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The 5 O’Clock Club EDITORIAL: It’s time to give up the fight

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It’s 5 o’clock somewhere…

The 5 o’clock club is published Wednesday to Saturday during the season, and aims to provide a forum for reader-driven discussion at a time of day when there isn’t much NFL news being published. Feel free to introduce topics that interest you in the comments below.

My sister is retired and living in Florida now, in one of those planned communities that they build down there for active retirees, but when she was younger, she and her husband lived busy lives together. My brother-in-law was a pretty successful corporate type who started out as a talented salesman and ended up with the title “Vice President” on his business card for most of the last twenty years of his working life.

His brand of corporate success never came easy, though. John had business sense and an understanding of engineering that he combined with an easy way with people that salesmen tend to have, and his niche came in the form of jobs that made him an intermediary between design engineers, Sales & Marketing types, and upper level executives. He would help bridge the knowledge gap that existed between the groups, then craft marketing messages for technical or cutting edge products.

He’s a smart guy and got paid well for his particular expertise, but he was also the guy with the target painted on his back whenever a downturn in the economy or an unexpected dip in the company’s fortunes would lead to budget cutbacks. John wasn’t an itinerant worker by any means, but he worked for 5 or 6 different companies in his 35 or 40 years in the workforce after starting out with a ten or fifteen-year run at Honeywell, where he had begun his career fresh out of college in the early 70s.

Changing jobs at the executive level in corporate America often means moving to a new city, and that’s what John and my sister did. Over the forty years of his working life, they lived in Piscataway New Jersey, Boston, Minneapolis, and Memphis, and on one or two occasions they lived apart for a couple of years. One stretch that I remember had John on the west coast — Southern California, I believe — while my sister remained in Tennessee. Once a month John would fly back to see her, and she tried to get to Cali about as often to see him, but it was a hard stretch that lasted for around two years before they gave it up and John returned to Memphis. I think that was the last job of his working career.

When a person like my brother-in-law changes jobs, the connection between him and his potential new employer is usually made by a recruiter or ‘head hunter’, and that meant that, in job interviews, the company is just as often trying to make a good impression on the candidate as he is trying to impress them.

My sister has often told me the story of John’s visit to Minnesota some time in the 80s to visit a company there that wanted to hire him. They flew him and my sister out from their home on the east coast, and in addition to the interview there was a tour of the company’s facilities, a tour of the area, and dinner with some company executives.

Over dinner, one of the execs, knowing that John had grown up in Virginia, and that my sister had lived there for a long time and gone to college there, decided to promote the upper mid-western lifestyle by comparing it favorably with Virginia.

In my sister’s version of the story, as they sat there over dinner in a nice steak restaurant, one of the corporate execs who was playing host spoke loudly to the entire table, mentioning that he knew that John and Glenda were from Virginia and now living in New Jersey, and that Minnesota would be an improvement because there were almost no black people living there like there were on the east coast.

My sister’s shock at this statement was profound. Despite what this particular midwesterner may have thought, living in the South had brought my family into daily contact with both black and white people (and, living in Norfolk as we did, a lot of Filipinos as well). Far from developing any sort of prejudice against black people, our experiences meant that friendships and family relationships had resulted in a familiarity and warmth for the people of many colors who had been our classmates, neighbors and co-workers. I recall that my sister’s closest friend a that time was a black woman named Barbara whom my sister had worked with for several years. In fact, at about that time, my girlfriend was black, and she and I ended up eventually living together in sin for about eight years.

The corporate executive had picked the wrong button to press.

But he wasn’t done.

My sister tells the story with a hard gleam in her eye.

Having mentioned that Minnesotans were pretty much free of the black infestation, the exec’s mouth turned down a bit as he added that, unfortunately, they did have “Indians”. I guess he went on for a minute or two describing the plague that the red men were in the state of Minnesota. My sister listened, and, when he paused, she replied in an icy tone: “You know, I’m part Indian.”

I guess you could’ve cut the tension with a knife.

My sister wasn’t lying. We — my two sisters and I — were brought up with our Native American (in the 60s and 70s everyone still said “Indian”) heritage front and center in our minds.

My mother had been born and raised in Stony Point, North Carolina.

Now, I haven’t been there in about 50 years, so the Stony Point that exists today may be very different, but I remember Stony Point of the late 60s very well. I remember that, in July of ‘69, I was in the house in which my mom grew up when Neil Armstrong first stepped on the moon. I remember the family — my cousins, aunts, uncles along with my sisters and parents — all gathered around as we watched one of the greatest technological achievements in human history on a grainy black and white TV in a house with no running water or indoor plumbing.

Arriving in Stony Point after an overnight drive from Norfolk Virginia was always a jarring experience. What was jarring was the smell. When a family lives on a small farm with one outhouse, one well on the back porch, and no hot running water, baths and showers are not part of the daily routine. Sure, people would get a bowl of water and a washcloth and clean under their armpits before going to bed, but personal hygiene was a different creature than what I was used to in my own home, or what I have known ever since.

The smell that accosted me each summer when we arrived in Stony Point was partly from the chickens in the yard, and partly — I guess — from the outhouse on the edge of the woods, but it was mostly the smell of what I came to realize was the stink of largely unwashed human bodies in the North Carolina summer, with a background of tobacco in the fields — a rancid sickly-sweet odor that always made me want to retch when I first arrived, and which always seemed to fade to nothingness after a day or two (probably because I became part of the stinky environment myself by then).

I have always supposed that the smell of Stony Point in the summertimes of the 1960s must’ve been what most of the world smelled like in the 17th and 18th centuries. If so, I’m glad that I am a baby boomer who grew up in 20th century urban America. I am a product of my times.

I remember my North Carolina family and the immense contrast with my dad’s family from New York. My paternal grandfather was a magazine editor, and lived a fairly comfortable upper-middle class Irish-Catholic lifestyle on Long Island.

My mother’s family comprised southern Baptist farmers. My uncle Mineo (my mom’s youngest brother) was an enormously fat man who wore denim overalls and constantly sat on a kitchen chair turned round backwards. He straddled it with his arms resting on the chair-back. I think it was the only way he could stay on a chair. My uncle Bill (the older brother) tried to teach me to hunt. He took me squirrel hunting with a small .22 rifle. I don’t recall whether he shot the squirrel or if I did (I probably lacked the skill) but I remember the dead flaccid body of the squirrel that we brought home for dinner, and the desire I felt to cry and vomit. I never hunted again, and I’ve disliked guns ever since. I’m a true city boy. I’m happy to eat chicken, but I have no desire to make the fowl’s acquaintance in advance of the meal.

My first fishing effort, I remember, came when my cousin took me for a tromp into the woods with a bamboo pole, a piece of twine and a pin bent into the shape of a fishhook — we were like an episode of the Li’l Rascals in our innocent ignorance. We didn’t catch any fish. I’m not sure if we even used any bait.

My great grandmother was alive at the time. She was, as I used to tell my friends at Holy Trinity Grammar School, a “full blooded Cherokee Indian”.

I honestly don’t know now if great-grandma was actually Cherokee or if I just picked up the phrase watching Westerns on the TV on Saturday afternoons, but there is no doubt that she was a Native American. I met her when I was a young’un and I’ve got pictures of her in a photo album somewhere.

My mother used to talk about the bullying she (my mom) experienced at school for being a ‘half breed’, though, of course, she was actually a “quadroon” of sorts — only 14 Indian. Her classmates called her names, along with slinging derogatory language about her mother, grandmother and the men who loved and married them.

Mom hated Stony Point. She left there as a young girl; she went to Maryland and lived with her older sister who was just shy of 20 years old herself. I’ve never been clear about the reason why mom left home. It could have been forced in part by the Great Depression, or she might’ve had a fight with her parents, but I think she just couldn’t wait to get out of a small town where she was isolated, laughed at and bullied for having Indian blood in her veins.

In any event, in the world of Norfolk Virginia in the 1960s and 70s, being an Indian was kinda cool for me. My mom’s stories filled me and my sisters with a kind of pride at our heritage, no matter how diluted the bloodline had become. When Paul Revere and the Raiders hit the charts with the song, “Indian Reservation (The Lament Of The Cherokee Reservation Indian)” in 1971, my 11-year-old self felt a sense of connection and belonging that was probably terribly misplaced, but which was probably also an integral part of my sense of pride at being a ‘Cherokee’ myself. In fact, regardless of which tribe my great grandmother actually belonged to, it was likely this song that convinced me I was Cherokee.


From Stereogum.com:

In an America that was only just waking up to its own fucked-up history, this new version of “Indian Reservation” hit a nerve. As a mostly-white guy, Lindsay probably did not have the authority to be talking about “though I wear a shirt and tie, I’m still a redman till I die.” But it’s not like he was doing the cartoonish chanting of the Marvin Rainwater original. He was singing it with conviction, conveying a historical injustice in a way that still worked, more or less, as pop music. It’s a clumsy, clueless, well-meaning stab at advocacy, along the lines of the famous “crying Indian” TV commercial, which had started airing the year before. In this busted-ass context, that counts as progress.


In 1973, when Cher released her song, “Half Breed”, it resonated with me and I adopted it as part of my own identity. As a budding adolescent city boy in the early 1970s, I was connecting a sense of pride to a fact that had made my mother’s childhood miserable — I was an Indian!

It was largely a product of the times; in the wake of the entire civil rights and racial equality movement that had changed the world for black Americans in the 50s and 60s, racial identity and pride were taking on new meaning at the time, and being 1/8 Indian — despite the obvious fact that that meant being 7/8 something else (in my case, Irish) — meant a lot to me, and, as I came to understand later in life, to my sister as well.

It should come as a shock to absolutely no one, at this point, to learn that on the first day of high school in 1973 I fell head over heels for a girl who, like Cher, was a true “half breed” (yes, I know it’s a derogatory term — just relating to Cher and the song). The girl in question, Susan Powell, like Cher and my grandmother, had one Native American parent. It wasn’t her ethnicity that led me to fall for her, though. I fell for her beauty, intelligence, charm, grace and talent. She was a ballet dancer, and one of the thrills of my life was when she came to school one Monday and told me that she knew I had been to her ballet performance on Saturday because she had spotted me in the audience “with the light reflecting off of my glasses”.

The last time I was in communication with Susan, perhaps 6 to 10 years ago, she was in love with a lucky man and living near a Native American reservation area in the Dakotas or Utah — someplace far west of the Mississippi River where I’ve never been — actively working to improve the lives of Native Americans. What a woman! If, back in 1973, I’d known the things about dealing with women that I know now, I’d probably be Mr. Susan Powell today. But I was just a scared, nerdy kid who was thrilled that she noticed me and was happy to be friends with me. They could have made a successful TV sitcom about my childhood and adolescence.

Anyway, jumping back to the 1980s, there sat my sister at her husband’s job interview dinner, glaring defiantly at his potential future boss, having just thrown it in his face — “You know, I’m an Indian.”

You have to see my sister tell the story to really appreciate its grotesque humor. She takes such delight, even now, in the discomfort she had inflicted by peeling back this insufferable bastard’s skin for a moment.

Her husband, John, was offered the job, and they moved to Minnesota. I don’t think the boss ever invited my sister to dinner again.

My Native American blood shows through in my face in a few ways — high cheekbones and dark circles under my eyes are two prominent features. I share both of these characteristics with my mom and both of my sisters. The effect here in Thailand is that Thai people sometimes mistake me for being from the Middle East - wondering if, perhaps I am from Pakistan. Yep, me and Freddie Mercury.

In any event, a lot of this personal history ran through my mind this past week when the people at the Windy City Gridiron SB Nation site edited the answers provided by Andrew York in the “Five Questions with the Enemy” Q&A exchange by replacing every instance of Andrew’s use of the word “Redskins” prior to publishing his work on their website.

Andrew was distressed that his work had been edited without his advance knowledge, and said so in the comments section. A number of other Hogs Haven readers visited the WCG site and made their feelings known.

The response of the WCG moderators was to delete all the comments from Andrew and the other Hogs Haven readers and Redskins fans who had commented on the issue.

I don’t think anyone on either side of this was very happy.

The point is, it reminded me of how the Redskins name gets in the way so often. Others (SB Nation, the Washington Post, ProFootballTalk, Bleeding Green Nation, Windy City Gridiron, etc) go to a bit of effort to avoid using the Redskins name, and a lot of Washington fans burn up a lot of energy in their indignation at the effrontery.

I have been known to join the battle myself, at times, though usually a bit more passively-aggressive than otherwise. In 2017, when I wrote the 5 questions articles for Hogs Haven for a season, when the BGN site wrote our entire article without using the word “Redskins”, I posted the five questions article with BGN on our site without using the word “Eagles”. They eventually noticed, and it was roughly an even split among their readers about whether I was clever or merely petty.

A few years before that, when RG3 was the starting quarterback for the Redskins, if I recall my timeline correctly, Ken Meringolo, the managing editor of Hogs Haven, wrote several times about the controversy over the Redskins name that was then getting a lot of ink nationally. This was right around the time of the Dan Snyder’s May 2013 quote:

“We’ll never change the name. It’s that simple - NEVER. You can use caps.”

I was not a “writer” for Hogs Haven back then — my role was confined to the comments section at the time — and I took to the comments to chastise Ken for wasting time and energy in writing repeatedly about the “name controversy”, which I felt was getting tiresome.

I don’t think Ken ever really forgave me for the ‘discussion’ he and I had in the comments that summer, as I became increasingly critical at his seeming refusal to let the issue go. He has referenced those early conflicts between us in a number of e-mails over the years (it’s always surprising what makes an impression on people).

I suspect Ken would find it especially ironic that I would, without any real provocation, now choose to willingly open the subject again, myself. I guess I owe Ken an apology.

But here I go anyway.

I’d like to see Dan Snyder change the name of the team.

I’d like to do away with the Redskins team name.

I’m not offended by the name. I doubt that there are more than a handful of people around the world that truly feel that the fact that DC’s football team is called the Redskins is offensive, though I don’t doubt the sincerity of that handful.

I, personally, find most of the arguments put up in defense of the name to be quite ridiculous, comical or distressing. I usually feel a certain level of discomfort that such poor defenses of the Redskins name are repeatedly used, though I also don’t doubt the conviction or goodness of the people making them. The weakness of the defenses used, it seems to me, is indicative of the largely indefensible nature of the name itself, and the desperate position of those who take on the challenge of mounting that defense.

Seriously, the word “Redskin” is, outside of the context of our favorite football team, a racial slur, no matter how many Wikipedia entries anyone wants to cite to the contrary. And, no, I don’t think that “Vikings” is a slur against Norwegians, or that “Giants” should offend people who are either abnormally large or small.

Personally, I’m actually proud of the Washington Redskins name and the history attached to it. Of course, that comes from a man who used to see himself as a budding social justice advocate as he bellowed the words of the Paul Revere song about suppressed Native Americans at the top of his lungs as a junior high student, so my opinions may not count for much. But then, I did take a beautiful dark haired Native American, Susan Powell, to the 1973 Norfolk Catholic High School homecoming celebration, and I slow-danced with her to the King Harvest song, Dancing in the Moonlight as my teenage hormones raged, so that’s gotta give me a bit of street cred, I reckon.

But, wait... if I’m proud of the Redskins name and its history in connection with the football team, why do I advocate changing the name?

That’s a fair question.

My position is that fighting to keep the name simply doesn’t accomplish anything.

It is, in fact, now, detrimental and counter-productive to the franchise.

If the team was busy collecting Super Bowl trophies, it would be easier to continually thumb its nose at critics and opponents, but, for a team on a 20-year losing streak, the name is an impediment. It’s one more reason for the rest of the league to ostracize us.

And, truthfully, I can’t think of any real affirmative reason to keep the name. I mean, it’s not even the team’s original name! It was changed once from the Braves to the Redskins; I don’t see why it can’t be changed again to something more in step with the world we live in today.

I know there’s a sense of attachment to the name, but, honestly, the change can be embraced. Going from Esso to Exxon was hard for me as a young adult, but I eventually got used to it. The change from Old Dominion College (ODC) to Old Dominion University (ODU) was a challenge, but I doubt anyone today regrets it. I do think there is such a thing as a bad name change — that thing Prince did, when he wanted to be known by a symbol and we all had to call him “The artist formerly known as Prince” was truly awkward.

But it’s just a label for the team we support... formerly the Boston Braves.

As a franchise, we’ve changed stadiums, we’ve changed names, we’ve changed cities, and we’ve changed owners, surviving everything (barring, perhaps, Daniel Snyder... that story isn’t finished yet).

I get it. We’re fans, and we’re attached to the name.

But, seriously, any deep sense of pride in the team has been eroded by two decades of Dan Snyder’s ownership. What is there, really, to hang on to so dearly?

For a team desperate for any sign, whether symbolic or truly tangible, of forward progress, re-naming the team would have to be a watershed.

Sure, the team worries about alienating its fan base, but how many of us are left, anyway? Two and a half decades of dysfunction, losing and — ostracism over the name — have taken their toll. FedEx Field routinely sees more of them than us in the seats at the games.

Someone commented on Hogs Haven last week that Redskins fans basically comprise a collection of old people who remember the glory days that ended in 1992, and that anyone who has only known Snyder’s reign has no reason to love the Redskins aside from some sense of habit or misplaced family tradition.

Redskins fans are moving rather quickly towards the status of an extinct species.

That can change; but it will require a change in the franchise — something, or more likely, a series of somethings, to reignite the passion. We almost had it with RG3, but it slipped through our fingers (or snapped beneath the jarring hit of Haloti Ngata).

But the Redskins face a new opportunity to flip the script in the coming year.

Imagine a re-tooled Washington team come September 2020!!

There is an entirely new coaching staff, and Dwayne Haskins is scheduled to start the season opener in Landover against the visiting Eagles.

The new coaching staff has installed a two-back offense to feature Guice and Love, together for the first time.

Terry McLaurin is fresh off of his Offensive Rookie of the Year award and ready for a breakout sophomore campaign.

The trappings of the team haven’t changed — the field, the colors, the logo, the band — everything is the same, but when the stadium announcer makes his call, and as Joe Buck and Troy Aikman give their pre-game prognostications, they are talking about the Washington Warriors instead of the Redskins.

The tradition remains. The team name — originally the Braves — has transitioned back to something actually closer in meaning to the franchise’s origins: Warriors.

The alliteration is appealing, and — as I said — none of the Redskins iconography (except the mostly disused “R” symbol) needs to be changed or lost.

So a few 60 and 70 year old guys like me get their feelings hurt because the team changed the name... we’ll be dead soon anyway. The team needs to position itself to attract a younger, refreshed and energized fan base — something it can’t do as long as Dan Snyder sticks with his “NEVER” commitment regarding the name.

It’s time to move into the future.

I’m the proud great-grandson of a “full blooded Cherokee” woman, and I like the Redskins name. I once had a high school crush on a beautiful Native American girl, and I like the Redskins name. I know all the words to Paul Revere’s Lament of the Cherokee Nation Reservation , Cher’s song, Half Breed (and most of the words to Johnny Preston’s Running Bear), and I like the Redskins name. I remember Vince Lombardi as coach of the Redskins, (though Billy “Lone Star” Deitz, thought to be part Sioux, was before my time). I’ve been a Washington Redskins fan for over fifty years, and I am attached to the Redskins name.

But, I’ve come to believe it’s time to make the change.

It’s past time, really.

Dan Snyder needs to do an Abe Polian and adapt to the changing times and the power of alliteration.

This name is one more thing that’s holding the franchise back, and it’s a franchise that is reaching the lowest levels that can be reached in the NFL. We’re in Factory of Sadness territory. Honestly, there’s not much left to lose, and a lot of potential long-term gain.

Unlike Dan’s lack of understanding about how to build a winning football team, this is an action that he can instigate quite easily. Very little would stand in his way of his changing the name, and he would remove a lot of negativity that currently casts a constant gloom over the franchise.

We’ve passed the point where there’s anything to gain by continuing to hold on. It reminds me very much of the approach adopted by Dan and Bruce towards Trent Williams. Most fans have accepted that, if we’re not gonna win a fight with Trent, the team would be better off trading him and getting something positive in return. Holding onto TW and refusing to yield is just an exercise in futility and stubborness.

We are, similarly, holding onto the Redskins name out of habit and stubbornness now. There’s nothing to be gained by refusing to yield except to exacerbate the angst associated with our team.

It’s possible to get out from under this particular aspect of what makes people dislike the Redskins. This is a fight, like the issue that exists with Trent, where winning probably means capitulating to the demands of others — making chicken salad out of the chicken shit that will remain if the team doesn’t go against its own desires.

It’s time to end the debate.

It’s time to move into the future while embracing our past.

Dan. Just do it.

Change the name.


P.S.

Fire Bruce Allen.