The U of I announced yesterday that they will be retiring Chief Illiniwek, the Urbana-Champaign campus’s mascot since 1926, at the conclusion of this year’s seemingly-doomed basketball season. I’ve reproduced (and archived) the ominous headline and article from the Daily Illini’s print version from Friday here:
Full details and the official version of the chain of events leading to this decision are available from the University’s web site.
While I have always been a vehement supporter of retaining the Chief as Illinois’s mascot, I can’t say that I really have a lot to complain about. The way our current culture works made this inevitable: a group (I heard the term “causeheads” for the first time yesterday, which I thought was bitingly appropriate) decides that they are going to fight against something. Once this group reaches a large enough critical mass, they will not ever go away, and eventually (no matter how long it takes) those in power give in to their wishes. This is what has been my biggest disappointment with the entire process all along, the fact that there was no resolution aside from absolution of the Chief that would effectively end the debate. The Board had previously passed a resolution to retain him, and of course that didn’t stop any of the protests, or the whining, or the well-intentioned-but-horribly-misplaced cries of racism. There was no reason to believe that any scenario other than the one we are now faced with would bring any different result. At least they have retained the nickname Fighting Illini for the school’s sports teams, after correctly assessing it as not being inappropriate in any way (the term “Illini” was used in reference to the school’s students and alumni long before the Chief had been conceived).
I have a somewhat bad habit of thinking up ideas for websites, purchasing the domain name and/or hosting for that site, and then sitting on it and never getting around to actually putting anything up. One such instance is the domain name hostileandabusive.com, which I registered in response to the NCAA’s April 2005 announcement that effectively made the Chief’s ultimate retirement a foregone conclusion. The idea was to set up a website that would explore the issues associated with the NCAA’s choice of wording and what the implications of the resolution would be. Its main purpose, though, was to be a place for people to complain about all college mascots, and to send letters to the administrations of universities across the country complaining about how offensive (perhaps even “hostile and abusive”) their mascots are. Coincidentally enough, I was pointed to the blog of an old friend from high school several months ago, and he had a similar idea (his link is broken, but you can view his list of offensive mascots at his old site).
Since the decision to retire the Chief makes any activist-style ambitions I had somewhat obsolete, and the idea of contriving a manner in which every single college mascot is offensive has already been done, I’ve decided to use the domain as a pointer to my new store, to feature apparel and designs to commemorate the phenomenon of “hostile and abusive” college mascots. I’ll be adding some more items in the near future, so check it out and let me know what you think.