Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Erin Go Bragh Yourself

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

In the spirit of the day, I was thinking about something Irish I could write about. Allow me to print the disclaimer now that I and my family have ancestors from the Emerald Isle. What I thought of was Notre Dame.

Their team name is the Fighting Irish and their logo features a short, squat little gentleman in a green suit, balding with a beard (no mustache), his hat tipped forward on his brow, complete with shamrock and his fists raised before him as if to say, “Put up your dukes,” in a thick brogue. I’m not sure this is a leprechaun. I always used to think it was, but the more I look at it, the more I begin to think that the original artist just drew his interpretation of what he thinks someone who is Irish and fighting, or at least prepared to fight, looks like.

Should I be offended? I could be on so many levels, I suppose. The image of this little fellow is certainly not flattering. There’s the hair line, the small stature, the frown. On top of that, there’s the obvious insinuation that the Irish, as a people, are prone to fighting. This is pretty much the Irish equivalent of the Cleveland Indians’ mascot, Chief Wahoo. Why didn’t they illustrate him with a drink in one hand and a cigarette hanging from his lip? Maybe they could update the image with an I.R.A. feel to it, strapping an assault rifle to his back and fitting him with an explosive vest.

Then again, this is just the sort of thing that seems to define the Irish. Not the team logo, but the lack of offense taken at it. The acceptance of it as all in good fun. Not just that, but the absolute embracing of the imagery. I couldn’t tell you how many proud people of Irish heritage I know who have the Fighting Irish mascot featured somewhere in their home or tattooed on their person.

I traveled to Ireland years ago and was amazed that it was actually exactly the way everybody said it was. Very green and very friendly. It’s said that Irish diplomacy is the ability to tell a man to go to hell in a manner that he looks forward to the trip. On one of the many occasions we asked for directions, had we been sent down the path to hell, I’m sure it would have still been a lush green. This was a pre-children trip and my wife and I spent our final night there drinking with the locals who let us stay in the bar well after it had closed and didn’t allow us to pay for a single drink after having bought the first round.

I reckon the “Fighting” part of “Fighting Irish” is just to express that their athletes are going to put up a fight on the field. Becoming easily offended and taking the mascot to mean something it wasn’t intended to would be taking it too far. I, too, should just embrace it.

You know, the more I look at it now, the more I think it reminds me of somebody. I wonder if they modeled it after my grandfather.

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