With their large brows and their super-jock bods, we have generally held Neanderthals apart as a separate, brutish species. And under the immortal wicked assumption that brawn cannot also have brain, there is practically an industry built on lampooning some members of our own species in comparison.
Exhibit A. (So meta, really.)
Back in Damon's Sox days, the Red Sox even called themselves a "bunch of idiots." (Causing cavemen, who were not idiotic at all, to roll over in their museum drawers.)
But the more that Neanderthal genes are studied (and cross-your- fingers that these results really are based on ancient caveman DNA and not modern lab-rat dandruff), the harder it is to separate them into a separate species.
That is, the more we know about their DNA, the more fossils that are found to bridge the gaps, and the more artifacts that are found to blur cultural differences, well the less sense it makes to consider Neanderthals as being any different from other Paleolithic humans as the Red Sox are from the rest of us.
And so this begs the question, if Neanderthals are just humans is it appropriate anymore to refer to Neanderthal-human sex as "interbreeding"?
If "the Neanderthals" were just like" the French" or "the Inuit" then describing their extra-population mating behavior as interbreeding would be something you'd probably only do while wearing a white pointy hat or holding your right arm out in front of you like a hemiplegic Frankenstein.
So we could keep calling Neanderthals Neanderthals...okay sure. But instead of thinking of them as a separate animal from neighboring humans, we could just think of them as a separate baseball team.
Neanderthals had their own look, their own strategies, their own traditions, but when they got together with other humans they understood them well enough to play the same games. They could hit a homer just fine, in both senses of the phrase.
This year's Red Sox couldn't have made a link to Neanderthals more complete. They just collapsed--shrouded in mystery with hardly anyone able to really explain why--while others with less muscle managed to go on.
Neanderthals are Soxier than ever. But even though the derogatory stereotype no longer holds, fans would probably flip that thought the other way around.