sure, 2010 was bad, but last year more than made up for it and this year is on track as well.
For a moment, I was uncertain at the end of your oration whether or not your suggestion, to take up a collection for the production of an advertisement campaign similar to the one the Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation launched to change the Redskins’ mascot, was in earnest or not. It was made clear to me, though, when your closing statement used your comparison between the Pirates and the Redskins to argue that we can’t change one human-based mascot without opening the door for all human-based mascots, and eventually all mascots in general, to be considered offensive, and it’s here that I really have to draw fault with your logic. I can’t say for certain whether or not that eventually, like you predict, there will be people who regularly travel faster than the speed of sound and are enraged that the Seattle Supersonics used a Sasquatch mascot, equating them with some sort of primitive mythological creature, but I am fairly certain that by the time those people exist, the Supersonics will be a minor footnote in the sport’s history.
I sympathize with how painful it must be for a group of people to point out that the mascot of a team you’ve followed and celebrated for most of your life is offensive and degrading to a group of people. I know that your reaction to this, to compare the supposed suffering of a group of criminals with that of a people whose entire civilization was almost completely wiped out by the diseases and imperialism brought over from a foreign land, a people who still face discrimination and oppression today, is an emotional reaction that will surely pass once you’ve had time to think about it.
That said, fuck the Redskins. Go Cowboys.