Monday, March 05, 2007

COLUMN: Illiniwek

Yay! I did it! I think, for the very first time EVER, one of my columns made the "most commented story" over the weekend on QCOnline. And it was a column that came with a heck of a fight...

See, I've got a size limit that I have to work within every week. Many of the full-time writers get the benefit of using software at work wherein you type in your story, hit a button, and -- presto -- it tells you the exact # of column inches your piece is taking up. Well, for somebody like me who simply writes on the side, I don't have the privilege of knowing my column's size in inches while I'm writing it -- but I do know to aim for around 800 words, and that usually gets me in the neighborhood.

Problem is, I don't have any software at home that counts words. I don't use Microsoft Word at home -- I use the crappy word processor on Microsoft Works (I realize Works is antiquated, but years ago I started my music inventory on a Works database, so when I got my new computer a couple years back, I opted for Works over Word in order to NOT re-do my music inventory!)

Anyways, sorry to babble. Point is, I have NO way of judging my column length other than simply eyeballing it every week. And sometimes, when I get on a roll, my eyeballing sucks and I wax poetic for paragraphs on end.

THAT'S why I somehow managed to go almost 200 words over my limit this week. Add to that concerns by some editors that my column might unintentionally offend, and... long story short... my column got munched by the copy editors this week.

Which is why I love this blog... because I can give you the column here the way it was intended: long -- and maybe unintentionally offensive. Regardless, enjoy......

When I was DJ'ing parties back in the post-college daze, I used to play a song called "Killing in the Name Of" by the band Rage Against the Machine. Rage was a fairly earnest band, so the song was probably about some random heart-breaking socio-political cause of the moment.

Sadly, we didn't learn about a cause, because thanks to the band's excruciatingly indescipherable delivery, all we ever heard was, "Shout-y! Angry yell-y shout-y! Screeeeeam!"

Until, that is, the last minute of the song. That's when you could understand ONE line -- "F*** you! I won't do what you tell me!" -- which repeats over and over again at the song's conclusion. This was the inevitable cue for even the most middle-class, non-threatening, trouble-free dudes in the bar to suddenly start high-fiving strangers, pouncing around angrily, and screaming along as though it were the most essential act of rebellion in their entire lives.

Me? I'd just sit in the DJ booth and laugh. "I won't do what you tell me!" Who's supposed to be the 'you'? The girlfriend? Mommy and daddy? Your boss at the pizza joint? Why the angst, Rebel Rebel? What are you raging against? Curfew? Was Kwik Shop out of Diet Coke?

I have ALWAYS found humor in people getting unnecessarily riled up... and that's why this has been a banner week for me.

What's been getting people in a needless tizzy these days? Iraq? Nope. Global warming? No, sir. It's not even bald Britney or the many daddies of Dannilynn. No, the thing that's been taking front page in our news lately, the item that's caused mild-mannered couch potatos to stand up and scream heresy... is some kid named Dan.

Dan lost his job the other day... and it seems like half the world is up in arms over it. Now, I won't pretend that it isn't sad when someone becomes unemployed. It's a bummer. But it shouldn't be the sort of thing to cause literally HUNDREDS of comments on our newspaper blog. But Dan's different.

You see, it was Dan's job to paint his face and dance around at U of I games. You might know Dan as the last Chief Illiniwek.

I don't get the big deal about the university's decision to oblige the NCAA's request to do away with the mascot. To me, it's just common sense. Native Americans and others have taken offense to the college's use of a Native mascot, and I can't blame 'em.

People opposed to the Chief throw around words like racism and hatred. I'm not opening that can of worms. But just imagine it like this:

Let's say that the Galesburg Silver Streaks suddenly decided to change their name to the Galesburg Fightin' Rock Islanders. And they had a mascot who came out at halftime dressed in a John Deere outfit and danced around with a Harris Pizza in one hand and Whitey's ice cream in the other. Would you get slightly miffed at the stereotype? I would (even though I often do the pizza-n-ice-cream dance in the privacy of my kitchen.)

"But Shane," you say, "Chief Illiniwek celebrates the Native American culture! Our man Dan had to study with elders to replicate the historical war dance of the Illini!"

So what. It comes down to perception. Sure, there might be some people watching the game going, "Wow, what a respectful tradition." But let's be honest -- there's probably a lot MORE people watching the game going, "Hehehe. Lookit the funny Injun dancin'!" And that's just patentedly offensive.

Yet when Chief Illiniwek came out and did his last dance the other day, cameras showed people WEEPING in the stands. WEEPING. I don't get it. It's a MASCOT. I thought the mascot's official job was to annoy the crowd so much that they forget how many irritating delays there are in a game. And maybe, if you're lucky, you'll get a free t-shirt out of the deal.

Besides, mascots should be cute and fuzzy and kid-appropriate. No offense, Chief Illiniwek, but if I were a little kid at an Illini game, you would CREEP ME OUT with your stern face and your war dance. I guess I've just never paid appreciation towards the mascot. I've been too busy, umm, watching the game.

I'll admit it -- it's always a sticky situation when it comes to being politically correct. No matter what you do, there's likely to be someone out there who gets offended by it. If you came out with a hamster for a mascot, there'd be some offended guy whose great-great-grandpappy was tragically killed by a pack of roving hamsters. Heck, my column last week was an innocuous little piece on Valentine's Day and I had a guy send me an e-mail calling me a... storage device for a feminine hygiene product. To each their own offenses, I guess.

So I say if U of I is THAT peeved about losing their cherished yet offensive mascot, here's what they should do. I propose that NEXT year they roll out their NEW mascot: Bob the Non-Threatening Politically Correct Amorphous Grey Blob.

Literally roll him out at halftime, dump him at center court, and let him just sit there and maybe hop once or twice. Then just roll him off again, with maybe a photo op for the kiddies or some miniature souvenir amorphous grey blobs to take home. Let's see someone get offended by THAT.

In the meantime, I hope we as a people can move on. I hope the Native Americans can take a little more pride in our great state college. I hope the fans of Chief Illiniwek can come to terms with the reality of the situation. I hope Dan finds a new job. And most of all, I hope the Illini can survive March Madness in the post-Dee Brown era.


QuadCityImages said...

I guess the NCAA should move its headquarters, or try and get the city to change its name. I find it equally offensive.

Anonymous said...

The feminists would probably get pissed that amorphous grey blob guy is a guy.

"I have ALWAYS found humor in people getting unnecessarily riled up..." That quote totally sums up why you are the best blogger/columnist in the QC.

The GUCC said...

I hate too much political correct BS. The Illini's next mascot should be three-legged dog named Injun.

Dustin said...

This is my first comment. I found your blog after I randomly searched for Orby the Super Van Man and I have been reading your blog for an hour now. Very funny and enjoyable. Keep up the good work. You have a new reader in Pekin, the home of offensive mascots......(we used to be called the Chinks for those who don't know.)

The GUCC said...

Ahh yes, Orby - the overweight jackass who would dress up in a generic Superman outfit and sell vans.

He kind of lost his business when he had to go to jail - oops.

Hey Dustin, any word on what that chuckle head is up to now?

Emilene said...

Wow, they're still going at it on QConline over your column! What is it now, three days later? Their panties are now thoroughly in a twist. Well done!

-shane- said...

I know it! I've awakened a sleeping giant. Or something.

If you think THOSE comments are bad, you should see the ones flooding into my in box.

What'd the dude call me yesterday? Oh yes, a SNOT-NOSED, WACK-JOB, LEFTIST, AMERICA-HATER. Threateningly.

Awesome. I just thought I was a slacker.

The GUCC said...


Consider it a compliment that someone took the time to locate you and chew you out. I'll bet $50 he'll be reading your next article!

If I had a nickel every time I had someone on the other side give me a piece of their mind - I could pay for a lobotomy. The left-wing nuts are crazy as hell, and like right-wing nuts - you can't do shit to please them.