Lest we offend the nickname game

JOHN EISENBERG

March 17, 1992|By JOHN EISENBERG

". . . and this score just in from the stadium: the Baltimore Concrete Abutments 5, the Cleveland Barcaloungers 3. In a 10-inning thriller. That's three wins in a row for the Butts."

There. Congratulations. You have experienced the future. The future of sports. One Hundred Percent Foolproof Team Nicknames Guaranteed Not to Offend Any Person, Vegetable, Mineral, Loyal Family Pet, Chicken Product, Seafood Platter or Member of the Plant Family.

". . . and so after three innings it's the Baltimore Magnesium Sulfide 2, Cleveland Impossibly Cute Babies 1."

We're headed in that direction. The process is already under way. The weeding has begun. The weeding of the old nicknames. All the old nicknames must go. They're all on life-support.

A Washington radio station is saying it no longer will say "Redskins." You know about that hullabaloo. Redskins will be among the first to go.

". . . so let's ring up a big cheer for your Washington . . . Telephones!"

But no, wait, there are people who find the phone companies offensive. Come to think of it, I find the phone companies offensive. All it takes is one. It'll have to be something else.

Maybe this: "Let's hear it for your favorite NFL team, the Washington Absolutely Nothings."

Or this: ". . . another touchdown for the Washington Women and Men! (Also Known as Men and Women Depending on Which One You Would Rather List First Although Either is Fine!)"

Yes, we're headed in that direction. No-nick nicknames.

Redskins is out on that radio station and in an Oregon newspaper. Everything will be out soon. The same radio station says it no longer will use "the Fighting Irish" because of the unflattering old image of Irish bar brawlers. Maybe from now it will simply be "the Irish." Or the "the."

Or maybe the Notre Dame Tall Glasses of Very Cold Iced Tea.

That would be Something Guaranteed Not to Offend Any Person, Vegetable, Mineral, Loyal Family Pet, Chicken Product, Seafood Platter or Member of the Plant Family.

It's no joke, of course, that there are people offended by these old names. Some are indeed offensive. But let's face it, we live in unusually touchy times. (I knew this when I wrote about an athlete resembling a librarian and got a letter from a librarian asking me up to the eighth-floor stacks for a rumble.)

It's as if everyone went to see "JFK" together. We're all jumpy. And in such times there aren't many suitable nicknames. Even Tigers doesn't make it. The most basic of nicknames are on the way out. You watch. You can't drag around your mascot in a cage. That's cruel.

Ditto Lions, Bears, Wildcats, Bulldogs, Camels, Bobcats, Bison, Panthers, Wolverines, Longhorns, Antelopes, Roadrunners, Anteaters, Zebras, Cougars, Coyotes, Wampus Cats, Greyhounds, Retrievers and all other members of the dog, cat and cow families and their various mixes, matches and mutations.

All animals are out. Otherwise, it's only a matter of time before the fur protesters set up in front of the stadiums.

Bird nicknames are out, too. I was out walking the other day and got splatted. So I'm offended by birds. Grievously offended. That's all it takes, one person. So it's goodbye Baltimore Orioles, hello Baltimore Box of a Dozen Red Roses.

(Imagine: Box of a Dozen Red Roses Park at Camden Yards.)

There just aren't many choices out there. You can't have Cowboys. They shot people. Ditto Buccaneers, Warriors, Spartans, Trojans, Knights and all others along the macho axis. All must go.

You can't have Diplomats or Senators or anything related to politics. The entire country is offended.

You can't have a Hurricane or Blast or Tornado. No one wants them except insurance companies. Out.

You can't have a color. The colorblind will howl.

You can't have Bombers or Pilots or any war stuff. Macho code violation.

You can't have Beavers. Orthodontists would go crazy looking at those big teeth. That's teethism. There can't be any isms. No racism, sexism or teethism.

What's going to happen is we're going to start over. You watch. It'll come to that. We'll start over and everyone will come up with safe nicknames.

". . . the Baltimore Claude Monets scored three runs in the ninth to beat the Cleveland Nothingness. . ."

Now that's the ticket!

Actually, since the police lobby is on record against such a positive use of the word "ticket," let's change it.

Now that's the piece of cardboard with numbers and colors on it!

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