Chief Wahoo: The Comic Sans of Baseball

Image Credit: Keith Allison
Image Credit: Keith Allison

We in Cleveland are sports fans through and through. We were 1.2 million people strong in the summertime parade celebrating the Cavaliers victory in the NBA Championship. We cheered for the Lake Erie Monsters. Heck, even without any wins so far this season, the Browns are getting our love and support. And now, as our beloved baseball team plays in the MLB playoffs, we support them.

I am Indian. From India (well, my parents are, anyhow). I never found the name Indians offensive. But the name has nothing to do with me. Not my type of Indian. So I must defer. According to the team, it is a name meant to honor a former player, a Native American named Sockalexis. But this article reveals that clearly even the city’s treatment of this athlete was not exactly honorable. The tribute rings false, unless that’s a part of our history we really want to embrace.

I’m not suggesting there’s karmic retribution at play here; the Browns would be winning if that were the case (unless that’s the form karma takes). But the truth still remains that the team’s name – and especially its logo – are offensive, and tradition in the name of tradition is not enough. The oppressed and mistreated are never as eager to embrace the past as those unaffected by it.

To us, the association only exists in terms of the team and the game. But a rose by any other name would smell as sweet. The players on the field are not the same ones we grew up watching. We no longer go to Municipal Stadium to root for our team. Heck, even Jacob’s Field is now called Progressive Field. And still we cheer. Those moves did nothing to dishonor the past glories of those who were part of the organization, those who contributed to the good part of the team’s history.

Perhaps we can’t stop fans from showing up in clothing donning the Chief Wahoo logo, but in this day and age, it really has no business being part of the official uniform. Maybe the block ‘C’ or the cursive ‘I’ didn’t capture the hearts of the fandom, but that doesn’t mean we can’t do better. Because frankly, the alphabet was never going to supplant the caricature. Perhaps it’s impractical to expect the team to shed their uniforms on game day. But this discussion will not–and should not–go away.

Just like Comic Sans, the most hated font in fontdom, some see no problem with it, but that doesn’t mean it’s appropriate.

So, how can we support our Cleveland team without coming across as insensitive racist jerks? How about some slogan ideas that don’t include images of Chief Wahoo, that don’t resort to cultural insensitivity? How about sticking with baseball metaphors?

It’s Miller Time (this has been done, because it’s obvious and great, and despite the beer reference, it’s not offensive or racist.)

Smooth, Santana! (making a reference to the musician of the same name. Could reference any other song, too, and still not be racist. Then again, maybe he’s tired of the association, and would rather something else, like…).

Super Santana (where the ‘S’ is a Superman ‘S’)

Lindor? I say WIN-dor! (punning/rhyming always works)

Kluber is Uber! (again, rhyming. Just keep Chief Wahoo off the sign and you’re good to go)

Rajai Davis is our King (maybe a bit of a stretch, but Raja is Hindi for King, so add a crown resting on the R and you’re good to go)

Or, if you want television airtime, the show will be on TBS and TSN, so you could play with the fact that Trevor Bauer is pitching (Trevor/Bauer,/Show Us What You’ve Got’, or Trevor /Beat/Strohman, for example)

This is in no way meant to be a comprehensive list of sign ideas, hopefully just a start. As in, these are the ones you think of first before deciding you really could do better. Because really, we can do better.