NEW JERSEY (Just Laugh) – As a responsible journalist, I’m supposed to pay attention to current events and keep up with what’s going on in politics, business, and world affairs. But I’m not a responsible journalist, so I usually end up gorging potato chips and watching Simpsons reruns.
However I recently attended a conference in Indianapolis that promised to have such a profound impact on American culture, there was no way I could ignore it. I covered the proceedings of this two day event to let you decide how important it actually is.
The conference, organized by a group called STOMP (Stop Oppressive Mascot Portrayals), was inspired by other groups who took offense at Native American team names such as the Cleveland Indians, Atlanta Braves, and Washington Redskins. As a result, numerous other protest groups have emerged, expressing their discontent at the insensitivity of various team names.
Here’s what happened at the opening session. It began with opening remarks by the organizer of the STOMP conference.
“Hello, my name is Shannon Boyts. I want to welcome you all to the very first STOMP conference. We’re very excited at the large turnout, and hope we can get a lot accomplished over the next two days. Now, as you may remember from your pre-conference information packets, we–”
“Were these packets printed on recycled materials, with soy-based inks?” someone shouted from the back.
“Of course. We wouldn’t do it any other way,” Boyts responded. “Now, as I was saying, the purpose of Stop Oppressive Mascot Portrayals is to educate the American public about the insensitivity of the team owners and their oppression of various people and companion animal groups by using politically incorrect team names.”
Someone else shouted, “Will any of the Native American protest groups be attending?”
Boyts looked a little embarrassed at this. “No. Apparently, they thought we were taking things a little too far. They quit returning my calls. We’re going to kick off the conference with a general discussion. This will be a chance for everyone to introduce themselves, let us know what cause you represent, and what team you are protesting against.”
A tall blond man stood up and introduced himself. “Hello, my name is Peter Johannsen, and I’m from Minnesota. My family comes from a long line of Norwegian bachelor farmers. For years, we have been opposed to the use of the term “Viking” for our professional football team. Vikings were violent, and plundered and laid waste to villages and small towns for many years. To use the Viking name is to glorify violence and condone their heinous acts.”
“Excellent!” Boyts rubbed her hands together with excitement. “Who else wants to introduce themselves?”
A man in a cowboy hat then rose to his feet and spoke with a Texas drawl. “My name is Randy Parker, and I’m with Texans for Positive Media Images. Our complaint is against Mr. Jerry Jones and the Dallas Cowboys. We feel the image of the Old West cowboy has been tarnished by the various troubles the team has had, including several run-ins with the law by some of the players. That and the fact that they have not been serious Super Bowl contenders for years. Cowboys are now being stereotyped as violent thugs who use guns to solve conflict. This is not the image of the original — uh, never mind.” Parker sat down, red-faced.
“Yes, but they oppressed cattle and ate meat!” someone shouted angrily
“Tell us who you are and what group you are with, please,” Boyts asked the new voice.
“My name is Marcy Stump, and I represent PPMPA.”
“Pip-Meepa. People for the Positive Media Portrayal of Animals. We’re a lot like PETA, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, only we’re concerned about how animals are portrayed on television and in magazines. And frankly, we’re disturbed by the number of sports teams that use animals as their mascots. We’ve launched a nationwide campaign against teams like the Miami Dolphins, Florida Marlins, St. Louis Rams, Indianapolis Colts, Detroit Lions, Detroit Tigers, and Chicago Bears.”
“Oh my!” Boyts looked pleasantly surprised. “So, who else do we have?”
“Arrrr, my name is Frank Baird, but my friends call me Blackie.” A short man wearing a long black coat and a scraggly beard limped to the front of the room. “I’m from the Children of the Scourge of the Seas. We’re all descended from pirates, and we’re focusing our efforts against the Pittsburgh Pirates, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and the Oakland Raiders.”
Johannsen stood up and shouted, “Hey, the Vikings were raiders. We should get the Raiders!”
“Back off, Blondie!” Baird shouted. “We claimed the Raiders long before you did.” The two men began shoving each other.
“Comrades, comrades, we must deal with these issues in a calm, rational manner!” A stout woman wearing gray overalls pounded her shoe on the table. Johannsen and Baird stopped their shoving match.
“Who are you?” Boyts asked.
“I am Leona Borushkin, president of the American Communist Party, Iowa chapter.”
“What the heck do the Commies have to protest against?” Stump shouted
“The Cincinnati Reds!”
“What?!” Boyts looked stunned. “Sit down. The team is actually the Cincinnati Red Legs. Reds is just a nickname. They’re not Communists.”
A timid-looking man stood up and waved his arms. “We’re forgetting the college teams too!” he shouted.
“Who did you have in mind?” Boyts asked.
“The University of Massachusetts Minutemen,” he said.
“And what group do you represent?”
“The New England Men’s Sexual Dysfunction Support Group.”
Boyts stared blankly, as her cheeks turned red. She stammered, “I don’t think that’s what Minutemen means, sir. Now, does anyone else have any groups they are boycotting or protesting against? Just raise your hand… yes, you there with the pitchfork and forked tail.”
“Yes, I have a complaint about the Arizona Sun Devils.”
“Uh, I think that’s all we have time for right now.” Boyts banged her gavel on the lectern and edged her way nervously to the door. “Let’s adjourn for now, and get started first thing after lunch… in a church.”