Braves are catching the devil because their...

THE ATLANTA

October 23, 1991|By THEO LIPPMAN JR.

THE ATLANTA Braves are catching the devil because their fans cheer them on with an Indian war chant and a make-believe chop with a tomahawk.

Some Indians want the practice banned, and some want the name changed. The pressure is so intense that Jane Fonda has announced she will no longer do the tomahawk chop. Once a liberal always a liberal.

I think Baltimoreans better pay attention to this debate, because it is beginning to look like we may have a pro football team again in the near future. If we do, we have to name it, and we want to avoid the pitfalls the Braves business reveals.

The obvious rule is, you cannot name a sports team after any group that objects. Unfortunately, these days most groups object to about everything. The only safe course is to name a team after a group that can take insults or perceived insults with a grain of salt.

That means rotten white guys -- like the Pirates, the Raiders, the Buccaneers, the Vikings. They killed, stole, raped, destroyed property. I don't whether the Jets fit in this category. Were they named after the street gang in "West Side Story" or an airplane part?

Then there are the Cowboys, who were often bad guys, and the Forty-Niners, who were environmentally insensitive, to say the least.

Cities name teams after these terrible groups with impunity. That's where we -- and Atlanta -- should be looking. I talked to Jane Fonda about this. She favored the Atlanta Viet Cong. I told her that Asians may be the model American minority, but they weren't that model. I suggested she and Ted Turner consider reverting the team's name back to the original organized baseball name in Atlanta. The Crackers. The city had a minor league team by that name.

She said, no, she didn't mind sleeping with one in private, but she wasn't going to cheer for one in public. I think most Atlantans probably agree with her on this. I mean on the last part. Most Atlantans don't like to be reminded that the city was ever minor league in anything.

"Cracker" is perfect for Atlanta today. It is generally thought of as meaning "a backwoodsman, rustic, countrified person; a poor white person" -- Dictionary of American Regional English (DARE). But it originally meant braggart.

Though it is applied most often to Georgians, the earliest recorded use of it in the DARE is this from a 1766 letter: "I should explain to your lordship what is meant by Crackers; a name they got from being great boasters; they are a lawless set of rascalls on the frontier of Maryland, Virginia, the Carolinas, Georgia."

So we could call our football team the Crackers, but my own choice, in keeping with the philosophy of this piece, is to name it after the famous mobs that dominated politics here in the 1850s and that attacked Union troops from Massachusetts in transit here in 1861. Baltimore was called Mobtown for years.

So the Baltimore Mob is perfect, historically. And think of all the business we'd get from New Jersey.

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