Back in the day, the Paden City High School band engaged in hazing by assigning freshman “slaves” to seniors during the week of “band camp,” which occurred at Bethany College in West Virginia. We boys not only had to dress as women but had to march in costume, including pantyhose and water balloons in our bras.
We also had to wear dog biscuits on strings around our necks and eat them at our masters’ command. And we had to go through a gauntlet of humiliation one evening, where all of the seniors dumped molasses on the freshmen and put us through other trials. We didn’t know what was coming because we were all blindfolded. I remember washing my hair with Coca-Cola every night of my freshman year to try to get all of the gunk out of it.
All of this occurred with adult consent and supervision. No parents objected. It was all considered perfectly normal. The tradition went on for years until someone crossed a line that brought an abrupt and merciful end to it. I heard that Bethany officials intervened because of the way one particular freshman was forced to dress and walk through the shared cafeteria, but maybe that was just the band camp equivalent of an urban legend.
It was always a bit ironic that this behavior happened on the campus of a “Christian liberal arts college.”
I didn’t realize until today that the “adults” in Major League Baseball had been engaging in and tolerating similar hazing:
Now those practices have been halted. “Times have changed,” players’ union general counsel Dave Prouty. “There is certain conduct that we have to be conscious of.”
Welcome to the 21st century, athletes of America!
Filed under: Culture and Education and News & Politics and Sports
For years the speech police have been pressuring Washington’s professional football franchise to change the name of its team from Redskins to something that isn’t “offensive” to American Indians. Team owners past and present have ignored the outcry, but back in June a federal judge voided the Redskins trademark.
That led to an interesting legal brief from the Redskins organization this week as it appeals the ruling. The team challenged the notion that the federal Trademark Trial and Appeal Board can overturn a brand name because it is “disparaging.”
Rednecks get a shout-out in one section of the brief. It rebuts the claim that the government’s continued allowance of the Redskins mark could be interpreted as an endorsement of the term.
The team’s lawyers make their point by listing several other potentially offensive terms the trademark board has approved. “Redneck Army Apparel” is right there in the middle of them.
That’s the first time I’ve seen anyone as enlightened as a big-city lawyer admit that “redneck” is a disparaging word. Granted, the Redskins legal team is arguing that entrepreneurial Americans should be free to use brand their products with a stamp of redneck approval, but at least there is an implication that “redneck” just might be a slur, depending on the context. That’s progress.
On the other hand, “redneck” may be a moneymaker. I entered the word into the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s search system, and it generated 649 results. “Hillbilly” and other similarly disparaging terms make appearances, too.
The takeaway from this stroll through the bureaucracy: Sometimes it pays to be offensive, whether you own a football team or just have a marketing gimmick geared toward rednecks.
Filed under: Business and Government and Hatin' On Rednecks and News & Politics and Rednecks and Sports
Comments: 1 Comment
I penned these words 15 years ago after a national tragedy. I’m sharing them now because they remain relevant, albeit to another tragedy:
This time around, the myth involves a suspected criminal rather than an innocent victim, but it still won’t die. The myth is that Michael Brown was surrendering with his hands up and said “don’t shoot” when Ferguson, Mo., police officer Darren Wilson shot him to death. Sensational coverage of the Aug. 9 shooting has fueled that myth ever since, and it is now considered unassailable gospel truth in some quarters.
Those quarters include, most notably, the National Football League stadium in the metropolis where the shooting occurred and Capitol Hill. The hands-up gesture is the rallying cry of Brown’s defenders, be they part of an official group like Hands Up United, talking heads in the media or the outraged masses on Twitter.
Or, in the words of protester Taylor Gruenloh: “Even if you don’t find that it’s true, it’s a valid rallying cry. It’s just a metaphor.”
But eloquent protests to the contrary, the truth does matter. Metaphors that perpetuate lies — whether they involve a young, white girl like Cassie Bernall or a young, black man like Michael Brown — breed cynicism and thus deepen the wounds they aim to heal.
That’s why Charles Barkley, a black man and former professional athlete who can identify with both Brown and five St. Louis Rams who thrust their hands in the air on Sunday, lashed out at irresponsible journalists who help spread deceitful metaphors. “I can’t believe anything I hear on television anymore,” he said. “And, that’s why I don’t like talking about race issues with the media anymore because they love this stuff and lead people to jump to conclusions.”
Sports writer John Walters cut to the chase in a Newsweek column: “The grand jury in Ferguson, Missouri, failed to indict one police officer; the proliferation of hands up, don’t shoot indicts all of them. To get justice, you must start with the truth.”
Filed under: Culture and Media and News & Politics and People and Sports
I remember the ancient time — back in my high school years — when nerds became the heroes of Hollywood plot lines. Movies and television shows celebrated the geeks who were scorned by the jocks, cheerleaders and other cool kids.
This helps explain why so many people embrace the “nerd” label these days. But as Charles Cooke explains at National Review Online, today’s nerd are pretenders. They have corrupted the word for political purposes, and they are the anti-type of Hollywood’s heroic dweebs, plagued by the very air of superiority the nerds in cinema resisted.
And who are the targets of their bigotry? Rednecks, of course. As Cooke says:
I was fortunate to find a happy medium in my youth. I was a “band baby” for two of my four years at Paden City High School and a “football animal” for one. I was never quite talented enough to get much playing time in any of the official school sports I tried, but I also wasn’t among the last people picked when I joined my peers for backyard football, pickup basketball and the like. I ranked among the top 10 percent of my small class but also opted to study to be an electrician at a vocational school rather than take college prep classes my junior and senior years.
I was part nerd and part jock. I enjoyed intellectual pursuits yet also appreciated the folksy wisdom of those who were educated at the University of Hard Knocks. In other words, I was — and am — an enlightened redneck. And that’s the worst nightmare of the Neil deGrasse Tysons of the world.
Filed under: Culture and Education and Entertainment and Hatin' On Rednecks and Movies and People and Rednecks and Sports and West Virginia
Comments: 1 Comment
As a tee-totaling redneck, I’ve always been annoyed that beer brands make some of the most clever TV ads. But you gotta give props where props are due, and Keystone Light has a winner in my book with its fishing ad that glorifies the lowly worm:
I’ve always been partial to the worm as bait. During my high school years, I earned some hefty pocket change catching dozens of nightcrawlers a night in my hometown and selling them for 50 cents to 65 cents per dozen. My biggest problem as a businessman was not using the inventory myself in the Ohio River and its tributary streams on the West Virginia side of the river.
Some of my fishing mentors and companions razzed me over my choice of bait. Even the hillbilly hollers have their share of anglers who look down their noses if you use live bait, and especially nightcrawlers, instead of tying a fly, a spinner or some other lure on the end of your line. Dough balls, corn and even stink bait for catfish ranked higher in their minds than dirty worms.
“A River Runs Through It” memorialized this brand of redneck elitism in a scene where the bumbling bait fisherman showed up late and drunk, with a coffee can full of worms. The uppity fly fishermen, the movie’s main characters, found him hours later, naked and sunburned because he fell asleep in the grass with the hussy he brought with him.
But no matter how much mocking I endured, I never wavered from the worms. I also usually caught far more fish than my friends who were loyal to their lures, as did the fishermen who came knocking on my parents’ door for bait — sometimes to the tune of 20 dozen or more at once.
The pinnacle of my fishing youth came on the day when the man who taught me the most about the sport asked if I’d share my worms with him. He had been fishing all day with his favorite lure, white Curly Tail Grubs from Mister Twister.
For every bass he tricked with those lures, I hooked two to three with my nightcrawlers. They were biting within seconds after my bait hit the water. His “luck” improved dramatically when he swapped the plastic for the natural.
My mentor was a teetotaler, too, but if a non-alcoholic version of Keystone Light had existed back then, he just might have bought me a brew to toast the worm for the win.
Filed under: Advertising and Business and Family and Fishing and Rednecks and Sports and Video and West Virginia
Comments: 1 Comment
You’ll never read this description of West Virginia (or any like it) in the media because it’s way more fun to mock stereotypical, imaginary rednecks than it is to report the boring reality of enlightened rednecks:
There’s more at the Gateway Connector blog in a post titled “The Real West Virginia,” including a short list of celebrities from the Mountain State such as premier college football coaches Jimbo Fisher and Nick Saban.
Filed under: Hatin' On Rednecks and Media and News & Politics and People and Sports and West Virginia
And he had a spectacular football career for the West Virginia University Mountaineers.
Here are two videos that capture the essence of Tavon’s senior year in 2012 — the first being the biggest game of his career and one of the best individual performances in college football history, and the second being a recap of great clips from the whole season:
We Mountaineers salute you, Tavon! Thanks for the memories.
Filed under: Sports and Video and West Virginia
Every diehard West Virginia University fan was excited about our debut season in the Big 12 four months ago, and the Mountaineers justified our enthusiasm early in the season with five straight wins, including back-to-back, high-scoring, come-from-behind thrillers against Baylor at home and Texas in Austin.
But the season fell apart after those first two Big 12 games. The Mountaineers, plagued by a horrendous defense (one of the worst in the nation) and an offense that couldn’t make big plays at key moments, lost five straight Big 12 games. WVU closed the season with two wins over the bottom dwellers of the Big 12, Iowa State and Kansas, lifting the spirits of us fans.
Then came yesterday’s Pinstripe Bowl, where the Mountaineers decided to embarrass themselves one last time against former Big East rival Syracuse. This Yahoo Sports analysis sums up the pitiful performance nicely, albeit painfully:
Adding insult to injury, the newspaper in Weirton, W.Va., published an embarrassing typo that put the bowl loss in comedic perspective: “WVU loses bowel.” We Mountaineers fans, who endured ridicule even after a record-setting Orange Bowl victory one year ago, had to laugh to keep from crying.
Now we have to eight months to see if Dana Holgorsen, who has taken WVU football fans on a two-year roller coaster ride using players recruited by his predecessor, Bill Stewart, can coach the Mountaineers out of the Big 12 basement. Considering Holgorsen coached a team with great potential at the beginning of the season to WVU’s our worst record since 2001 (3-8), count me among the skeptics.
Filed under: News & Politics and Sports and West Virginia
Burning couches to celebrate a momentous sports victory is funny in theory. That’s why West Virginia University fans are still laughing at the Sprint commercial several years ago that poked fun at the Mountaineers’ couch-burning tradition.
But in reality, couch-burning is no joke. It is riotous behavior that incites troublemakers and burdens the city governments who have to deploy police and safety personnel to control the fans. Morgantown, the home of WVU, is so fed up with the misbehaving students in the city that it may slap a financial penalty on them to help cover the costs of constant post-game parties.
The mayor aired the idea after WVU defeated Texas 48-45 and students literally set the streets of the city on fire in celebration. Worse, they threw rocks and bottles at police trying to keep the peace and picked fights with others in the streets. Similar troubles arose after WVU defeated Baylor 70-63.
I witnessed this kind of behavior firsthand as a WVU student and reporter for the local Dominion Post. WVU defeated Penn State 51-30 that year in a rare victory over Joe Paterno’s team. The victory was so sweet that students charged the field with 49 seconds left, and those last seconds of play had to be cancelled — an embarrassing display of unsportsmanlike conduct that was follow by more unruly behavior in the streets that night.
At that same time, WVU students were complaining of unfair, albeit unrelated, treatment at the hands of city officials. The confluence of events inspired me to write an op-ed that still seems relevant 14 years later as unruly Mountaineers are causing trouble in Morgantown. Here is what I wrote:
Filed under: Government and News & Politics and People and Sports and West Virginia
We have seen the value of homeschooling in the successes of parents and children from our own community, including 6-year-old Lori Anne Madison, who this week will become the youngest person ever to compete in the National Spelling Bee:
Lori Anne earned her spot in the national competition by winning the Prince William County, Va., spelling bee. Most of her rivals this week will be at least twice her age.
Lori Anne’s educational success is not unusual in the homeschooling world. Her peer group regularly excels in competition. Here’s just a short list:
You can read plenty of other success stories at the website of the Home School Legal Defense Association, or just Google the phrase “homeschooler wins” and watch them fill your screen. Students who get their education at home are especially good at winning spelling bees.
(Read previous “Why We Home-School” lessons.)
Filed under: Grammar and Home Schooling and Human Interest and News & Politics and Sports and Technology and Why We Home-School
|previous posts »|