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McFeely: Laugh all you want, but UND made forward progress by picking Fighting Hawks nickname

FARGO -- No, seriously, this is a good thing. Fighting Hawks is positive. It's a step forward. And a major one. Did you just blow milk out your nose? Stop laughing for a second. Knock it off. I'm not joking. This is important stuff. As expected, ...

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FARGO -- No, seriously, this is a good thing. Fighting Hawks is positive. It's a step forward. And a major one.

Did you just blow milk out your nose?

Stop laughing for a second. Knock it off. I'm not joking. This is important stuff.

As expected, the University of North Dakota's announcement Wednesday that the new nickname for its athletic teams is Fighting Hawks was met in some circles (social media, message boards, talk radio, bars, living rooms, offices) with scorn and derision.

Also contempt, mockery and disdain. In addition to malice, ridicule and dismissiveness.

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That pretty much exhausts the thesaurus, so let's move on.

The reaction to the announcement was expected because no matter what the new nickname was, it was going to be met with a Bronx (or is it Grand Forks?) cheer by a large number of UND fans. This was the most predictable thing in the world.

Didn't matter if the winner was Fighting Hawks, Roughriders, Sundogs, Aviators, NoDaks. Whatever. Irrelevant. Many UND fans were going to hate the new nickname because it's not their beloved Fighting Sioux -- and perhaps because it's a nickname of any kind and not just "North Dakota." That would've allowed Fighting Sioux backers to cling to the impossible dream that someday maybe, just maybe, the favored nickname could've made a triumphant return.

So the reaction was nothing necessarily personal against Fighting Hawks, unless somebody was really, really, really passionate about Roughriders. It was a reaction that was just going to happen, no matter what.

OK, ready for the positive?

UND has a nickname, any nickname, and it can begin the long and arduous process of putting Fighting Sioux and the nasty battle behind it. From this day forward, UND athletic teams are going to be known as the Fighting Hawks. Love it, hate it or indifferent, that is a fact.

The University of North Dakota Fighting Hawks.
Again, I'd ask you stop laughing. You may want to wipe that chunk of sandwich you just spit out off your shirt, too. Right there, on the left sleeve. There you go. Got it. At least hear me out.

Truth: UND was never going to get past the nickname controversy until it had a new nickname.

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Truth: No matter your feelings on the nickname, people will now begin calling UND sports teams the Fighting Hawks. Newspaper headlines will refer to teams as the Fighting Hawks. Radio and TV will, too. This matters.

Truth: Young people will know UND only as the Fighting Hawks, unless their parents or grandparents put them through some sort of creepy Fighting Sioux brainwashing indoctrination ceremony (which I don't doubt will happen to some poor child). As young people replace old people, Fighting Hawks will become more popular.

Truth: Yes, there will be many Fighting Sioux jerseys, sweaters, caps, hats and jackets worn to UND hockey games for many years. But there will be an ever-growing amount of Fighting Hawks gear as the years pass. And as time marches on ...

Today is the first day of the rest of UND's life. Day by day by day, the fading of Fighting Sioux will occur, just a little at a time. Don't believe me? You're crazy because forever is a long time to hang on to a defunct nickname.

That's why Fighting Hawks is so important. Until that happened, UND was stuck in the past, always having to look over its shoulder and unable to move forward. Don't believe me? Then consider the words written earlier this year by UND sports information director Jayson Hajdu, a 2000 graduate:

"Understand one thing: as long as the University of North Dakota is nickname-less, this decades-long mess will continue to be what we are primarily known for throughout North America. Not our aviation program, our medical school, our law school, our groundbreaking research, or our amazing athletics history that spans three centuries.

"The longer we are nickname-less, media in every city to which our teams travel will recycle this entire story for a new audience. This is how it works. I see it first-hand every week, every season.

"Is this truly the course some want to set for our University and those who represent it in the classroom and on the courts, fields and ice? Then by all means, let's continue on this divisive, Groundhog's Day path for all eternity while the rest of the world passes by, laughing hysterically."

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Those days are done, thankfully. A great university and wonderful athletic program took a major leap forward Wednesday. Whether you love or hate Fighting Hawks, whether you'll ever let go of Fighting Sioux, that is the most important thing. The school made forward progress.

Laugh all you want, but that's the truth. And you can't stop it.

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