The sabermetric approach to offensive nicknames

The sabermetric approach to offensive nicknames
June 19, 2013, 9:00 pm
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The logo on Robert Griffin's helmet offends just 12 people, according to sabermetrician Bill James. (USA TODAY IMAGES)

I have surveyed the summer fare on all the networks and I have concluded that Blackhawks-Bruins and Heat-Spurs both need to extend their series into summer sweeps. In other words, it is now time for the 2-2-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1 series.

Either that, or we jail Gary Bettman and David Stern until they see sense. That alone might be worth the price of incarceration.


Once again, Alex Rodriguez steps in a hole, and someone else fills it for him. Hours after it is reported that he paid a worker at the Biogenesis factory to keep him from yap-flapping, the Aaron Hernandez What-The-Hellapalooza erupts. The Patriot tight end is being questioned in a homicide and hours later is being sued for what can only be described as an attempted homicide, and while we make no claims on his guilt or innocence, we know both charges trump the hell out of alleged illicit drug acquisition and bribery.

And on the day that James Gandolfini died, too. I suspect he will rest in peace far more comfortably than either Rodriguez’ next few months or Hernandez’ next few years.


Johnny Manziel’s late-night Twitter rant about the alleged soul-crushing life at Texas A&M turns out to be a 20-year-old’s tantrum over a parking ticket for parking the wrong way on a public street. But it is refreshing that he can overreact so effervescently to one ticket when so many athletes laugh off dozens of them.

In other words, he’ll learn.


This is sabermetrics’ Galileo, Bill James, on the Washington Redskins’ nickname argument:

“I don’t have ANY reason to believe that ‘Redskins’ offends all or nearly all Native Americans, and in fact I DON’T believe it. I suspect that it offends a group of 12 people who are in the business of finding things to be offended by. I can see that ‘Redskins’ pushes the envelope a little more than ‘Indians’ or ‘Braves’ or ‘Blackhawks’ or ‘Seminoles,’ but are the Penobscot people offended that Penobscot is called Penobscot? What’s the difference?”

And when someone asked to compare it to the Chicago Blackhawks mascot, he added:

“Well, my high school team was the Mayetta Indians. Of course, since Mayetta is on an Indian reservation, at least half of every team really WAS Indians — none of whom ever objected to being called ‘Indians’ or to the team being called ‘Indians.’ Which is probably why I have difficulty relating to the objection.”

That’s called VORN – Value Over Replacement Nickname.


Justin Smith just cut his own two-year deal with the San Francisco 49ers, and I’m pretty sure he did it not to cut an agent out of his percentage, but because he wanted to be able to say, “I got out of the game on my terms, and on my feet.”

But if he tries to squeeze out one more deal two years from now, I will be wrong.


The East Coast Hockey League’s Bakersfield Condors (yes, East Coast, and it isn’t my fault, so don’t complain to me) just announced a full playoff guarantee – buy a six-game plan, and if the Condors don’t make the playoffs, you get all your money back. Every single dime.

But there is a catch. If there are refunds to be paid out, team president Matthew Riley says they will come from the paycheck of general manager John Oliver. The next sound you hear is Oliver gently strangling his agent.


And finally, Arizona Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said that the biggest problem for any NFL player that comes out wouldn’t be from the players or coaches or marketing people, but from the fans.

“I don’t think the locker room would have any problem with it,” Arians told FOX Sports' Ross Jones. “The problem would be with the fans. I think especially opposing fans. Some of the things that are said are over the top and out of control that I can imagine what some fans would say to an openly gay player.

“As a coach, and I can probably speak for our players too, I don’t think anybody would have any problem with it.”

But there’s one sure way to know for sure. Have the winning quarterback in Super Bowl come out the day after the game. Then we’ll see who prefers football to sexual orthodoxy, and my money’s on football.

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