"All the News That Rhymes"

The Daily Poem

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 Distribution: 3 Printed in Urbana Friday, 6 March 1998 FREE

Letter to the Editor

Although I disagree with those who are in favor of retaining "chief" Illiniwek as our universities' mascot / symbol, I do not entirely agree with the position taken by the Anthropology department. I believe that the University of Illinois should get rid of the "chief" and the Fighting Illini. The team should be sold.

Not that I am opposed to athletics. Just that I do not consider football athletics. First, football lacks the rich international history of soccer, archery, discus, and even golf. Second, football is not designed to test the limits of human endurance and leave permanent records in world history, as does track. Third, football does not require the same type of extremely specialized skills that gymnastics, for example, requires. This is because football, fourth, is a game of force, and not skill. Football is a violent contact sport. Football is savage. Football brings out the very worst in its fans. The rude stupidity of "chief" Illiniwek, and the vehemence of many of those who defend him, is just one manifestation of this.

Those who are exceptionally talented at athletics, writing, philosophy, music composition, and other arts, often rely on our countries' excellent universities to be able to practice what they are good at. This is not the case with football players, because they are commercially viable. Football is not athletics. It is entertainment. It is a multibillion dollar business. It is not a field of study. The music school does not teach rock and roll. The rhetoric department does not teach how to write romance novels, sit-coms, or advertisements. Neither should our otherwise respectable athletic department have any business with a aesthetically repugnant crude mass commercial spectacle.

My last, and most vital point, is that the University of Illinois should get rid of its football team because the team sucks. It sucks bad. Nobody can deny this. The purpose of a football team is to win games. This team is obviously not working. As a losing team, it should be subject to the forces of the market. It should be privatized and not supported by our tax or tuition money. The Fighting Illini is an egregious example of athletic welfare. It should be sold and the University of Illinois should focus on improving its classes, not its stadium.

Those opposed to the "chief" speak for dignity, civil rights, and racial tolerance. Those in favor of the "chief" speak for loyalty to tradition. In matters of race, racism, and social justice, America is, thankfully, not about tradition. In matters of justice, America is about constant improvement. The abolition of slavery, giving people of color and women the right to vote, the civil rights movement, acknowledging the holocaust suffered by indigenous peoples, and losing the "chief" are all proof of this. The "chief" must go, but let us not lose sight of the larger problem.

Newspoetry at Spineless Books