Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Now That's Offensive

Have you seen "The Book of Mormon?"

It's funny. That's for sure. It's also offensive. That's also for sure.

If you don't know what it's about, well, basically it's about insulting Mormons. And Africa. And people with AIDS. And the Chinese. And gays. And Jesus. And the Lion King.

But mostly Mormons.

TigerBlog is sure he's leaving some groups out. But mostly Mormons.

It's an interesting cultural phenomenon that something so completely offensive - from the guys who brought you "South Park," though it's more like a musical "Family Guy" - can be hailed as a work of genius. It's not that TigerBlog doesn't get the sarcasm or the message. It's not that he can't appreciate it for what it is.

And it's not that parts of it aren't downright hilarious. It's just that it crosses the line into being something personal - and does so unabashedly so.

Contemporary society finds offense in almost everything, whether it is offensive or not. Political correctness, for lack of a better term, rules.

So how did "The Book of Mormon" slip through the cracks to win nine Tony Awards, rather than be booed off the stage on opening night? TigerBlog has no idea.

He does have a question though: How many people who are howling about the fact that the Washington football team should change its name from "Redskins" laughed all the way through "The Book of Mormon?"

There are roughly 5.4 million Native Americans and 6.6 million Mormons in this country. If it can assumed that every single one of them is insulted either by the name "Redskins" or the show that mocks every tenet of their religion (albeit in a very entertaining way with some catchy, pithy songs), then there are a lot more pissed off Mormons than Native Americans.

Why doesn't anyone care about that, while the name of the football team that has been unchanged for 80 years or so is the cause of national debate and outrage.

As for the controversy itself, TigerBlog read a story yesterday on that began by pointing out which tribes had the land that professional teams with Native American nicknames now plan on seized by the U.S. government. Interesting angle.

Look, this country has an awful history of dealing with the indigenous people. It's actually an under-taught part of U.S. history, probably because of how the U.S. was on the wrong moral side in this one.

Most people get their information about that time from Cowboy and Indian movies or TV shows, which made the, you'll pardon the expression, Indians look like either savages or clowns.

And TigerBlog, as do all his people, understands the value of not forgetting historical events, even many decades later. But the Redskins have been the Redskins for nearly a century, and it never seemed like that big of a deal until a few years ago, long into the political correctness era.

MotherBlog was a huge Redskins fans. In addition, she was the single greatest advocate of fairness, tolerance and respect that TigerBlog ever met. In all the time she rooted for the 'Skins (her favorite player by far was John Riggins; he was to sports what Steve McQueen was to acting for MotherBlog), she never once mentioned that the nickname might be offensive.

And so here is the part of today's story where it now evokes something related to Princeton. Since TB is talking about things that are offensive, he thought he could talk about the Princeton football offense, which is in its own way highly offensive, as in large numbers of points and yards, more so than any other team in Ivy history a year ago.

But no, TigerBlog won't go Trey Parker/Matt Stone here. Today is for a serious topic.

The question is, what is the responsibility of an organization such as Princeton Athletics to deal with its fans - customers, if you will - who are offended by something here?

Fortunately, Princeton is the Tigers, so who is going to be offended by that? Of course, Rodney Dangerfield did say in "Caddyshack" that, after meeting the grandson of Judge Smails, that now "I understand why Tigers eat their young." But that's about it.

But there are other things around here that could become offensive.

Music at events. Chants by students - even those that don't include any words that could be on their face offensive. The demeanor of a coach or athlete.

Costs shouldn't be one them, not with no admission charge for 33 of 38 varsity sports and about the lower ticket prices you'll ever find anywhere for the five that do charge admission. Hey, you can almost never find a movie ticket for less than it costs to come to games here.

But there are plenty of others, TB is sure. After all, this is the age of being offended.

So what should Princeton do in those situations? Let's face it, for every one email that Princeton will get saying what a great event someone attended, it'll get 10, 20, 100 times more complaining about something.

The last thing a school can do is get reactive. What you have to do is be proactive.

Take a good look at the events themselves. Make sure that the department has done everything it can to put on an event that is classy, that most spectators would find to be welcoming.

And then wait for the emails to come in complaining about something or another. There will always be those who aren't happy. It takes something of a thick skin.

The task for Princeton Athletics is even tougher than it is at most places, since the competition for the entertainment dollar is substantial, the department puts a real effort into attracting families with children, many of its most diehard fans are older alums, the students want to be a little rowdy and the coaches and athletes want to make the venue tough on the visitors. These are not always common denominators.

Oh, and as far as "Redskins" goes?

TigerBlog sees both sides of the story. And to be honest, he thinks that some of the anti-nickname venom is driven by the fact that nobody likes Daniel Snyder, the team owner, who 1) has been a failure as a football person and 2) seems like a bit of a bad guy.

But it is a nearly-80-year-old institution.

What's the answer? If it were up to TigerBlog, he'd probably change it. There are all kinds of great nicknames that the team could go with - and then exploit its fan for new merchandising.

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