Washington gridlock has spread to Washington gridiron.
Despite what many consider to be a racist, degrading, insulting and out-of-date mascot, the Washington Redskins football team refuses to change the team's name.
The issue is more than skin deep. The Houston Independent School District may vote this week to change the name of the Lamar High School Redskins because of critics believe the name is derogatory.
The NFL Redskins may be next. Although pressured by Indian groups, clergy, advertisers and politicians, the team seems committed to keeping the outdated moniker. Even President Obama chimed in, stating if he was the team owner, he'd consider changing the team's logo, prompting Republicans to filibuster the president's plan to add his name to the waiting list for season tickets.
No need to penalize the home team. I've come up with the perfect replacement: Make the Washington Redskins the Washington Skins -- as in potato skins.
While it may not be a healthy compromise, the new name would accommodate the traditionalists who refer to their beloved team as the Skins; the change would also appeal to the much maligned "couch potato" whom, on any given Sunday, can be found wolfing down this cheddar-cheese laden, bacon-covered, sour cream-filled delicacy while cheering on the home team. These fans certainly must be licking their tomahawk chops at the idea.
In addition to appeasing detractors offended at the team's name, the new mascot would recognize what has become an American tradition -- morbid obesity.
The connection between football and potato skins is long and deep-fried. The Food Network promotes a listing of different potato skin recipes, "with toppings to match each NFL team."
Who could resist a potato skin doused in beer-cheese spread and sliced grilled bratwurst? (The Greenbay Packers, of course.) Or a spud covered in Italian sausage, sautéed onions and fresh mozzarella? (The New York Giants.) And the recipe for the Redskins? A scalloped potato served on a bed of clams (a subtle tribute to Washington's strong lobby industry).
On this issue of team-naming, I have mascot cred. As an alum of the University of Illinois, I witnessed the NCAA in 2007 pluck the feathers of Chief Illiniwek, the university's mascot for more than 80 years, after opponents argued the figure perpetuated stereotypes and insulted Native Americans. The school still hasn't replaced the character, although boosters have offered some ideas which honor the state's ignoble history such as the Recidivists, the Pensioners or, my favorite, the Galloping Governors.
Redskin fans shouldn't fret. There are plenty of teams that could use a mascot make-over. Here are some ideas:
* Critics are pressuring the Kansas City Chiefs to change their name. With a quick fix the team becomes the Kansas City Chefs. I picture a sous chef wearing an apron stained with barbecue sauce and a piece of burnt ends stuck in his teeth. Just imagine the tailgating opportunities.
* The number one-ranked Florida State Seminoles are on the mascot hit list. I suggest they become the Florida Semicolons. While the name has found favor among NCAA officials, grammarians have expressed some consternation that the proposal could cause even greater confusion about this oft-misunderstood punctuation mark and could lead to a reckless proliferation in the use of conjunctive adverbs.
* What could be more offensive than the Cleveland Indians' Chief Wahoo -- a red-faced figure with a stupid grin and a single feather tucked into a headband. The new name? The Cleveland Indies. The team would replace those ubiquitous baseball cops with berets. The manager would be supplanted by a temperamental director clad in all black who would throw tantrums if the game went into extra innings, hyperventilating about "cost overruns." And instead of showing instant replays, the jumbotron would show clips from Bergman movies.
I'm really excited by the prospect of renaming the Atlanta Braves by simply shorting it to the Atlanta Bras.
On the other hand, that mascot is probably better suited for a football team: Imagine the first game of the inaugural season. The ref blows his whistle as he throws the yellow flag. Penalty against the home team. "Illegal use of hands against the Bras." Now that's what I call fantasy football.