Redskins, oilskins


What’s in a name?

The next election:

There is a better way

Big Sports is in a big snit over the mascot and name

for Washington, D.C.’s professional football franchise,

currently known as the Redskins – a moniker that is occa-
sionally under fire as a slur on the American Indian.

At some point, a new name and mascot will be decided.

The Redskins will be out. Big Sports won’t rest until

it happens. At this point, the team logo and anything it

decorates – from shirts, caps and scarves to coats, coffee

mugs and more – become artifacts, items of increasing

value because they are things of the past, now enrolled

into the collectors’ markets. Today, out of production;

tomorrow, Antiques Roadshow.

Next comes a limitless expanse of new team titles and

mascots with opportunities beyond the customary, the

time-worn, the traditional.

The sea, for example, offers far more than Dolphin, the

skies have room for more than eagle, seahawk and falcon,

the mountains and prairie give us other than buffalo and

bison, cowboy and bronco; jungles harbor more than jag-
uar, the Bengal tiger, the lion.

Man himself, especially the working variety, is more

than packer, steeler, buccaneer and raider, and his heritage

dates further than the Viking. These days, what is our life

without the techie, the nerd, the hacker. The Washington

Hackers! Rather not, though; the authorities would take

offense that in our nation’s capital, the team would cel-
ebrate the skills of, say, a middle-schooler who ties the

TSA in knots by de-coding locks to the Pentagon men’s

room. Hackers are out. Nerds? You want to cheer on a

6-foot, eight-inch, 350-pound nerd?

Consider the sea: The Shellfish has a crisp snap to it.

The Washington Shellfish, somehow, has no zip. Lobster?

Sea Urchins? We have Seagulls – rather, Seahawks, a

phony species, like the coach – why not Sea Turtles?

But Washington Sea Turtles comes in about as flat as the

Washington Seals. Or Sea Lions.

Reptiles! Here are species perfect for Washington, espe-
cially Capitol Hill. The Washington Vipers, Washington

Rattlers, Cobras or Constrictors, all conjure images far

too accurate for the town’s political culture.

If we’re going political with the Congress in mind, how

about the Washington Slugs, or Sloths? The Washington

Boars, ripe for a misspelling, nevertheless lack punch.

Bird life offers only a few appropriate names. The

Washington Sparrows or Washington Chicken Hawks?

Bland. Chickens, though, have possibilities. But the

Washington Chickens present a sordid temptation to

hyphenate and, thus, a likely path to the vulgar.

Let’s try meteorology.

The Washington Cyclones. Wow, but given the team’s

colors, and Iowa State’s long-held claim, lawyers would

surely be involved. Tornado (No). The Washington Flood

is too realistic. So, too, the Washington Drought. The

Washington Blizzard, though, has possibilities, although

it conjures the image of a soda fountain. Or, in that town,

a truckload of cocaine.

Botany and plant life have a store of potential. Consider

trees. The Washington Willows; nope, too limp. But the

Washington Crab Apples might have a special force

beyond the Beltway. Native or non-native grasses and

plants suggest the Washington Bermuda, Washington

Rye, Washington Bent. The Washington Bluegrass would

only rankle Kentucky, and Sen. Rand Paul wouldn’t stand

for it. How ‘bout the D.C. Dandelions? Or, the Capitol

Medicine, or anatomy, or certain maladies, are to

be considered. What of our skeleton? The Washington

Bones. No – again, tempting the inappropriate. The

Skulls has a fearsome tinge. So, too, Migraine. (Again,

too political.) The Washington Bacteria packs a kind of

accuracy, but the metaphor is vivid to a fault.

Back to plant life. The Washington Weeds has a bit of

staying power, but ultimately D.C. is a place of sturdy

politics and untenable culture. Its professional football

franchise, at some future date, needs durability. We say

the team should be known as The Beltway Bindweed. It’s

inclusive, catching and durable.

We now bring you another election. The state contests

that wrapped up on Tuesday were a precede, known to the

national media as mid-term elections because they fall in

the middle of a presidential term in office.

And for the next two years we will suffer all the babble

and baloney that leech from the suffocating process of

selecting our nation’s next president.

It used to be fun, even interesting. It is now overloaded:

Too many pundits, too many forecasts, too much specu-
lation, too much data, too many polls and surveys. Too

little meaning.

The result of all this discussing and forecasting and

wheedling is that we will nominate candidates who won’t

necessarily make good presidents. We will have nominees

who look good on television, who can stand up best dur-
ing a constant jet whirl, mediocre meals and the attacks

of media sharks. They must also suffer the scrutiny of

countless bleaters who swim the murky cyberscapes of

the InterWeb. This election, like the last, will be a test for

bladders, ulcers, incipient phlebitis and brain cells. It will

not be a quality test for the White House.

And it’s a bum way to pick a president.

For this we can thank the reforms of 40 years ago,

when the McGovern crowd sought to do good, and didn’t.

Reform, by which the peepul picked their own candi-
dates, was seen as a stout blow for democracy. We took

candidate selection away from the party bosses chomp-
ing cigars in smoke-filled rooms, and replaced it with a

bewildering, interconnected system of state and regional

primaries. The new emphasis was on Super Tuesdays and

super delegates, a process that has failed glaringly to pro-
duce the best candidates and has become less democratic,

not more. (The result of every primary since 1972 is that

fewer people went to the polls, not more, and even in the

best years, only a minority bothered to vote. That’s hardly

an improvement over letting the professionals pick the


A generation ago, the party regulars who worked the

streets, distributed the literature and raised the money

had a chance for that trip to Miami or Chicago with the

heady experience of being involved in the national game

for the biggest stakes. They are not eager, even willing,

to do all that groundwork only to be shoved aside while

the part-timers in political life get elected as delegates.

Presidential picking has become too unpredictable to give

anyone satisfaction in party chores. The workers who

provided the backbone of the party system, the pols, have

mostly checked out. The parties themselves are mostly a


Today there are no names, fewer faces. We have only

candidates of the moment, rather than statesmen for an


The smoke-filled room is how, in presidential cam-
paigns, we had candidates like Robert Taft, Wilkie,

Eisenhower, Roosevelt and Kennedy. (We also had

Harding, Coolidge, Hoover. No system is perfect.)

There is little evidence that the reforms pushed through

in both parties in the 1970s and 80s, or the bee swarms

of super primaries beginning in the 90s, have helped the

republic, the political parties, or the voters.

They have made the presidency an endurance contest.

They have produced “position papers” which put voters

to sleep. They have brought Madison Avenue techniques

and Washington gut-punching to the presidency. They

have replaced thoughtful analysis with tweets and impor-
tant speeches with U-Tube moments. The “democracy”

of the Internet has placed mountebanks and poseurs on

an equal plane with credible and thoughtful public ser-
vants, a fraud on the electorate. Sarah Palin and Michelle

Bachman in a league with, say, Elizabeth Warren or Susan

Collins? C’mon.

The presidential selection process is now beyond our

reach. And that 18th century relic, the Electoral College,

has consigned Kansas and its withering population to

insignificance. There is a better way, and we know it.

Why put up with it?



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John Marshall is the retired editor-owner of the Lindsborg (Kan.) News-Record (2001-2012), and for 27 years (1970-1997) was a reporter, editor and publisher for publications of the Hutchinson-based Harris Newspaper Group. He has been writing about Kansas people, government and culture for more than 40 years, and currently writes a column for the News-Record and The Rural Messenger. He lives in Lindsborg with his wife, Rebecca, and their 21 year-old African-Grey parrot, Themis.


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