After stirring the pot over at NBC with the Chief Wahoo stuff this morning, I exchanged a few emails with regular commenter Sara K. The abridged gist:

Sara: You know, eventually, you will have to answer for the Tomahawk Chop.

Me: I have no defense for the Chop. It’s beyond retarded. (Note: see this after reading this post) Makes me cringe. I can’t analyze my Braves’ fandom too closely though because I don’t think anything is holding it together beyond inertia, and I’m too old to pick a new rooting interest.

Sara: Redbird Nation will welcome you with open arms, and when Jose Oquendo is named manager of the Cardinals, you won’t be able to resist.


To be clear, I have no intention of abandoning the Braves. We’re like an old married couple. We’ve been together too long to change now, even if it isn’t always pleasant. The Braves have learned to tolerate my snoring, and I have learned to tolerate their gas. Familiarity and routine are not the most inspiring reasons to stay together, but they are somewhat underrated and can be enough to carry the day long after the flame has died out. We bicker. We’re passive-aggressive. We aren’t always nice to one another. But at this point it would take an infidelity-level event to split us in two. The closest thing to that I can think of is hiring Dusty Baker or something, and unless I’ve fundamentally misjudged my significant other, that’s just not going to happen.

But like anyone in a blah marriage, my eye wanders from time to time. I imagine what my life would be like if I was — dare I say it? — unfaithful. What would attract me? With whom could I make it work? No harm in looking, right? It’s not cheating just to look . . .

Yankees: Never. Not even on a drunken fling.

Red Sox: For all of the Boston-New York drama, they both look the same to the rest of the country, and honey, you’re not as hot as you think you are.

Orioles: They have more going for them than you might think. History. A nice ballpark. Enough years in the wilderness to where any residual cockiness has long been beaten out of them. If Peter Angelos were out of the picture, I could see myself swooping in.

Blue Jays: Sorry, when I used to tell the other kids that I had a girlfriend from Canada, I always placed her in Montreal. Just sounded more exotic. And I like things natural — no fake grass.

Rays: I’d feel like I was robbing the cradle. I couldn’t go for anyone without some history and experience, ya know? That rules out all of the 1993-present expansion teams.

Tigers: Ah, the old flame. Sure, it’s been a long time since we were together — and God, were we young! — but there are so many reasons why it could work again. Still, I’m hesitant to stir up old emotions. I can’t escape the fact that I abandoned them once, and I can’t help but think we’d spend all of our time together waiting for the other shoe to drop. I think it would work, but we’d have to promise to never bring up the past.

White Sox: History. A great city. I could see us having fun together.

Twins: The Twins are a home wrecker of a franchise (see, 1987 ALCS; 1991 WS) and I’ll have nothing to do with them.

Indians: Inconceivable unless they drop that . . .MAN . . .they insist on hanging around.

Royals: Another possibility — nice park, great history, very underrated city and some likeable players. But there’s a lot of High profile competition for their affections, and I don’t feel like having to prove myself all the time, so I’m leaning no.

Rangers: They’ve always been a mess. They have a serious drug history and some questionable associations. It’s only recently that they seem to be getting themselves together. I’d want them to prove to me that they can be healthy and stable for a long time before I’d be willing to commit.

Angels, A’s, Mariners: I could see it happening with any of these three, but our schedules are so different that I don’t know when we’d be able to make time to see one another.

Mets, Phillies, Marlins: There’s too much negative history here for any of these three to be serious contenders. Besides, they’re far too close to home. If it was a mere fling, there’s a good chance we’d get caught. Even if I went with one of them following a breakup, seeing the ex 18 times a year would make things far too awkward. Pass.

Nationals: some of the previous item’s concerns apply, but they’ve always been less objectionable then the others, even back when they were using their maiden name. But when I look in the mirror, I know I can do better, and shacking up with these losers would be a serious blow to my self-esteem in the long run.

Cubs: Another attractive contender in terms of history, location and all of the rest. Plus, hooking up with a team with a national superstation would be a nice symbolic F.U. to the Braves in that their superstation is what caused them to catch my eye in the first place. “You used to treat me right,” I’d be saying to them. “I didn’t leave you; you left me.”

Cardinals: Also high on the list. They’re easy to resist now because I really hate their old man, but if he was out of the picture, there’s no telling what we’d do. Wait, this is starting to sound like a film noir: “Tony, the reason I got the extra life insurance for you is so that I’d be protected. You WANT me to be protected, don’t you? Now hurry up and sign the papers. We have a train to catch . . . .”

Brewers, Reds, Pirates: All are just about equal in terms of attractiveness, but for different reasons. The Pirates may look bad on the surface, but they’re nearby and they have a nice pad, and I know they’d give me their undivided attention. The Brewers really know how to party, so I’m sure I’d have a great time with them. People have been trying to fix me up with the Reds for years. I have my reservations, but sometimes when you hang around someone for so long they just start to grow on you and things just sort of happen, ya know?

Astros: I liked them much more back in their wild youth. Now that they’re all corporate and boring I have no attraction to them whatsoever.

Diamondbacks, Rockies: See the Rays’ comment.

Dodgers, Giants: I’m almost ashamed to admit that I’ve had their number in my speed dial for a long time. We’ve hung out. We’ve done things together. But I swear, NOTHING HAPPENED. I’m not saying that nothing could EVER happen, though . . .

UPDATE: I forgot the Padres! I guess that tells you just how high they rate with me.

Again, let me be clear: I’m happily married, and no matter how bad things get, we’re determined to make things work because we truly love each other. All I’m saying is that if — IF — something crazy were to ever happen, don’t be surprised if I found myself drunk dialing the Tigers, Cardinals, Cubs, Giants, or Dodgers.

And don’t you DARE judge me.

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  1. Hollywood Joe said...

    You know Craig on your Dodger / Giants attraction, while it is understandable that you would find both hot, if you were ever to choose one the other is forever dead to you

    They are like sisters who hate each other and only people who want to end up on Jerry Springer date sisters who hate each other

  2. Matty said...

    So a team with (overrated and obnoxious) fans who wear “Zambrano Mows My Lawn” t-shirts is high on the list?  Ewww.

  3. Craig Calcaterra said...

    Matty—I’ve been rooting for the Braves for pushing 25 years. It’s not like I have high standards for my fellow fans’ behavior at this point . . .

  4. TC said...

    My own marriage to the Phillies has long been a stormy one.  When the ‘94 strike hit, we separated, but neither party would sign the divorce papers, and we reconciled in 1998 (thank you, Chad Ogea’s 6+ ERA).  Now, we’re cruising off the good vibes from finally having our baby, World F###ing Shillingford, and things are alright.  Good, even. 

    We trust each other.  We’ve suffered together, and we’ve cried happy tears, too.  If they betray me, I’m leaving them for a minor league team.  Or the Seattle Mariners.  Whatevs.

  5. Wooden U Lykteneau said...

    Craig – This smells an awful lot like a recycled NCAA basketball story to me. Is there another fandom that’s more shallow this side of California?

  6. carlos said...

    there are so many reasons to dislike the tomahawk chop and braves fans for that matter. But, I still find myself moving my hand in a chopping motion and humming along, when I’m at work listening to a close game. It reminds me of younger and better times.

  7. Hollywood Joe said...

    It was just a warning Craig

    I have a been one of the Dodger faithful since before I have memories of baseball. 

    We’d gladly welcome you into the fold, but you’d have to drop that Giant fascination at the door.

  8. MooseinOhio said...

    As one of those lifelong Red Sox fan who recognizes that while she may not be as hot as she used but she’s got a whole lot of money, had some good plastic surgery and appears to be quite the cougar wto all those young college bucks in Boston.

  9. Brian said...

    The comments from the Dodgers fans also apply to the Cubs and Cardinals.  Choose one, and the other must become your mortal enemy.  As a non-Chicago resident, the Cardinals are the bigger enemy than the White Sox.  Especially in my part of Illinois, where loyalties are pretty evenly divided between the two.  The plus side is that the I-55 series is easily the best baseball rivalry in the midwest.  I share your disdain for LaRussa.  For your sake, I hope he manages them forever so you never succumb to the temptation of the bird on the bat.

  10. Matt Mitchell said...


    You’re forgetting a key aspect of the White Sox:
    All the guys seems to want the older sister with all her allure and charm, while the little sister keeps jumping in the way trying to grab their attention.

    I’m convinced the older sister only looks better after multiple glasses of Old Style.

  11. Sara K said...

    Brian’s right about Cards-Cubs.  It’s good-natured on the surface, but in places where the fanbase is split, we are not above cutting someone open to make sure they bleed the right color.  I just emailed Craig to say that if he jumps ships for the Cubs, I’ll never read his blog again. 

    I mean that in the nicest possible way, of course.  wink

  12. Andy said...

    So, just to clarify, Chief Wahoo is offensive but using “retarded” as a pejorative is A-OK.  Got it.

  13. Ron said...

    When the Braves retire Francoeur’s number, you’ll join us. You will. You’ll have no choice.

  14. Diesel said...

    @ Andy

    Actually, using “retarded” as an adjective isn’t anything like using racist symbols as team mascots or chants.

    Just because some decided to refer to the mentally handicapped as “retarded” doesn’t mean we have to strike the word from our lexicon now. If you use that word to describe someone with Downs, you’re an asshole. If you use it to describe yourself, it’s just a word.


  15. Dayn Perry said...

    I live about a mile-and-a-half from Wrigley, and I wear my Cards hat all over town with minimal taunting (really … what are they going to say?). That’s part of what I love about the rivalry. It’s intense without the East-Coast douchiness that’s common to Sox-Yanks and, now, Mets-Phils. The Midwest is great.

    Anyhow, Craig, if you decide to join us one day after La Russa moves on, then I’ll see what I can do to have the hazing period waived.

  16. Mad Bum said...

    Giants fans would welcome you as you’re intelligent enough, though you’d have to insta-hate the Dodgers and equate them with pure evil, Hitler and Satan, etc on a routine basis. Of course, you’re way too smart to be a Dodger fan, anyway (IQ>80?). Also, if you enjoy the first 3 or last 3 innings of baseball games, being a Dodger fan probably isn’t for you as most of them can’t be bothered to watch those.

    I have to warn you however, that being a Giants fan is a painful and often depressing experience and frankly, I’m not sure I would recommend it to anyone with a choice.

  17. TC said...

    @Andy, Sara K, anyone else who cares:

    I think you could make a pretty good argument that “retarded” is perfectly appropriate.  Retardation, of course, refers to being developmentally deficient.  In this case, the implication is that the Tomahawk Chopping Braves’ fans are socially behind the rest of us cultured types.  That is, ever since the Civil War in the 1860s and the civil rights campaigns of the 1960s, we’ve been learning not to make caricatures of minorities to “earn” a buck.  The Braves, being socially retarded, haven’t yet learned that. 

    Sorry for turning this into GrammarBlog.

  18. Sara K said...

    TC – that’s how I read Craig’s use of the word.  As an all-purpose pejorative, “retarded” is insensitive, but used to denote a severe lack of intelligence, it seems reasonably descriptive.  I’m all for hearing counter-arguments, of course…

  19. stella said...

    what exactly do you mean by beyond retarded?  using that word is so offensive and demeaning to people with special needs.  what I take away is that you are saying that something is just beyond the stupidest thing you could think of.  You hurt my kid and many others with your use of that word.  If that was your intention you succeeded.

  20. Wooden U. Lykteneau said...

    Stella – Grab another bottle of Purell. Someone as thin-skinned as you are is going to need it.

  21. Wells said...

    Excellent post. The Mariners, though, these days, may well be a little needy. They might call you in the middle night, demanding you say you love them, or at least like like them. Be careful.

  22. Craig Calcaterra said...

    “what exactly do you mean by beyond retarded?  using that word is so offensive and demeaning to people with special needs.”

    Since you ask the question and then immediately answer it, I suppose you don’t really care to know what I meant by that. You just want to assume that I had special needs people in mind.  Which I didn’t, nor do most people who use the term in a casually, slangy way like I did.

    Look, I’ll admit that the word can be offensive when directed at the mentally disabled or people with special needs—and I’ll admit, my use of it here was not my finest rhetorical hour—but you and everyone else reading this knows that it’s not being deployed here to demean your kid or others like him or her.  It’s being used in a generic sense to refer to people whose development—in this case development as a sophisticated fan base—is, in the most literal sense of the word, retarded.

    You can take offense if you’d like. There’s nothing I can do about that. But the elimination of words from the English lexicon—especially words that have other, legitimate meanings—is to err on the side of the over-sensitive.

  23. Joseph H. said...

    Come on home, Craig. The Braves played here, and we love to party. And you can pull out the Braves stuff every so often, and we won’t judge you – as long as you ditch the “A” on the hat for a much nicer “M”.

    - BrewerNation

  24. Utpal said...

    No no, Craig—a fan like you deserves to be a part of Cardinal Nation. Yes, TLR is a weirdo. But think of Oquendo…!

  25. chris said...

    The Tigers have the coolest uniforms, an extraordinary past and played in one of the three best ballparks ever.  How you left them for the boring old Braves and their fair weather fans is beyond me.

  26. Nick Whitman said...

    We have enough bandwagon jumpers in Boston already, so I’m glad to hear that you’re not interested.

  27. Dave Studeman said...

    Back in the day, people with measurable limits in intelligence were labeled morons and idiots.  I once opened up a clinical file of someone who was in an institution back in the 1940’s or so, and the first line was “Joe is an idiot.”  Idiot was a clinical term, meant for someone whose IQ level was in a certain range. At the time, it was perfectly okay to write a descriptive sentence like that.

    As idiot and moron became used in everyday language, those in charge changed the terminology to retarded, and people became labeled severely retarded, or moderately retarded.  Each label was clinical and corresponded to a specific range of IQ, and “idiot” and “moron” were dropped from medical and clinical files.

    I’m now out of the field, but my understanding is that they now say developmentally disabled, which is a real mouthful.  The cause, again, has been the common use of a clinical word (“retarded”) to generally disparage people in a non-clinical way.

    When people use a clinical word like “retarded” to describe everyday people they don’t like, or who seem stupid, or whatever, it comes back to reflect on those who actually are clinically retarded.  Eventually, it becomes a stigma and the powers that be feel they have to change the label. It’s a never-ending cycle.

    That’s why I personally try to refrain from ever using words like that.  In the end, it hurts the people who actually have to live with the label.

  28. Dave Studeman said...

    By the way, that’s why I don’t have a problem with using “dumb” or “stupid.”  People don’t officially have a designation of dumb or stupid, and hardly anyone thinks of themselves as dumb. But people who are “officially” retarded can’t avoid the stigma when other people use the word in a pejorative manner, even when not applied to them.

  29. Bob Rittner said...

    If you do not take the opportunity now to connect with the Rays you will rue it. She is all grown up combining now the wisdom of experience with the energy and exuberance of youth. You may think you know a lot, but she can teach you plenty, and you will be better and happier for it. There will be plenty of suitors at her door from now on, so if you are not afraid of the competition, now is the time to make your play.

  30. Sara K said...

    Re: “retarded”

    Sorry for the somewhat off-topic-ness of this comment, but I am fascinated by this semantic issue…

    If “retarded” is off-limits as a descriptor for anything other than a very specifically defined condition, why so?  On reflection, we might be wary of using “retarded” to refer to behaviors committed by people who are capable of higher thought, as it would then be denoting a purely negative thing, whereas legitimate retardation is neutral and beyond the control of those who qualify for the distinction. Retarded people would be unfairly subjected to a kind of reflected negativity. 

    But on the other hand, do we also have a problem with the words “dumb” or “stupid” used in the same way?  If Craig had called the Chop “beyond dumb,” would he be insulting dumb people?  A dumb person can’t help being dumb, after all.  The only difference I can see is that “dumb” or “stupid” lack a standardized diagnosis. If your IQ is under 70, you’re off limits, but if it’s between 70 and 85, you’re fair game? 

    One possible conclusion is that we should refrain from all one-word adjectives for physical or mental limitations. Instead of “dumb,” we would say “lacks depth of thought” or “not well considered.”  In fact, I would expect my composition students to use phrasing like that in their academic writing. But in conversation? In a journal?  On a blog?  My thinking is that context has to reign in informal settings. 

    Please note – I am not saying that it is wrong to be uncomfortable with the use of the word “retarded.”  I just wanted to explore some of the ramifications of it all….

  31. Wade said...

    GrammarBlog?  Sounds more like GeneralizationBlog.  And be careful not to step much further, or it’ll morph into DoublestandardBlog. 

    Now go bang your drum, Chief GrammarWhoo, but be sure to retard the dynamics so as not to wake the neighbors.


  32. Craig Calcaterra said...

    Upon reflection I think I am more than persuaded by Dave’s argument.  Like a lot of folks, I was resistant to an argument challenging my habits and assumptions without being receptive to other views.  The clarity of a day or two to think about it makes it seem obvious to me that, even if the word isn’t deployed to mock those with special needs, it does work to equate the idiotic (Braves fans doing the chop) with those who are retarded in the clinical sense of the term. 

    While I don’t think it rises to the level of capital offense, in hindsight I wish I hadn’t used the term and will refrain from doing so in the future.

    Thanks everyone.

  33. Ethan said...

    Who cares. 

    You can find something offensive almost everywhere if you look hard enough.

    People need to get over themselves

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