Editorial | Chief follies continue

Editorial | Chief follies continue

University of Illinois administrators continue to try to bridge an unbridgeable gap.

University of Illinois Chancellor Robert Jones just can't leave bad enough alone.

He and a phalanx of hand-wringing do-gooders — failing to recognize the obvious — persist in their efforts to build "understanding and respect" between opponents of Chief Illiniwek, the one-time symbol of UI sports, and supporters of Chief Illiniwek.

The two sides understand each other just fine. That's why they're not likely to be singing "Kumbaya" together anytime soon — they don't agree and will never agree.

So what's with this silly, tiresome, resource-consuming effort on Jones' part to bridge an unbridgeable gap? If Jones is trying to demonstrate that he really doesn't understand the nature of the controversy, he's doing a great job.

Of course, how could he? No one who wasn't here in the Chief's heyday, the lengthy fight over his presence or his contentious and emotional forced retirement will ever understand.

To Jones, as well as UI President Timothy Killeen, Chief Illiniwek is an abstraction and an irritant they both want to get off the UI's plate.

Jones apparently thinks he can achieve that goal by throwing both sides a bone and calling it a day.

State Sen. Chapin Rose succinctly summed up this effort with a skillful denunciation. "I don't know who they think they're appeasing. Every time they do one of these things, it just rips the scab off the wound and puts everybody back in their corners," he said.

There are some comical aspects of this issue.

Jones and some like-minded souls apparently believe that a "mascot" replacing Chief Illiniwek will bind up the wounds. But he calls it a "complex" issue.

That's a poor word choice. "Complex" is what they're doing in a chemistry lab. Difficult is finding a character — a boilermaker a la Purdue or a Buckeye from Ohio State — who won't get booed off the field at UI home games.

Let's not forget Jones' suggestion of some sort of memorial or display commemorating Chief Illiniwek.

What would it say? "Here lies our noble racist mascot and representative of genocide who warmed the heart of all his benighted, deplorable supporters for decades before their moral and intellectual superiors set them straight."

Chief Illiniwek was finally overthrown in 2007. Twas then and is now a great victory for the campus forces of mindless political correctness. He hasn't shown his face around here since then.

But fans still remember Chief Illiniwek and invoke his name with chants at halftimes of football and basketball games.

Occasionally, a supporter will don a Chief Illiniwek outfit and make a dramatic appearance at a game, drawing cheers of support.

That's it, and that's not much. But the anti-Chiefs can't tolerate their inability to wipe the memory of Chief Illiniwek from the minds of his supporters.

So they complain to administrators who apparently have nothing better to do. The administrators then order other administrators who also have nothing better to do to come up with solutions on how to make this non-problem go away.

It's a magnificent waste of time that will continue until someone in charge finally wises up.

Sections (2):Editorials, Opinion