From SNAP POP!, October '00

INERTIA is the guiding force in WIT MEMO's life . . .why do now what you can put off until tomorrow, or even until a half hour from now, if there's a decent chance that if you shilly-shally long enough, some highly-motivated self-starter will get disgusted and do it first? And naturally, WIT MEMO jumps at any chance to kill two birds with one stone. So when a few strokes of the pen by the right people would delight folks on both ends of the political spectrum, end a longstanding, needless injury to an historically mistreated minority, and generate bushels o' bucks for the local economy to boot, it's time for a big-league throwdown. So let's break out the TUPPER'S HOP POCKET and the MAKER'S MARK, and change the name of the WASHINGTON REDSKINS to THE RONALD REAGAN NATIONAL FOOTBALL TEAM.

Stifle your gag reflex and hear me out: it's dazzlingly perfect, given that the construction of some kind of monument to honor Ronald Reagan now seems a sad reality, and that the Nation's Capital just happens to have a flagship football team that's sorely in need of a new name. The planets fell into alignment early last month with the coincidence of two unrelated news events: first, the demand by House Majority Whip, former exterminator, and impeachment warrior TOM DELAY for a "REAGAN MEMORIAL," even though "memorials" aren't generally erected to honor living individuals (headline: "DELAY TO REAGAN: I WANT YOU DEAD"), and, just a few days later, a well-reasoned presentation of the case against the name "Redskins" by American Indian activist SUZAN HARJO during a Washington Post online discussion of the same topic. 

Delay's proposal was only the opening shot in the what's certain to become a hagiographic drumbeat for Something Big bearing the name of the revered-by-some 40th President. The Reaganistas' hectoring demands will only get louder, and they will not be denied, so you might as well dry your eyes and accept that a Reagan memorial is as dead-to-rights a certainty as death, taxes and free kittens. You only had to catch a few minutes of the GOP confab to grasp the God-like status that "the Gipper" enjoys throughout the Land of the Right. Conservatives of every stripe -- neo- and paleo-conservatives, "movement" conservatives and family values mongers -- speak reverentially of "Reagan's 11th Commandment" and dream of the second coming when a worthy successor will descend from the Shining City On The Hill to make everything once again right in our confused and morally rudderless land. To the right wing what BRUCE LEE is to martial arts magazines, Reagan is worshiped as the architect of the collapse of communism and the only GOPer in 40 years to last out two terms. And no matter how much you might despise him for basing eight years of national policy on those phony anecdotes he used to pull out of thin air, you gotta give him his due: behind a Teleprompter he looked like a million bucks (aside from those curious, vine-like wrinkles descending from the corners of his mouth that made his face appear encrusted with foliage, like an old brick building), even if he did guarantee knee-slapping blooper footage and take years off his handlers' lives every time he strayed from the prepared text.

And don't waste your breath pointing out that there's already substantial public works bearing the Reagan moniker. The Reaganites' lust for a tribute worthy of their injured hero is far from stanched by a half-pint airport and an office building chock-a-block full of the bureaucratic remorae they loathe as a matter of principle. There's ample precedent for multiple monuments: those Little Liver Pills didn't stop them from naming a nuclear submarine after JIMMY CARTER.

But if there must be a Reagan memorial, then what, and where? Surely not another neo-classical colossus on the Mall, which is so overladen with granite and marble that it threatens to sink into the Potomac and become the foggy fen it was two hundred years ago when canals ran the length of what's now Constitution Avenue, and boats docked only a few dozen feet from the site of the Washington Monument. Well what, then?

As it happens, Washington, D.C. has a top-dollar, national-rep NFL team that desperately needs a new name. The arguments against the name "Redskins" are so familiar that repeating them seems more of a waste of space than this column usually represents, but it belies any gainsaying that it's a hands-down ethnic slur, a racist anachronism from a bygone era when the owners of other competitive recreational entities -- championship show dogs -- thought nothing of bestowing the name "Nigger" on their ebony-coated pets, as with several entrants in a 1930's book of championship Labrador retrievers that WIT MEMO once came across at a used book sale. The offensiveness was patent to a three-judge panel at the US Patent and Trademark Office that in April '99 canceled the team's trademark registrations pursuant to a federal law prohibiting "disparaging" names and logos. (Meaning, presumably, that any Tom, Dick, and Magua are free to market their own bootleg Redskins paraphernalia; it's a wonder no one hasn't.) And the pitiably few defenses that team management has so far offered (it honors the bravery of the noble Indian; the first coach was a Native American; we don't give a flying fuck what anyone thinks) are post-hoc rationalizations so feeble and phony that even a lawyer or a real estate agent would turn blue in the face attempting to pass them off as the genuine article.

What better tribute could there be to "The Gipper" than a professional sports franchise? It would be the ultimate consummation of the longstanding relationship between big-time TV sports and the cutthroat world of politics, where familiar sports metaphors have become so trite they've fallen out of use. And of all sports, none better does justice to Reagan that pro football, a game full of battlefield terminology ("...continued to rain bombs down on the hapless Denver defense" ... "we begin bombing in five minutes") so appropriate to a cold warrior who, though he didn't see any actual combat, is credited by his acolytes with the collapse of communism and the Fall o' the Wall, usually at the expense of MIKHAIL GORBACHEV. The parallels continue: it was during his early days as a sportscaster that Reagan honed his fabulist chops, getting game updates off the teletype and then making up play-by-play action to hoodwink his listeners into believing that He Was There. And of all NFL teams, none would be better than the one right here in the Nation's capital, the true "America's Team" (Dallas? Please), whose star last shown during Reagan's presidency. And whereas a Reagan Monument would be seen by few and soon forgotten, the fate reserved for any presidential monuments outside the Washington-Lincoln-Jefferson triad, a Reagan National Football Team would be seen and loved and cheered by umpteen millions around the world, week after week. What percentage of a Monday Night Football audience has any idea what the FDR Memorial looks like?

The mind reels at the possibilities. The Reagan National Football Team could be nicknamed "The Gippers," and their stadium (currently the odious "Fed Ex Field") lovingly dubbed the Oval Office (yet another nail in the coffin of TONY KORNHEISER'S late, annoying campaign to call it "The Big Jack.") And as the plaintiffs in the trademark suit have pointed out, the name change would generate beaucoup bucks: Redskins paraphernalia would become valuable collectors' items, and eager fans would line up to fork over their hard-earned dollars to buy shirts, jackets, sweats, mugs, hats, posters and pennants featuring logos bearing vintage images of the 40th President, he of orange hair and empty head (and no, that's NOT a crack at his current condition). Just like the Post Office's ELVIS stamp, merchandise could feature either the dashing young movie star ("Where's the rest of me?"), or the older, distinguished vanquisher of Democrats ("Our government spends money like the proverbial sailor on shore leave, with one difference: the sailor is spending his own money.") 

It's so perfect, it's a mystery no one's thought of it yet. The Post's excellent MARC FISHER came close but ultimately missed the boat in his September 16th column (What Next? Reagan Brand Raisin Bran? ) depicting a somber future where absolutely everything has been renamed after Ronald Reagan . . . everything, that is, EXCEPT the Washington Redskins, which have become "The Sacagaweas." Plus, he was kidding. WIT MEMO is serious. 

So don't sit on your hands this time. Let 'em know where you stand. Call, write, and email team owner DANIEL SNYDER and the rest of the local hidalgos and demand they eighty-six the 'Skins and bring on The Gippers. Turns out, it's just as well that Snyder didn't heed WIT MEMO's sarcastic suggestion in July '99 (WIT MEMO 43) that he call the team "THE WASHINGTON INJUNS," and rename then-Jack Kent Cooke Stadium "HEAP BIG PIGSKIN TEPEE." Snyder seems to have his hands full with all the flack he's lately caught for his bungled efforts to spend his way to a national title. Now's his chance to get something right.

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