Cary Rosenbaum / iStock
Cary Rosenbaum is ICTMN's Native Sports Columnist

We’re the Only Race with Men Who Actively Wear Women’s Jerseys

Cary Rosenbaum

Editor’s Note: It is with great pleasure we at ICTMN welcome Cary Rosenbaum, our new Native Sports columnist. He is a sports fanatic, reports on a multitude of Indian sports-related news for ICTMN and is an award-winning journalist and member of the Colville Tribes from Inchelium, Washington.  

“Sports play an important role in American Indian culture.” -Says everyone who has ever written about Native Americans.

It’s true. We love sports. We’re the only race with men who actively wear women’s jerseys — you know, that former best-selling Atlanta Dream No. 23 proudly worn by the Umatilla Rez Baller Shoni Schimmel. Ok, admittedly I am painting with a broad brush, as there are a few men of other races supporting their favorite WNBA players, but Shoni’s jersey was the highest-selling ever.

Go Shoni! We wear #23!We don’t yet have our new-age Native NBA pioneer, just a handful of hopefuls, but we’re getting closer. Turns out those trillions of cumulative hours we’ve put into the sport are amounting to something (come on Ron Baker and Bronson Koenig!).

But basketball isn’t everything, it’s just, ‘mostly everything. I haven’t heard of many Natives excelling in frisbee golf yet. But, who knows? Maybe someday we’ll have a world champ. I like obscure stories, and aim to tell as many as I can.

Indians got called out a few years ago by Fox’s Family Guy. Brian Griffin, the talking dog, does a Google search for “Native American Role Models,” and comes up with zero results. It’s a laughable sentiment that furthered a stereotype, but it did tell us what we already know: We need more front-runners, per-capita, to help fill a gorging hole of despair in our collective culture.

Jim Thorpe, more than 100 years after he took the world by storm, is still the most relevant Native American athlete. There has been no greater Indian in sports. Imagine how they’ll speak of Michael Jordan in the year 2,100. It’s more likely that someone surpasses his achievements than an Indian surpasses Thorpe’s Olympic gold medals and Hall of Fame football career.

No one from our world has come close to threatening Thorpe’s status, and probably never will. Distance runner Billy Mills is, well, a distant second, despite being inducted into three halls of fame for his achievements. But Thorpe’s shadow was cast so long ago that there is now a volcano of enthusiasm in Indian country awaiting the next professional hopeful. We become like scientists, awaiting and predicting the next eruption.

Jim Thorpe has made sports enthusiasts such as myself expert volcanologists. In case you don’t know what I’m talking about, it means we study volcanos. Google it.

Needless to say, I hope to be at the summit when the next one blows. Hey Shoni, if Jim Thorpe were alive today, I’d bet a hundred bucks he would have worn your WNBA jersey too.

Cary Rosenbaum pilots the Native Sports column. Find him on Twitter @caryrosenbaum.


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