Friday, February 16, 2007

Illinois, Jamar, and the Chief

Jamar Smith

Another tidbit of information in the continuing Jamar Smith saga. Bruce Weber released a statement today that Jamar will be taking the rest of the season off. Read into that what you will. I have been in a few small car accidents, none serious, none with any injuries to anyone involved. Right now, all of the factual information available can be explained in a direction that makes things look awful for Jamar, or in a direction that looks very favorable. Every piece of sinister looking information can be fairly easily explained away. A lot of key facts simply aren't yet in evidence.

I have never suffered a concussion, so I can't speak to how I've ever reacted to one. I've heard all sorts of stories about people sustaining concussions, then continuing to act fairly normally, only to end up completely unable to remember the events immediately following the injury. It kind of reminds me of Dwight on that episode of the Office where Michael cooked his foot. Anyway, I'm not sure we'll ever get the whole story unless there's a trial.

But what has really bugged me about this whole thing are the people who cite "whispers" and "sources I know". Look, I know we all want to know what happened, but what we think we know now isn't going to change what has already happened. What results are message board flame wars where it becomes primarily about being right, regardless of the real world consequences for those involved. I know, because I've been in positions where I've wanted the Angels (for example) to win, not because them doing so made me genuinely happy, but rather just to show up more pessimistic Angels fans who had been really pissing me off.

As I said above, there are a hundred different things that may have happened that night that we simply don't know about yet, and as someone who's never been in Jamar's position, I can't really speculate as to how I would act under similar circumstances. And if I can't speculate as to how I would act, I certainly am not able to do it for anyone else. So I suggest we sit back, let the investigation proceed, and comment on the facts as we know them when we know them.

Chief Illiniwek

Now, about the Chief, as some of you have probably heard, the University of Illinois announced today that Chief Illiniwek is pretty much done as a symbol of the University. There has been outside pressure to make this move for a long time, and almost as much inside pressure to maintain the status quo. I'm not sure which straw broke the camel's back, so to speak, but keep in mind that the N.I.T. utilizes home sites for early round games, and if this Illini team is going to play in the post-season, right now, that looks like the mostly likely destination. As long as the Chief was dancing, Illinois was not going to host a post-season competition.

Personally, I've never had particularly strong feelings about the Chief one way or another. I'll be honest, I like going to football and basketball games and watching the Chief perform. It was an exciting spectacle, and most of the crowd really got into it. But it's not going to kill me if/when they get rid of him.

My position is pretty simple. I'd like to think that if I were Native American, I wouldn't be offended by the Chief, but I can't say for sure without being in that position. And I realize that it appears to be a small minorities of Native Americans who have expressed anger with the Chief. But there are lots of mascots out there. There's a choice between having a mascot that offends very few people, and a mascot that offends no one. Isn't the choice to offend no one pretty obviously the right one? This isn't about being politically correct. It's about not being an asshole. Granted, I didn't grow up in Illinois. I didn't grow up with the tradition, and I'm glad I got a chance to see the Chief while I was in school. But if UCLA felt they needed to change their mascot, or if UCR decided that it was no longer going to be known as the Highlanders, I've gotta think I wouldn't be particularly outraged. I certainly wouldn't stop donating money to UCR. Hell, I stopped doing that a long time ago!

So to sum up, it seems like a decision that was inevitable, and it's not really going to bother me either way. I'm not so sure why people are apoplectic about it, but people get crazy about weird stuff. Whaddya gonna do?

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