I caught a Braves game last week with a large group from my company. Good times. I always enjoy the American pastime. I especially love seeing how the locals customize their ballpark. For example, Turner Field has mist stations to keep everyone cool in the hot Atlanta summers.

tomahawk chopWhat I wasn’t prepared for was The Chop. During a rally, the crowd stands up and starts swinging their arms up and down, simulating a tomahawk chop. They also do a whooping chant, Ooooo oh oh ooooooo, ah oh, oh ah oooooooo.

It’s insane.

What are you supposed to tell your children when they ask what The Chop means?

“Daddy, why do we move our arms up and down like this?”

“We’re intimidating the other team by pretending that we’re going to scalp them.”

“Daddy, what’s ‘scalp them’ mean?”

“Scalping is the act of cutting off someone’s scalp, the top part of their head. Europeans used to offer bounties for dead native Americans, but carrying around dead bodies was too hard so they just chopped off the top part of their head and carried that back to collect their money.”

Not exactly the conversation I want to have with my 5 year old.

It’s fun to have traditions and chants, and I recognize that many people don’t even know what they’re chanting. But isn’t it just absolutely astounding that in 2013 we are still doing this? It’s the total cartoonization of native American culture.

The team encourages it. There are tomahawk graphics all over the stadium and they move up and down during rallies, to get the crowd to start chanting.

chop onEven the sponsors get in on the action. There is an enormous statue of a cow in center field, from our good friends at Chick-Fil-A. We know they like to take every opportunity to advance good clean Christian values. The cow is wearing a sign that says “CHOP ON, CHIKIN LUVERS, CHOP ON.” As if God himself gives you permission to denigrate the savages.

A colleague suggested a good analogy. Imagine that the Nazis won World War II and now controlled all of Europe. The mascots for the soccer teams would be named after Jews. So instead of the Braves and the Indians and the Redskins, we’d have the Steinbergs and the Rosensterns and the Goldbergs. The crowd would have some sort of chant that sounded like a gas chamber filling up, and everyone would just sort of go along with it because most of the Jews were dead anyway. Chick-Fil-A would drop a million bucks to put up a big cow with a sign that says “GAS ON, CHIKIN LUVERS, GAS ON.”

It’s not that far-fetched.