Cognitive dissonance and the World Series

I’m afraid this is one of those serious, non-cycling posts that crop up from time to time.

So I’m following the World Series, always a bit of a joke this side of the Atlantic because of the whole “how can it be a World Series if only one small part of the world is taking part” thing. Baseball has a minuscule following in the UK, although a few years ago there were games shown late at night on Channel 5 (a terrestrial station) until the rights inevitably got sold to someone wanting to make us pay to watch. Ironically, if cricket hadn’t gone exclusively to Sky in 2005 I’d never have got into baseball in the first place, in the manner of a heroin addict switching to methodone.

That my team is Cleveland, however, goes back further, about 20 years in fact. There’s a guy I was at school with who always wore an Indians cap, and I looked up to him (he was about four years older) so I took a liking to the cap. So when I started watching baseball, I just defaulted to following Cleveland, simple as that. I could have been a Dodgers fan, as my grandfather was born in Brooklyn when they were the Brooklyn Dodgers, but I didn’t give it that much thought. It’s not like I pay that much attention to it, but I occasionally have a look to see if we’re going to make the post-season, and I do remember watching the Red Sox beating us to the championship pennant after we were 3-1 up in 2007.

Well we were 3-1 up again, this time in the World Series (and with former Red Sox manager Francona now on our side) and we’ve again been pegged back to 3-3. I’m moderately excited at the prospect of ‘my’ team winning. Of course it’s not really my team, as I’m not that much of a fan. Lewis Hamilton is my driver, as I’ve followed him since he was in lower formulae, and Liverpool FC is my team, both because I’ve followed them a long time and because I’m the third generation in my family to support them. The Cleveland Indians are more of a proxy team, but I’m not swapping from here.

Anyway, here’s the thing: Their logo is a bit controversial. The same kooky smiling Chief Wahoo that in part drew me towards them, is also something of a crude racial stereotype:

What amazes me is that it took me this long to notice. I suppose it’s sort of benign-looking on the surface, and for 13-year-old seeing for the first time, and having no awareness of the racial sensitivities of a country thousands of miles away, I can be forgiven to some extent for just thinking ‘cool’.

But it won’t do. It’s just not right. I think this nails it home:

Even the name “Indians” is daft. Indians are people who come from a country called India. Granted, West Indians have a name that comes from the same stupid genesis as Indians in the Cleveland sense, but there are some bigger issues behind that and if you said a West Indian didn’t really come from the west of India, firstly the name wouldn’t be a problem, and secondly they’d be well within their rights to point out they don’t really come from the West Indies either, but that’s a different historical injustice…

The bottom line is, it’s just really fucking disrespectful. Ohio has one of the lowest concentrations of Native Americans of any state, and there are reasons for that. Cleveland didn’t pick the Indians name to “honour” Louis Sockalexis, or any other “Indian”, it was because the Cleveland Spiders aquired the nickname Indians when Sockalexis played for them, and I very much doubt it was intended as a compliment any more than the bananas waved at John Barnes by British football fans in the 1980s were meant as one. 

It’s a curious thing to cling to something because you’re supposedly trying to honour a people who quite clearly do not want to be honoured in this way. Look at it, their like the fucking Black and White Minstrels…

But it’s tough. I can imagine, you’ve been going to the ballgame for many years, this is YOUR team. Your “tribe”, as Cleveland fans call themselves, although that also doesn’t sit too well with me now I think about it. My point is, you’ve grown up with this smiling, happy character, and the team name, and the whole shebang, and now someone wants it changed. I can see why many Cleveland fans find this a bit tough. They simply can’t get their heads around it, because humans on the whole don’t deal well with that kind of stark contrast between their own beliefs and the beliefs of others. 

It’s called cognitive dissonance. When you experience this kind of contradiction, you will find some sort of rational justification for your actions – “but I’m honouring you, dude”

(The guy in the Wahoo paint apologised to the guy on the left a couple of years later) 

Here’s we’re the aggrieved party gets stuck. For them, it’s really obvious what has to be done. And it is obvious. But they then slam into a brick wall. Every year there are protests outside Cleveland’s stadium on opening day, and every year there are two groups of people occupying the same space but precious little common ground. They make their point too forcefully, which intensifies the dissonance and converts almost no-one who isn’t already on their side. It’s not their fault, and they often get a fair amount of abuse, but where’s the progress?

Sooner or later Cleveland will have a different logo. It will happen. The best I can do in the meantime is this:


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