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Archive for Saturday, May 20, 2006

Commentary: These times need a little Foster Brooks

May 20, 2006

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Turn off the mikes, the party's over.

When the Florida-Georgia game rolls around this fall, CBS will not call it "The World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party." Not if the schools have their way.

They've requested that nickname never be spoken on air again. Having seen a few Florida-Georgia parties, it's hard to argue against any move that might keep the average coed from blowing a .29 on the Breathalyzer.

So why does the request not quite feel right?

Because I've been to Jacksonville enough to know Florida-Georgia is no worse than most games. The party slogan is more tradition, like all the others that give college football much of its appeal. Now that ambience is seeping out of the game.

Let's put it this way. If Florida-Georgia were a person, it would be Foster Brooks.

In case you're too young to remember, he was a comedian who pretended to be a lush. It was OK to laugh at his act 30 years ago. But if he were alive today, Brooks couldn't get a gig at the Poughkeepsie Holiday Inn. It's called progress, I suppose. What was once considered harmless fun is now morally suspect.

Want to be labeled a racist? Put on a Chief Illiniwek T-shirt.

The NCAA says Illinois' 80-year-old mascot is hostile and abusive. Chief Osceola isn't because Florida State has the Seminole tribe's blessing. Maybe I'm dense, but doesn't one American Indian impersonator look pretty much the same as the next?

The whole thing gets confusing, though political correctness has one rule: We are all endowed with the inalienable right not to be offended.

Enter the pink locker room, if you dare. Iowa stepped in it last fall when a visiting professor discovered the Hawkeyes' opponents dressed in a room painted pink. He said it promoted sexism and homophobia. Protests ensued. Critics wanted the offense noted in the school's gender-equity progress report. Iowa's president referred the issue to the school's human rights commission. It's enough to make you reach for whatever Foster Brooks was having.

Where is all this headed? You can forget about any references to ethnicity, violence or otherwise questionable behavior.

BYU vs. Utah cannot go on as "The Holy War." Ditto for all those "Border Wars."

As for the trophies, say goodbye to the Indian War Drum, the Dutchman's Shoes, the Brice-Cowell Musket, the Sweet Sioux Tomahawk, the Fremont Cannon, the Ireland Trophy and the Chief Caddo statue.

Same for the Little Brown Stein, the Old Brass Spittoon, the Shot Glass and a wide assortment of jugs. Should the Alabama-Tennessee winner really get victory cigars, even if they don't light them?

If you want to eliminate hostile imagery, what about Ole Miss' Rebel? Shouldn't it be put on the ice floe with that two-fisted little leprechaun from South Bend?

People thought they were paying homage by naming teams and stadiums and rivalries after something. It turns out they were being insensitive as today's standards are applied to yesterday's world.

That's not wrong in some cases. If one accident is averted because Verne Lundquist doesn't say "World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party," then mission accomplished.

It's just that you get the feeling we're going to wake up some college football Saturday, and all the flavor will be gone.

Call it regressive, but I'd still like to see a little Foster Brooks. Preferably performing in a pink locker room.

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