Reprinted by permission of the author and The High Plains Reader, Fargo, ND
Sioux eyes are smiling”
– Grand Forks Herald
“Ole says: ‘It’s awful to grow old by yourself. Lena hasn’t had a birthday in seven years.’”
– Red Stangland
“Troll: a dwarf or giant in Scandinavian folklore inhabiting caves or hills.”
– Merriam Webster Dictionary
With the University of North Dakota hockey team winning its third straight Broadmoor Trophy as champions of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association tournament, after a season of daunting injuries to its players, one would expect the admiration for the grit of these kids to be universal [though somewhat grudging in Denver, Minneapolis and St. Cloud, MN, where the egos of hockey fans may still be somewhat bruised from their defeats at the hands of the UND collegians].
Unfortunately, such may not be the case in the headquarters of the National Collegiate Athletic Association [NCAA] in Indianapolis, IN, – a group of suits who decide what is moral and what is immoral in college sports; an impossible, but quite lucrative, task.
The problem is that these marvelous young college athletes, who play hockey in Grand Forks, ND, hit the ice as “The Fighting Sioux.” This logo is highly offensive to many human beings who happen to be Sioux, as well as many who are not, but who object to college logos which depict real humans in a demeaning manner, despite the best of intentions, past and present.
How much easier it would be if these kids, who only want to play hockey at one of the top institutions where it is played, could hit the ice as “The Fighting Trolls.”
Trolls are mythical figures from Scandinavian folklore. They are known for their ornery dispositions and feistiness, terrific qualities in hockey players when they are on the ice. Their depiction on T-Shirts and arena walls are not likely to offend anyone, except those without a sense of humor, like North Dakota House Majority Leader Al Carlson [R-Fargo].
Representative Carlson is the leader of a pack of legislators, and other local boosters, who want the “The Fighting Sioux” to remain the UND logo forever, despite de facto monetary retaliations threatened by the NCAA against the university.
The controversy has ended up in court – a decidedly humorless place.
Most Scandinavians, one hastens to add, Norwegians in particular, are notorious for being able to laugh at themselves. This quality has historically been a kind of psychological jiu jitsu, useful against the usual American racism, inherited from the English, that labels every immigrant to this country as inferior in some way, with emphasis and attacks on their long cherished languages, folkways, and religions.
Under this doctrine from the dark side of Anglo-American tradition, Italian-Americans are supposed to apologize for their religion and the way they speak American English. Mexican-Americans are supposed to apologize for their extraordinary work ethic and willingness to work for low pay, and the way they speak American English. Asian-Americans and African-Americans are supposed to apologize for the color of their skin and the way they speak American English. German-Americans are supposed to apologize for both World Wars. Muslim-Americans are supposed to apologize for Osama bin Ladin, and Jewish-Americans are supposed to apologize for most everything else, including the death of Jesus Christ.
Since Native Americans were here long before Anglo-Americans, logos praising their admirable qualities, while their human counterparts have been historically abused and disrespected, are understandably galling.
Scandinavian-Americans, on the other hand, have been able, for the most part, to fly under the radar of American racism. They are white, overwhelming Protestant, and not all that numerous nationwide. Where they predominate in the Midwest, they share economic and political power with Anglo-Americans.
Just in case, however, Scandinavians have Ole and Lena. The racist sting in “Dumb Norwegian” or “Dumb Swede” hurled by an ignoramus has little bite, when the jokes that Scandinavians tell about themselves are funnier, and “closer to the bone” than what non-Scandinavians can conjure up.
So let the era of “The Fighting Trolls” begin!
The possibilities are prodigious. We could have “Trolls on Ice,” cheerleaders during the intermission, dressed as Trolls, like in the Ice Capades,—skilled skaters doing pratfalls and pranks in line with college humor.
Maybe a “Fighting Troll” could be driving the Zamboni.
ESPN will have to cover it for sure.
And let the NCAA try to make something “racist” about “Fighting Trolls,”
as opposed to “Fighting Sioux.” That’s where the real fun could begin.
It’s worth doing just to watch them squirm, while somehow trying to get UND to adopt as its logo some furry animal with sharp teeth, or avian descendent of dinosaurs. If the NCAA actually wanted to campaign against “The Fighting Trolls,” logo, we could probably sell seats and popcorn for that show.
We have nothing to lose by unleashing “The Fighting Trolls” on the college sports world, except North Dakota taxpayers’ costs of expensive litigation over an issue that divides us bitterly and unnecessarily.
We have quite a bit to gain, most especially our senses of humor, and unblemished joy in college games well played by the young men and women at UND.
And oh yes!