Blogs > Jim Collins' Editor's Notebook

Jim Collins is editor emeritus of The News-Herald and also serves as executive in residence at Lakeland Community College. His popular weekly column appears each Sunday in Comment in The News-Herald.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

I'll never think ill of beloved Chief Wahoo

When I was in the eighth grade at McKinley School, I delivered The News-Herald in North Willoughby.
The year was 1942, and the paper came out on Tuesday and Friday. As I recall, I collected six cents a week from my customers.
My route covered all the streets in the Arrowhead allotment, including Cherokee, Seneca, Tioga, Mohegan and the others.
They were named for Indian tribes. There were no protests. Nobody set up picket lines to challenge the notion of Indian names for a quiet residential neighborhood. (Nobody had heard the term Native American at the time. That came much later in deference to the out-of-control concept of political correctness.)
There were a lot of nice people who lived on those streets. Some turned out to be leading citizens of what was then Willoughby Township.
Many of those people were baseball fans. There was a saloon on Lake Shore Boulevard across from my street (Orchard) that was owned by a former first baseman of the Cleveland Indians, Jimmy Wasdell.
It was called The Dugout. I understand the people who congregated there spent a lot of time talking about baseball and about the Indians.
I say “I understand” because I was too young to go in there. But I knew a lot of the people who were regulars, and they idolized the same players I did – Bob Feller, Lou Boudreau, Ken Keltner, Jeff Heath, Roy Cullenbine and a lot of others who were not really Indians, if you know what I mean.
But while they were playing in town, they were Indians and we loved them. We loved Earl Averill until he was traded to the Tigers. Then we didn’t love him as much any more.
And we also loved Chief Wahoo. He was the symbol of the Indians, who had some great sluggers but didn’t finish very high in the standings because there were always teams with better records.
No one even thought of complaining about Chief Wahoo, because he represented everything we loved about baseball.
Life was good, summers were long and hot, and we dreamed of playing someday in the World Series – with Chief Wahoo to rally us.
Somewhere, somehow, things got crazy. Americans began protesting nearly everything. Some issues were legitimate and serious, and some were just silly.
Some protests were conjured up because a certain segment of citizens needed something to complain about.
There was a lot of that going on. There was a new protest every week.
A lot of non-Indians joined in the cacophony. They got Stanford and Miami to change their sports teams from Indian names to vanilla pudding designations that make a lot less sense than their highly respected Indian names did.
I am shocked – shocked! – that there is still a college team in Michigan called the Chippewas. They need a good protest to get that changed.
Actually, they don’t need any such thing. The Chippewas are as respected as the Washington Redskins and the Cleveland Indians.
If I am a failure in the arena of political correctness, forgive me. Better yet, sue me. That’s the way to settle things. Go to court! Let a jury decide! Even better, let a federal judge decide. Some of those birds are so low on the IQ totem pole that they make pronouncements making little sense.
I was at breakfast last Sunday at Burgers-n-Beer and saw another of the regulars, Rocco Vitalone, with his nephew, Karl.
Just so you won’t get confused, Rocco is the hair stylist in Mentor and his brother, Mario, is the car-towing guy. When I cut my grass I wear a bright chartreuse T-shirt Mario gave me for that specific purpose because he says it is good for business.
I’m not sure anyone ever got his car towed because I was wearing a Vitalone T-shirt, but in these turbulent times you never know what might happen.
But I digress.
Rocco and Karl both asked me, “What do you think of Chief Wahoo?” I said I love him.
They agreed – with great enthusiasm.
“What are we going to do about the people who don’t like Wahoo?” they asked.
“Well,” I responded, after giving the matter a moment of thought, “they might want to think about moving.”
Both Rocco and Karl loved my response. They came over to the table where my brother and I were sitting, we continued our conversation about Wahoo, then Karl took out his phone/camera to show us pictures of him with the new Browns coach, Mike Pettine. He told how they tried to instruct him on the proper pronunciation of his last name.
I told them I couldn’t help, because I know only two words in Italian and neither of them has anything to do with football.
But we are nearing the bottom line, to coin an expression, and I can add only that political correctness is totally lost  on me.
I have never referred to manhole covers as personhole covers, and have never shouted, “Person the lifeboats, the ship is sinking!”
And I will never think ill of our beloved Chief Wahoo. So don’t waste your time trying to change my mind. It is totally closed on the subject.
You will also take note that I never once mentioned the obvious political affiliation of those who are lost in the mire of political correctness.


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