October 18, 2013

The curious affair of Fred Mudgeon began in 2015 when he, age 67 and largely blind, walked onto the field of the Washington Miquetoasts, the capital’s football team, and announced that he wanted to try out for quarterback. If ever there was an unlikely prospect for an NFL quarterback, it was Fred Mudgeon.

However, it was a difficult time for the Toasties, as fans called the team. Formerly the Washington Redskins, they had changed their name under political pressure from those who found the name offensive to Indians. This did not include the Indians, who were uninterested in the matter. The lefties of Washington were going to protect the Native Peoples from being insulted, even though nobody was insulting them and the Indians themselves had other things on their minds. You can”€™t be too careful about these matters.

Besides, conservatives supported the demand for a new name, arguing that it was humiliating that a former superpower should name its team after Stone Age savages who had never invented so much as a smartphone. Debate raged. Macho names such as “€œThe Shrapnel”€ or the more descriptive “€œWashington Felons”€ were rejected as being too candid. “€œThe Supermen”€ would be hurtful to women and the biceps-challenged. Something unifying was desired, something to bring us all together.

“€œJustice doesn”€™t allow discrimination against people simply because they cannot play football.”€

It came down to the “€œWashington Petals”€ or “€œThe Milquetoasts,”€ which latter was chosen as being more non-threatening. Republicans objected to “€œMilquetoasts,”€ saying the “€œmilque”€ was French, and wanted to call the team the “€œLiberty Toasties,”€ but it didn”€™t catch on.

Press attention grew when it was discovered that Fred Mudgeon was descended from Richard Coeur de Mudgeon, a hero of the Third Crusade. Mudgeon’s august ancestor had fought against Salad Al Din, a Moslem Kurd who eventually defeated the Christians. Salad then invaded Southeast Asia, where he was unexpectedly killed and cannibalized by a band of crazed British women pirates led by Mary of Warwick. (Thus “€œMary, Mary, quite contrary, eating her Kurds in Hue.”€)

The Toasties”€™ coach, Heftus Packer, took one look at Mudgeon and said, “€œGiddowdahere. What are you, nuts?”€

Mudgeon sued.

His lawyers, from the noted K Street firm of Linger, Loyter, Daudle, and Phumble, demanded that the Toasties produce a list of their requirements for quarterback. They did. It included such things as running speed, reflexes, a good throwing arm, accuracy in passing, and physical toughness. Mudgeon, said Heftus Packer, had none of these.

Actually, what Packer said was, “€œI don”€™t need some fossilized half-cripple with them thick glasses so he looks like a damn bug.”€ For this he was charged with a hate crime.

Mudgeon’s lawyer, Priscilla Wang-Waver, said, “€œMr. Mudgeon is not unable or disabled. He is just differently abled. To imply that he is of less worth as a person because of purely physical qualities is shockingly insensitive.”€ She filed a complaint of ageism, physicalism, and blindism under the Protection of the Incapable legislation, often called the Potty Act. This had passed Congress the year before to prevent massive firings of federal employees.

Ms. Wang-Waver asserted that the Act required the Toasties to make the game more “€œaccessible and friendly”€ to the differently abled. “€œJustice doesn”€™t allow discrimination against people simply because they cannot play football. How many can? On this team there are no gay, women, lesbian, bifurcated, or transaxle players. This is no accident.”€

A start toward justice, she said, would be to limit players to a walk and to allow canes on the field. She further thought that physical contact should be disallowed. The game should be more empathic and human instead of competitive, which “€œleaves some players with low self-esteem.”€

From his holding cell, Coach Heftus Packer said, “€œCaring? Caring? I”€™ve got a metal detector so these guys don”€™t take crowbars onto the field. They don”€™t know from caring.”€

The case began to attract national attention. In California, US Senator Barbara Steinboxer-Mowgli opined, “€œMy staff has done some research, and they inform me that football involves violence. This is not a message that we should be sending to our children. We should make football into a cooperative game led by a caring adult. I will introduce legislation to do this.”€


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