The Washington G-Men?

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Iknow that football is not in the air. I should be following the Nationals or the Wizards. But NFL mini-camps are just around the corner, and something has been bothering me:

The name Redskins must go.

I am a lifelong fan. I know that many fans say: If you change the name, you'll cut a link to our city's storied football history. More to the point, they argue, "Redskins" was originally chosen as a celebration of Native American strength.

But words such as "redskin" are defined not by individual speakers -- not by you or me or Daniel Snyder -- but by a society of speakers. And whatever its connotation in the past, in 2007, "redskin" is a slur. Check a dictionary. Here is the Webster's definition, for example:

Redskin: n. Offensive. American Indian.

Our football history might be proud, but the dictionary says -- our society says -- that our team name is shameful. We should stop being stubborn. If we change the name now, with Joe Gibbs coaching, we'll have continuity to our football history built in.

Besides, changing a team's name does not mean the end of a franchise, as Abe Pollin proved when he renamed the Bullets. That doesn't mean that we have to adopt a mascot out of Middle Earth. As much as I respect Pollin for dropping "Bullets," he could have done better than "Wizards."

So, here are seven possibilities for Washington's football team, my favorite last.

7. The Washington G-Men. Some people think this town has no strong industry that could inspire a name like the Packers or Steelers, so they propose the Washington Red Tape and such. But FBI agent Melvin Purvis and crew were sufficiently tough. As the G-Men, we'd be the only team with a fedora on our helmet.

6. The Washington Tigers. Lions and tigers and bears, as Dorothy knew, are much scarier than wizards. The Lions and the Bears are taken, but what about the Tigers? (There's Detroit, but that's baseball.) As a team name, Tigers would offer both a retro appeal and a clean break from the past. In terms of the sound of the words, the hard "t" in Washington is echoed by the hard "t" in "Tigers." Washington Tigers. It flows.

5. The Washington Hogs. We'd honor the Skins by renaming the franchise after Joe Gibbs's first-term offensive line. Unfortunately, as with wizards (but for other reasons), hogs do not instantly convey athletic prowess. Also problematic: This name would encourage overweight, unfashionably cross-dressed men to don pig snouts in public.

4. The Washington Red Storm. St. John's University once was the Redmen but became the Red Storm. We, too, can evolve. If we don't want to steal the St. John's name, then we could be the Washington Red Swarm or the Washington Red Menace. Sure, the Red Menace sounds communist, but a robust capitalist such as Dan Snyder could easily turn a profit off the name.

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