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Posts Tagged ‘Atlanta Braves’

The Atlanta Braves changed their minds, and all I can say is whew.

Had they not, I’d have felt compelled to weigh in on this mess, despite the deafening roar of readers not clamoring for my opinion.

I’d have had to write about how the South’s racial history isn’t a binary of black and white, and how so much of Southern culture was shaped by the colonial Indian wars, some of which still raged well within the living memories of those who lived through the Civil War.

Then, though, I’d have had to mention that the team name “Braves” originated not in Atlanta, of course, but in Boston, and survived the move to Milwaukee, and that the “screaming Indian” logo came south with the team from Northern climes.screamingindian

At that point I’d probably throw in that the Braves, once they had Georgia on their minds, could have changed their representative “Brave” to one more recognizably Cherokee or Creek, the two major tribes in what they now call “Braves Country.”

That most likely would have led me to tell the story of how some men in the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Nation, still living in the Qualla Boundary in the mountains of North Carolina (not too far from Atlanta, in fact), made good money in the 20th century by dressing as “chiefs” and posing with tourists.

They only made good money, though, after changing their wardrobe from authentic traditional Cherokee garb to something closer to what you’d have found on a Plains Indian, but closer still to what you can see on the extras in a classic Western movie.

After telling that story, I’d almost certainly feel like I ought to make some pithy summation about authenticity and preconceptions and the distortions of history and, since I’d have already brought up Westerns, how legends become facts and we print the legends.

But thank goodness the Braves changed their minds about those ball caps, so I don’t have to do any of that.

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Tell about the South, Shreve said, but what’s still there to tell?  That we eat at Hardee’s and Krystal instead of Carl’s Jr. and White Castle?  That we watch the Braves on SportsSouth instead of the Red Sox on NESN?  That we feel a little outraged when we have to specify “sweet tea”?

Ever since the colonists moved inland from the Chesapeake and the Low Country, the American South’s been more an idea, an imagining, than a concrete place, especially since the culture has always seeped so, across the Potomac, the Ohio, the Arkansas.  Maryland, Delaware, Kentucky, and Missouri were slave states that stayed in the Union.  People from rural Indiana live and talk almost exactly like people from rural Kentucky or Tennessee do.  Are Texas and Oklahoma the West, or the South?  How about Arkansas?  A native once told me that New Orleans isn’t a Southern city, it’s a Caribbean city.

Many if not most of the contemporary ideas – coming from inside and outside the region – of what the American South is and was are, to be blunt, ridiculous.  Hal Crowther says so, so it must be true.  He and his wife Lee Smith spoke recently at the “Okra to Opera” conference at Converse College in Spartanburg, a conference that saw fit to ask if Southern culture has vanished.

Language has long been thought to mark off the South as separate, but the Southern vocabulary and accent has always been varied if not jumbled, a veritable Dixie Babel (get it?).  Mental Floss looked through the latest edition of the Dictionary of American Regional English last week, and came up with “19 Regional Words All Americans Should Adopt Immediately.”  I’m a big fan of regional and archaic words, and of not letting them die.  That’s the reason I occasionally sound like a half-wit historical re-enactor.  Well, part of the reason.

Meanwhile, in the Washington Times, this article opens by acknowledging that there is no single Appalachian dialect, that immigrants from many places brought their own speech ways into the mountains, and that those speech ways survived haphazardly into our own highly mobile present (a statement that’s true for all of the South).  The writer then goes on to “define” how them “mountain people” (her phrase) talk, which makes me wonder how and why I grew up in the Piedmont suburbs saying, and surrounded by people who said, that we were fixin’ to cut off the lights and change a tair to go see a movie at the (if my father was talking) thee-ATE-r or the (if I was talking) THEE-uh-tur.

I knew a girl who grew up 20 miles from where I did, but she carried her groceries home in a sack, while I used a bag.  My Alabama-born wife waters the yard with a hose pipe.  Will Blythe’s father insisted that in the South you make a pie with puh-kahns, but some South Carolinians say PEE-cans, and Allan Gurganus – about as North Carolinian as you can get – says pee-CAHNs.  In parts of eastern North Carolina, a mildly pleasant past experience is described as “It warn’t bad.”

It’s almost enough to make you think that the South isn’t as monolithic as the stereotypes would have you believe, as CNN (born and based in Atlanta, by the way) admits.

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Chipper Jones announced yesterday that this season will be his last in Major League Baseball.

It’s more than a little sad for me – not because I’m such a big fan of Larry Jones, Jr. (I’m still not entirely sure about a grown man going by the name “Chipper” because he was a “chip off the old block”), but because he and I are the same age, and I distinctly remember the hype that accompanied his rookie season, and even though we’ve known for a couple of years that the time for him to hang ’em up was fast approaching, if now is in fact the time for him to hang ’em up, then that makes a statement as uncomfortable as my own aching knees and graying hair.

Did Chipper never get his just due because he played in Atlanta?  Would he be talked about more as one of the great players of his generation if Ted Turner, the Mouth of the South, still owned the Braves?  Was it because he only has that one World Series ring, from way back in his rookie season, that most baseball fans aren’t aware of how spectacular his numbers have been?

Going into the 2012 season, Jones has a lifetime .304 average, with 454 home runs, 526 doubles, 1,455 walks, a .402 on-base percentage and a .533 slugging percentage.  The only other players with those kinds of career numbers?  Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Stan Musial, and Ted Williams.  Note that two of those guys have had movies made about them.  (And Teddy Ballgame should, if they could ever find someone awesome enough to play him.)

Since the mid-1990s, Chipper has been the South’s iconic baseball player, and he played the role about as well as he played the game.

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