Sunday, October 24, 2010

Chop the Tomahawk Chop: Atlanta Braves Fans' Cheer

I, for one, was so grateful that the Atlanta Braves were eliminated by the San Francisco Giants, in the Major League Baseball NLDS, because their fans' cheer, the Tomahawk Chop, is more irritating than any stadium-filled South African World Cup vuvuzela drone-fest. The first time I heard this grating noise was during the 1992 World Series between the Braves and Toronto Blue Jays. This chant is a parody of the supposed Native American war dance song from thousands of Hollywood western movies.

The Tomahawk Chop drone is topped off with the fans waving cartoon foam red tomahawks in a vaguely menacing 'I'm going to scalp you' motion. Whenever the Braves come to bat and have a chance to score, or whenever their pitcher is about to get the third out, the drone commences, taking over the entire soundscape and proceeding to crawl under my skin. Why the fans think this noise is actually helping their team is beyond me. Sure, under manager Bobby Cox, the Braves have been a perennial playoff team (something the Jays sure haven't been for 17 years), but they've only managed to win the World Series once (and that was in the post-strike-shortened 1995 season). Perhaps their fans' insistence in continuing this ridiculous drone is a factor.


In the world of soccer, especially the British Premierships League, teams like my side, Chelsea, have much more elaborate and entertaining songs for self-respecting fans to chant. How would you react if day in and day out, you had to listen to a bunch of liquored-up fools wave a hunk of red foam around endlessly going OOOh oooh OoOoh oooooh ooh oOoOh? If I was a player for the team, I would eventually start screaming 'SHUT UP SHUT UP SHUT UP SHUT UP' and begin throwing punches.

This drone is actually quite ignorant, if not outright racist, towards Native American peoples. The 'savage' warrior message contained within the drone and the cartoon red tomahawk is unseemly. Over the years, people have complained about the names of several professional teams that make light of Native Americans (NFL's Washington Redskins, NHL's Chicago Blackhawks, etc.). But I've never really bought into this simplistic view because, though the imagery might be stereotypical, there is nothing that touches the extra-salt-rubbed-in-the-wound style of the Braves fans' drone. Do they not have any clue how this is being perceived throughout the rest of the baseball-watching fans in North America? Or do they really just don't give a flying fig what the rest of the US and Canada thinks?

In the end, the San Francisco Giants wiped out the Braves and moved on to play the Philadelphia Phillies (ironically, the other team the Jays faced in their second World Series win in 1993). I was greatly relieved. I had recently switched allegiances to the Phillies because of the great, former Blue Jays pitcher, Roy (Doc) Halladay, who is now their number one stud. (He also happened to throw the first no-hitter in baseball playoffs in over 50 years a few weeks ago.) As of last night, though, it all came to naught, as the Giants eliminated the Phillies and now go on to meet the anonymous Texas Rangers in the World Series.

But, thankfully, I can now forget about the Braves for another year (and Bobby Cox, as this was his last season). But you'd think they would have got the hint way back in 1992 when, after the drone went on at insane lengths in the first two games in Atlanta's home stadium, the Jays scored what would be the Game-Three winning run in Toronto with Roberto Alomar coming in from third. As he trotted home, he moved his arm up and down in a parody of the chop. Any normal fan watching would be too embarrassed to ever use such a chant again, but clearly the Braves fans are as thick as bricks.

-- David Churchill is a film critic and the author of The Empire of Death. Go to for more information.


  1. Sorry, but it was Gruber who did it first in Game 2 in Atlanta as he ran off the field from his position. Alomar did it in Game 3 as he trotted home with the run, but this was in Toronto, not Atlanta. You could look it up and remember it longer...

  2. David Churchill responds: Sure, yup, but the one I remember and the one that really should have sunk in to the idiots was Alomar's in Game 3, not Gruber in two. Running in from third base to score the go-ahead run, in close up, had far more impact that an off-handed gesture as Gruber left the field.

  3. My point was: Alomar did his chop in TORONTO, not Atlanta. It's different in your own home park.

  4. ...and thanks for making the changes in your blog. It's appreciated...

  5. David Churchill responds: I know, Dean, that it took place in Toronto, but I still maintain fans watching on TV in Atlanta should see how ridiculous it looked even if it took place in T.O. But, as I said, they're thick as bricks.

  6. David Churchill Comments: There is a God. In the 2012 one-game playoff, Atlanta got smoked by St Louis, so, glory be, I only had to hear the damnable tomahawk chop a couple of times. Bye bye, Atlanta, and ha ha.