David L. Robbins
Novelist, Educator, Playwright, Essayist
Native Son #1
Posted on May 19th, 2014

Let me cut to the chase.

I despised the name Flying Squirrels.

You did, too. How could you not? The brand was tripe the moment it was proposed alongside equally banal names uncoupled from any connection to Richmond. Rock Hoppers? I have hopped rocks on the James my whole life. Never have I paused and considered: I am a rock hopper. That sounds like a bug. A Flat Head? That’s a Ford V-8 engine from the ‘30’s, a type of screw, a Montana Indian tribe, and an ugly, barely edible fish of mean temperament that sucks its food off the river bottom. I don’t find common cause with any of these, except the screw, and that’s a private concern.

Hambones. I’m embarrassed to even type a critique. Do I need to tell you why you should not root for the detritus of the ham you steep for soup or toss to your dog, a deepwoods dance where you slap your knee to the rhythm of a Deliverance banjo, or college slang for male jocks, gym-rats, beer-drinkers and business majors?

Flying Squirrels. Google revealed this muddy statement: The Virginia northern flying squirrel (Glaucomys sabrinus fuscus) is an endangered sciurid that occurs in the Allegheny Mountains of Virginia and West Virginia. Despite its status, few of its ecological requirements have been synthesized for landscape-level predictive distributions to facilitate habitat delineation efforts. That means flying squirrels are dying off in Virginia. The rare few hide in the mountains. Why are they emblematic of Richmond baseball?

And Rhinos. You cannot see me but I am shaking my head. Rhinos. Rarer in Richmond, I think, than flying squirrels.

I’m old school. Like any Richmonder I’m fond of that old light bulb (you know the joke, and if you don’t, you won’t have to ask far). When I first read that the new AA team owners were Connecticut Yankees, I felt that familiar crush. Here we go again. Folks who know better are coming to Richmond to tell us we’re slow moving Southerners dulled by humidity, stymied by race tensions, illiterate by tradition, and despite Antietam, easily cowed. We’re not savvy. We need pinwheels and cartoons, to be mesmerized in order to be entertained because we can’t enjoy plain hustle and fundamentals on the diamond. So the Connecticut Defenders and the stout image that name invokes became the sickly nowhere to be found Rocky and Bullwinkle shiny tinfoil of a team, your Richmond Flying Squirrels.

I was mad. For my lifetime of sitting with my dad in Parker Field watching the Virginians, then the Braves at the Diamond. Good players, great players, superb teams, losers. All labored honestly, decked with infield dirt and grass stains. Yes, in the stands we did the wave and the Macarena, but we were the clowns, not the teams. Okay, some were. But you get my point. We made our own fun. I’m old school. So are you.

When the chance came to name the mascot, I figured I’d show those carpetbaggers how to respect our venerable city.

You know what happened?

I concocted the goofiest names I could think of. Nutso. Wing Nut. Nut Rockne. They were all a-corny. I hope wins.

As a joke.

But it’s not a joke. I got it. Finally.

The Flying Squirrels are funny. New school.

Whether them Connecticut fellers figured us out shamefully fast or they blundered into it, they’ve given Richmond something we badly need, a mirror to see ourselves resisting, clinging, tut-tuting.

I never wanted to be that man, the curmudgeon. I don’t want to get old that way. I was always the guy with the new idea, the odd slice of humor, the skewed viewpoint. I want to keep giving the new a chance, to only slowly reject things that are not a result of my own life’s momentum and habit.

The Flying Squirrels are a gag, let’s not quibble. But let’s all go out back of the old school house and have a good laugh. Let’s head for the ball field and cheer on our cartoon.

Let’s show fervor and be better for it. It’ll be hard to accept the Flying Squirrels, but we’ll do it. To quote Churchill, “What sort of people do they think we are?”

Let’s not be told the answer. Let’s tell it.

Posted in Boomer Mag, Boomer Articles    Tagged with boomer magazine, native son, richmond, flying squirrels, rva


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