When the French Army in World War I sought to change the color of its soldiers’ trousers from red — a magnetic color for machine gunners — to khaki, a National Assembly deputy shrilled, “Les pantaloons rouge, c’est la France!” Fellow legislators realized that red pants were France, and killed the gambit quicker than un général could say, “I surrender.”
This brings us to the National Collegiate Athletic Association, which, among its core values, cites “respect for institutional autonomy.” Such high-flying rhetoric aside, the NCAA’s political correctness snipes have been all over the College of William and Mary like a peeping Tom at a nudist colony.
After much squawking, the NCAA has graciously allowed the college to retain the moniker “Tribe,” which is — as then-President Gene Nichol astutely noted — “so close to the heart of this community.” Still, they mercilessly plucked two feathers from our logo.
“We strongly disagree with the 2006 decision by the executive committee and find it absurd that the NCAA continues to target William and Mary — a college that sets the standard for the scholar athlete — because of two feathers on our athletic logo,” Athletics Director Terry Driscoll said.
“We do know that William and Mary will forever be the Tribe and that was the most important victory in this entire process. We’ll review the decision about our athletic logo over the next few weeks as we evaluate what’s in the best interest of our student athletes,” he affirmed.
Instead of winging it, extraordinary threats demand extraordinary responses. And here is one: Rather than allow the NCAA popinjays to give us the bird, we must take the initiative. Specifically, we should red-shirt the Tribe for a couple seasons while we take to the courts, gridiron, soccer field and diamond as the William and Mary Wrens.
While the change may leave some people peckish, the benefits are obvious.
Considered the king of birds in Medieval Europe, the wren enjoyed the praise of Native Americans. One of their tales refers to the wren that tricked the haughty eagle into carrying it far into the heavens, until the eagle could soar no higher. At that point, the intrepid wren flew beyond the clouds, showing that it could sail higher than his bald-headed carrier, according to writer Ted Andrews.
Besides, these bold and resourceful creatures with their perky tail-feathers are avid insectivores. This would enable the College to devour the mushy Spiders of the University of Richmond. The College would have a field day should it ever confront the Banana Slugs of the University of California at Santa Cruz.
Adopting the Wren as our cognomen would show respect for distaff members of the College family. As anyone who has studied World War II knows, it was not Winston Churchill who galvanized the British public during the London Blitz, but the Women’s Royal Naval Service — known, of course, as the WRENS.
Although the Tribe may be familiar to students and alumni, the cognoscenti of the world are more familiar with the Sir Christopher Wren Building, which logically would become the new nesting place for the Athletic Department.
The displaced English and philosophy professors can pen sonnets to the wren or opine on the number of angels who could pirouette on a wren’s beak.
Adopting a venerable bird as our nickname and symbol would place us on the same perch as such notable institutions of higher learning as Johns Hopkins University (Blue Jays), American University (Eagles), Trinity College (Bantams), Bryn Mawr College (Owls), Oglethorpe University (Stormy Petrels) and Stanford University (Cardinal).
Above all, a flight to the Wrens would preserve our two feathers. And we all agree that “Les deux plumes sont le College of William and Mary.”
E-mail government professor George Grayson at [email protected]