You hear the chant every time a ninth grader makes a basket or blocks a shot in a varsity high school basketball game.
The student section will chant “She’s a freshman, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap. She’s a freshman, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap.”
They substitute “He’s” for “She’s” when a male ninth grader makes a noteworthy play.
The chant is definitely more to mock the opponent than it is to celebrate the achievement of the young student-athlete, and that’s the beauty of it. It’s a back-handed “in your face” in an age when “in-your-face” chants toward the opponent are outlawed.
If the decision makers in one school have their way, that freshman chant would go away like many of our favorite cheers over the years.
A school in Easthampton, Massachusetts, is trying to eliminate the world “freshmen.” Instead, the ninth-grade students at Easthampton High School will be called “first-year students” because that term is more “gender inclusive.”
The school is encouraging students not to use the word “freshmen,” though they acknowledge that, for now, they still have the right to do so under that pesky First Amendment.
And, you wonder why such an angry wave of anti-political correctness has overtaken this country. It’s because we keep giving it ammo.
Before we go any further, let’s just get it on the record that gender inclusivity, which the PC police say is the goal in this case, is a great thing. Some words should not be said, and feelings really should matter.
Look, I’m more progressive than the average guy. You can read every story I’ve written in 20 years of writing about sports, and, with possibly the exception of the University of Montana women’s basketball team, you will not find a reference to “lady” or “ladies” anywhere.
We don’t call the boys’ and men’s teams “gentlemen,” so I don’t call the girls’ or women’s teams “ladies,” unless they ask us to like the UM women’s basketball team.
I always thought calling the Butte High girls’ basketball team the “Lady Bulldogs” was demeaning, even though it is likely not the intent of people who do.
MSU-Northern gets around the whole “lady” thing by calling its women’s teams the “Skylights,” because, as we all know, “Skylight” is the feminine version of “Light.”
Custer County High School in Miles City calls the boys’ teams the “Cowboys,” while the girls’ teams are the “Cowgirls.” Kalispell Flathead has the “Braves” and the “Bravettes,” which is demeaning and insulting on multiple levels.
When you start attacking words like “freshman” and “freshmen,” you are going so far off the deep end that you won’t be able to swim your way back up.
Of course, the problem the PC police have with the word is the last three letters. They don’t like that the word “freshman” ends with “man.”
They never stopped to think that maybe it comes from the word “human,” a word that is clearly gender inclusive.
If the words “freshman” or “freshmen” are not gender inclusive, then neither are the words “woman” or “women.”
If you are not offended by the word “human,” then you shouldn’t take issue with the word “freshman.”
But these are clearly different times.
Nowadays, Neil Armstrong, the first person to walk on the moon (allegedly), would be forced to apologize for being a sexist pig and step down as national hero for saying, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”
Really, wouldn’t we all feel better if Armstrong would have been thoughtful enough to say “personkind” when he faked the moon landing?
And, while we’re at it, who’s on first?
No, not the Abbott and Costello bit. What do we call the girl playing first base on the softball team? Is she the first baseperson?
You can only assume that the basketball teams from Easthampton will be forced to play zone defense because man-to-man defense isn’t gender inclusive.
Girls on the basketball team will no longer be able to ask a teammate, “who’s your man?” They say that, too, and not because these girls are conforming Betty Boops. It’s because terms like “man to man” and “get on your man” have long been the language of the sport.
Coaches also like to keep things simple. Offenses and defenses are generally called out in one-syllable words because the players can process that faster.
The extra time it takes for a coach tell a girl to “get on your carbon-based life form” might be the difference it takes for a back-door pass to open up.
Of course, it could be easy to sit back and laugh at those wacky liberals in Massachusetts, but we are just as guilty here in Montana.
Did you know that there is no such thing as “8-Man” or “6-Man” football in Montana?
Really, you can look it up. The trophy for the champions in two Class C football divisions in this state say “8-Player” and “6-Player.”
It’s been like that for about two decades, but lately there has been more of an emphasis on media members to get that straight.
It’s as if any female high school student tough enough to play football would be hurt by a three-letter word.
Texas, however, still plays 6-Man football. Last week, K-Lani Nava became the first female to score points in a University Interscholastic League state title game by kicking nine extra points.
She did it to help Strawn beat Balmorhea 78-42 in the Class 1A 6-Man Division II championship game.
When that earned Nava a spot on ESPN, she wasn’t standing with Gloria Allred because she was called a 6-Man football player.
She probably realized that 6-Man just sounds better than 6-Player football or 6-Person Football or 6-Homosapien football.
Aside from being highly inaccurate — ninth graders generally have at least eight years, plus preschool and kindergarten, of student experience under their belt before the start high school — the term “first-year student” doesn’t have the same ring to it as “freshman.”
Nobody looks forward to being a “first-year student.”
It is just plain silly to attack a word that has centuries of no controversies under its belt, as long as you don’t count hazing and bullying.
Even more, you just know that this is only a step for the PC police.
People who want to take away the words we can say on television will never be satisfied with eliminating just one word. Once we can no longer say the word freshmen and The Verve Pipe song is wiped off the books, they will turn to other words to erase.
Really, have you looked at the first four letters of the word “student?”
There is no way that word is gender inclusive.
— Bill Foley, who can’t be held responsible, writes a column that appears Tuesdays on ButteSports.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him at twitter.com/Foles74