WHAT’S IN A NAME, NATICK? HOW ABOUT CHICKEN HAWKS?

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I’m offended.

The Fighting Irish of Notre Dame. The Orangemen of Syracuse. Harp Ale.

Being of Irish heritage, I’m appalled by these names. Where is the decency? Where is the sensitivity? Add to that the fact that police vans are routinely referred to as “Paddy wagons.” What’s that supposed to imply? That only the Irish are being arrested? The Boston Celtics have that silly little leprechaun at center court. Oh, the degradation. A popular nightspot in downtown Lowell is called “The Blue Shamrock.” I haven’t figured that one out, but I’m still offended.

And believe me. I’m not easily offended. But it’s gotten to the point where I’m considering moving out of the region. And that’s just what the people in Natick should do if they’re offended by their high school’s nickname, the “Redmen.” Move. Go to Framingham, the home of the Flyers.

Natick selectmen will put the question on whether to drop the moniker to a townwide vote on March 25. They say the name is offensive to Native Americans. I spent time on the Hopi-Navajo Indian Reservation and the Pima Indian Reservation in Arizona a couple of years ago. You know what term offends them? Native Americans. They prefer to be called Indians.

I think we’re all getting a little silly here, don’t you? Our skin, no matter what color, is a little too thin. The Natick Redmen are not trying to insult anyone. They’ve had the name for over 50 years. The emblem is an Indian headdress. Their fans do a version of the tomahawk chop. I think they’re trying to portray courage and bravery. Some in that town that gave us Doug Flutie want to change the name Redmen to Red Hawks. I’m not sure such a creature exists. There are red-tailed hawks, but I’ve never heard of a red hawk. Chicken hawks? Yes. Red hawks. No.

And maybe that’s what their new name should be if they decide to drop the Redmen name. The Chicken Hawks. It will perfectly exemplify the mentality of a group of people who cave in because a handful of residents are indignant. We went through it here in the Merrimack Valley several years ago when UMass Lowell changed its name from the Chiefs to the River Hawks. I suppose it could have been worse. They could have been named the UMass Lowell Muskrats or the UMass Lowell River Rats. And I guess I’ve gotten used to the River Hawks name, but come on, this is silly.

Is there a group of Indians who have come out in opposition to the name Redmen? From what I understand, the uproar came about by a 1997 graduate of the school who now lives in Boston. Boston! “Native voices have been telling us this for years,” said Erin Miller, the graduate. Um, Ms. Miller. They like to be called Indians.

Methuen has the Rangers. Maybe the Indians are offended by that. Pelham High School has the Pythons. They can’t be happy about being associated with slithery, slimy snakes.

Lowell High School has the Red Raiders. Tewksbury High has the Redmen. Billerica High School is the home of the Indians. Andover is the home of the Warriors. Where’s the uprising? How come nobody around here is on the warpath?

Maybe we’re all better off using the names of animals for our teams. The Chelmsford Lions. The Tyngsboro Tigers. The Shawsheen Rams. The Greater Lowell Gryphons. (That one is suspect.) Be careful not to get the animal rights people angry. Angels? Devils? Friars? Crusaders? I’m sure the religionists will be upset, as will the separation-of-church-and-state people.

Are there no budgets for the good Natick School Committee to contend with? Have all the teacher contracts been negotiated and settled? MCAS scores are all up to snuff? Class sizes are under control? You mean to tell me that this is the most important piece of business on its agenda?

Maybe I just can’t relate. I live in Dracut. We have the Middies. I don’t even know what a Middie is. But I know that when I find out, I’m going to be offended.

Want to comment? E-mail dshaughnessey@thevalleydispatch.com.