Monday, October 14, 2013

Hail to the Redskins

Emeritus NBC sports broadcaster Bob Costas weighed in last night during the Cowboys-Redskins football game to editorialize on the Redskins name. Costas used to be NBC Sports’s go-to play-by-play game caller. I’ll always remember his calls of NBA playoff games during the Michael Jordan era. In a small way, he enriched those broadcasts and enriched the lives of the millions of people who watched them. The same can be said for Jordan himself, as well as all entertainers, from actors to musicians.

It’s not enough for these people to entertain us. The market’s compensation for their talents does not sate their bid for meaning. Their success appears petty to them and does not square with their conscience. So they wade into other areas. Ben & Jerry’s makes great ice cream, but they use their ice cream as a vehicle to redefine marriage. Jane Fonda, Susan Sarandon, George Clooney, et al. make diverting movies, but they use their stardom to stump their political beliefs.

That’s not to say they shouldn’t. Tim Tebow testifies to the saving grace of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross in every interview and speech he gives, because that’s what his faith calls him to do. But, generally, it boggles laymen, who would give up everything for a fraction of their betters’ popularity, that they seek further relevancy beyond the fields they dominate. Genius on the football field or in front of a rolling camera does not necessarily translate well into other skills.

Costas is a great sports broadcaster, but, like Keith Olbermann before him, he is inept on cultural issues. Here’s the evidence:

It’s an insult, a slur, no matter how benign the present day intent.

It’s fair to say that for a long time now, and certainly in 2013, no offense has been intended. But if you take a step back, isn’t it clear to see how offense might legitimately be taken?

In addition to unconstitutional prior restraint, this is a new standard for political correctness. Before, the standard was offense taken, even when not intended, a low in itself. Now, it’s offense that “might legitimately” be taken. Costas has to appeal to imaginary offense because it turns out hardly anyone takes real offense. Ninety percent of American Indians don’t find the Redskins name offensive. To non-Indians who, taking their cues from a media that tell them Indians are offended, find the name offensive, this is stunning.

Costas’s logic should have forbid the segment from airing. Surely NBC Sports foresaw that offense might be taken at such a divisive, pusillanimus argument. Peddling grievance and victimhood does not demand internal inconsistency.

The heat on owner Dan Snyder to change the Washington-based NFL franchise’s name has been turned up recently, with the D.C. city council and the president taking time to condescend from their perches of infallible wisdom. These representatives of the “trodden-upon” don’t represent the trodden-upon. They represent themselves. They represent the power to bully an NFL owner into doing what they want. Snyder, despite his staunch opposition to changing the Redskins name, can’t risk getting on the bad side of local powerbrokers in D.C. and Maryland.

If Snyder loses fan support, he’ll change the name. On divisive issues where businessmen are forced to make a stand, they usually take the path of least resistance.

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