Saturday, January 23, 2010

Who Dat? Not A Saintly Cheer

The New Orleans Saints are very much the feel-good story of the NFL these days. Displaced by Hurricane Katrina just four years ago, their place atop the standings this season symbolizes the resiliency of their great city.

But as Andy pointed out to me the other day, Saints' fans' cheer of choice symbolizes something quite different. To those unfamiliar, Who Dat? might sound like a southern take on the common Whose House? cheer. It isn't. It is a line popularly used in minstrel shows. (If you think minstrel shows have something to do with nomadic lute players of yore, do some Googling to learn about the minstrel shows popular from the mid-19th to mid-20th century.) Although minstrel shows were popular across the U.S. and, indeed, Europe, they marketed a southern image, presumably for "authenticity." Claiming a connection to New Orleans was, perhaps, the most popular technique.

This is not a legacy anyone should be cheering. The claim that the cheer "celebrates" New Orleans is no more persuasive than the claim that the confederate flag can be used to celebrate southern pride without celebrating slavery and racism. The confederate flag represents the South because it evokes the decision by the southern states to secede in an attempt to perpetuate slavery. Similarly, Who Dat? represents New Orleans because it evokes the city's historic ties to minstrel shows. In either case, you can't reach the ultimate conclusion without the intervening racist imagery.

Think back to the tomahawk chop, as utilized by fans of any number of teams, but particularly the Atlanta Braves. The tomahawk chop is obviously problematic because of the unmistakable connection between the mascot of these teams and the deeply racist image of Native Americans as savages. No matter how sincerely the fans believe they hold no racial animus, the act alone perpetuates a racist caricature.

Who Dat? is no better, and perhaps worse. Although the connection between the cheer and its minstrel roots may be less obvious to the general public than that between the tomahawk chop and a Native American mascot, this only serves to illustrate the intentional selection of the cheer because of its unmistakeable connection to New Orleans; it can't be coopted by another team in another city. Who Dat? is the Saints' cheer because New Orleans has a uniquely strong association with the minstrel shows that popularized the cheer originally.

Saints' fans are rightfully proud their team, but they should not be proud of this cheer. As the Saints march on toward the Super Bowl, more and more people will hear the cheer and wonder what it means. If they take the time to find out, I hope they will justifiably be embarrassed for the Saints.

A sad thought at a time when we should be so proud New Orleans, its people, and its football team.

Monday, January 18, 2010

You're Such a Joker —
Playing Cards as Wine Charms

It's been quite a while since I've posted an art & crafts project. Not counting reminisces on spring sunsets, I think it hasn't been since Summer 2007 and turning rejection letters into grocery lists. We're due.

Steph & I (& our guests) seem to have completely lost our ability to keep track of our wine glasses at our dinner parties of late. I'm drinking out of Steph's glass. Steph's drinking out of her friend's glass. It's unsanitary and, frankly, it makes these soirées sound boozier than they really are.

So there we were, shopping on for wine charms, those little things that dangle off your wine glass and tip you off that it's yours and not someone else's. We were searching for them and being shocked at how chintzy the charms all looked. If you want Ole Miss wine charms, they've got them for you.

Frugality and anti-chintziness being the mother of invention, we had an insight. Convert a deck of playing cards into wine charms.

My parents are the Johnny Appleseeds of playing cards. Every time they visit, they seem to deposit a new deck at our house. Thus, we were easily able to retire the most dog-eared deck to glory.

To employ this method, following these steps:

  1. Start by cutting the card in half horizontally.
  2. Punch a hole. A standard hole punch should be able to reach to the middle of the half-card. The hole will need to be wider than a single hole punch to accommodate the glass stem, so I recommend making a small clover leaf composed of multiple punches.
  3. Use scissors to cut a slit from the cut side to the punched hole.
  4. Round the corners on the cut side and viola! You're done. You just saved $15 by not buying from Amazon, proved that you can recycle your current possessions, and will finally stop drinking out of your Uncle Frank's glass. He's the king of clubs. You're the jack of diamonds, friend.