Corrupting sports images put vulnerable youth on firing line
America's children are our future.
Too bad they're menaced by insidious images from our sporting past -- and present.
At least they will no longer be subjected to the jarring specter of a gun on the "throwback" jerseys occasionally worn by the Houston Astros.
The National League expansion team was known as the Houston Colt .45s from 1962-64, sporting uniforms with the word "Colts" above a drawing of the fearsome firearm that helped tame the West. Way back then, grown-up folks lacked this era's enlightened sensitivities about the dangers of exposing young folks to such violent visuals.
Earlier this month, though, the Astros, in accordance with a directive from Major League Baseball, announced the removal of the gun from the throwback uniform.
Because the public has a right to see, we are publishing a picture of the original jersey's design. However, if your child sees it, make sure you put it in the proper context.
Many of us aging Americans were relentlessly exposed to gun glorification -- and not just on a baseball uniform. Among the weapons elevated to virtual icon status were Lucas McCain's modified Winchester 1892 on "The Rifleman" and Paladin's Colt Single Action Army .45 revolver (and the derringer he hid in his belt) on "Have Gun Will Travel."
A decade and more later, Dirty Harry's .44 Magnum, which he hails as "the most powerful handgun in the world, and would blow your head clean off," co-stars in five movies fraught with police brutality that makes Charleston County Sheriff Al Cannon's recent slapping of a handcuffed suspect look like a love tap.
Alas, that Houston-uniform gun wasn't the only harmful baseball-based pitch we Baby Boomers endured.
This enduring New York Yankees fan suffered an impressionable 8-year-old's angst over the 1961 World Series matchup. Growing up in the shadow of "The Bomb" was tough enough without having to wonder why my "Bronx Bombers" had to play the Reds for the title.
OK, so soon enough it became clear that those Reds were from Cincinnati, not Moscow.
Yet lest that Colt .45 jersey clean-up project lull you into a sense of complacency, ponder these persisting big-league perils to youngsters:
--The Pittsburgh Pirates' logo still shows a leering, swashbuckling buccaneer's face, corrupting kids with the vile notion that plundering on the high seas is a positive endeavor.
--The Milwaukee Brewers' nickname celebrates beer, even as alcohol abuse and drunk driving remain dire societal plagues.
--The Cleveland Indians still have a wide-grinning logo that's a demeaning stereotype.
At least our Atlanta Braves have dropped a similarly degrading mug shot from their throwbacks, though the franchise persists in encouraging its supporters to do the "Tomahawk Chop."
This problem isn't limited to the Bigs. Though South Carolina's Newberry College acquiesced to NCAA demands and changed its mascot from the Indians to the Wolves in 2008, Florida State remains the Seminoles. The most popular team in our nation's capital even has a name that's an ethnic slur -- the NFL's Washington Redskins.
Meanwhile, troubling theological (and lately political) implications are inherent in the Duke Blue Devils, Wake Forest Demon Deacons and San Diego Padres. But Elon dropped the Fighting Christians label in 2000, opting to go even farther back in faith-based history to the Phoenix, the sacred fire bird of Greek mythology.
Back to the future and much closer to home, ponder the disturbing messages sent by "The Tiger" of Clemson and his sidekick "The Tiger Cub." Their zany antics trivialize the plight of an awesome species apparently bound toward extinction due to mankind's species-centric disregard for nature's wonders.
Likewise, when "Cocky" the Gamecock, the thoroughly obnoxious South Carolina mascot, indulges in his unseemly silliness, the spectacle trivializes the barbarism of cockfighting.
So watch out for the subliminal signals your kids receive when they watch sports.
And please, teach them that despite Notre Dame's nickname, not all of the Irish are spoiling for a fight.
Frank Wooten is assistant editor of The Post and Courier. His email is email@example.com.