West indian culture

Baseball’s Tomahawk Chop Fuels America’s Bitter Culture Wars

They were the least loved couple in the World Series for years.

As the Atlanta Braves lifted the curtain on the 2021 Major League Baseball season in Houston, Texas on Tuesday night, there was a general sense of relief that there would be no more need for it. one more match.

As tradition has it, this was a best-of-seven series, but the Braves beat the Astros in six and although the dilemma for the neutral observer at the start was who would be less intolerable as a that victor, there was no doubt at the end because to who had assumed the role of archivillain.

In a way, it wasn’t the Astros this time around, and that was a feat in itself. After all, here is a club that was torn to shreds over a cheating scandal four seasons ago that dragged its one and only World Series victory from the pedestal of a fairy tale to infamy. of the 1919 Chicago White Sox and other iconic ne’er-do-wells.

To sum up a miserable story: Houston hitters benefited from secret cameras used to spy on pitchers and receivers of opposing teams as they displayed standard signs and signals to agree on the type of ball that would be pitched at. the batter. When a hitter with an incomprehensible skill level knows he is about to face a fastball rather than a cursor, for example, he increases his chances of effective contact exponentially.

Almost two years after their historic World Series success, what for years had been suspected of the Astros was confirmed by whistleblowers who cited examples of coded sportsmanship betrayals. The most infamous method was to slam the lids of the trash cans to send messages from the canoe to the baseplate. All very spy novels and all so typical of baseball to find new, more elaborate ways of playing with the system.

It’s entirely possible that the 2017 core of players were good enough to go all the way, but there will always be bitterness over how the tighter games have gone. The manager has been fired as has the general manager and the shock waves have been considerable, but some star players have hung around long enough to have a chance to redeem themselves this year. As the playoffs knocked out the most likely winners, the Astros began to nestle in the role of favorites.

But then the Atlanta Braves proved that baseball – an often conservative sport – can produce a team and fan base with an even deeper us-against-the-world mentality.

The clue can be found in the nickname, which is one of a group of historically all-too-common, slowly diminishing nicknames, awkwardly or mischievously derived from the traditions of Native American cultures.

The Braves first played in Boston at the turn of the 20th century before moving to Milwaukee and then Georgia, where they settled for decades enough to be firmly entrenched in a franchise steeped in the large population swirling outward. of the city of Atlanta. So steeped in that they refused to accept any prospect of dropping that moniker, even despite the fact that the equally iconic Cleveland Indians will be the Guardians from 2022.

But even more blatant is the use of the so-called Tomahawk Chop at various stages of their games. If you’ve never seen it, it’s pretty straightforward; fans reproduce a chopping movement in unison while chanting the song Tomahawk that most of us would recognize among the oldest and most offensive depictions of American Indians on screens large and small.

The soundtrack really took root in the ’90s – the last and only time a team from Atlanta brought the World Series to their hometown – and, as it does with so many elements of the Culture Wars to which we are facing the United States, it is only recently that it has started to be seriously questioned.

Several of the Indigenous nations sent representatives there to condemn the tradition (as well as the nickname) while a baseball player and Cherokee Nation member Ryan Helsley also stepped forward in 2019 to explain how the Chop was intrusive.

Helsley came to be a powerful messenger, and official acceptance of the Chop began to wane. Of course, this is a surefire way for anything to gain even more popularity and now enough Braves fans see it as their mission to protect their precious vocals, as they see it, while denigrating the legacy of the others.

And just at the right time, wouldn’t you know, who decided this was the perfect opportunity to fight their way into the struggle between meanness and righteousness?

The middle three World Series games had been set for Atlanta and former US President Donald Trump spotted his opportunity.

According to reports in Yahoo Sports, he requested tickets for Game 4, then quickly made it known that he had been invited by the Braves and Major League Baseball.

“I can’t wait to be at the World Series in Atlanta tonight,” his mailing list said. “Thanks to Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred and Randy Levine of the New York Yankees for the invitation. Melania and I are looking forward to a wonderful evening watching two great teams!

Of course, that was a surefire indicator that he hadn’t been invited at all and indeed, the sport’s governing body was quick in its denial, as was Braves CEO Terry McGuirk, whose version for USA Today reported that Trump had called the Powers-Who-Either to say he wanted to come to the game: “We were very surprised. Of course we said yes. “

But no matter the vast majority of fans in attendance on Saturday night who were delighted at the sight of their idol in a private box overlooking the right side of the park grounds, cutting off in unison with the rest of the raving crowd. .

It was a depressing and blatant reminder of the former president’s absolute hold over a huge part of the country. Almost as infuriating was how quickly he changed his tone from a call for an MLB boycott over the summer after a change in Georgia’s voting laws sparked a backlash that included moving the all-star game away from Atlanta.

The story of baseball’s constant decline is by no means new, but the past week has been a stark reminder of the precariousness of the sport’s grip on future generations of liberal-minded fans. It was particularly poetic that on the same night Braves fans celebrated fame, Democrats were hammered at the ballot box.

It is an easy selection in modern America; protect a bogus, damaging and demeaning tradition and shed light on the latest false threat to white identity. This will be the playbook until the next election streak in 2022 and 2024 and its success as a strategy is extremely difficult to counter.

From the ostracism of players who were the first to kneel down to highlight racial injustice, to threats to boycott entire sports organizations simply because a terribly offensive nickname like the Redskins has disappeared.

In the summer of 2020, the Atlanta Braves were quick to insist that they had no intention of following the lead of the rebranded Washington football team. “We will always be the Atlanta Braves,” the team said in a letter to season ticket holders. “As a result of our conversations, changing the name of the Braves is neither considered nor considered necessary.”

Much less offensive but strangely irritating is nevertheless the nickname of “Fighting Irish” the most famous used by the teams which represent Notre-Dame.

The world-famous university is adamant that the Fighting Irish nickname was “first coined for Irish immigrant soldiers who fought for the Union during the Civil War in what became the Irish Brigade, whose three New York regiments “.

It’s a mark of respect, they say. It doesn’t help that the mascot they send out to make their offer is a restless pixie type figure. It could be a lot worse, however, as Stephanie Apstein best put it in Sports Illustrated where she denounced the fact that the darling Atlanta Braves fan tradition is in reality only “a largely white crowd. mocking a people that their ancestors tried to erase ”.

@JohnWRIordan


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