Having formerly tackled such weighty subjects as the obscenity of the "Irish Car Bomb" and the plural form of Guinness, it's time to turn a corner and strive towards the absurdly pedantic.
Recently, the field of, shall we say "ethnic" sports mascots has come under a bit of scrutiny. Certain cultures, or at least certain individuals with too much time on their hands who claim to represent certain cultures, have rallied against somewhat questionable depictions of their backgrounds. A number of collegiate and professional sports organizations have been pressured to alter their mascots and/or monikers and yield to the jack-booted thugs of the political correctness police.
Well perhaps it's time for Irish-America to take a page from the flash-in-the-pan Eire-based pop group The Cranberries and say "Everybody Else Is Doing It, So Why Can't We?"
(This is possibly my most far-reaching and pathetic pop-culture reference to date...sorry! But whatever happened to Dolores O'Riordan? Damn, she was hot...I mean really hot...I had such a crush on her...she's so pretty...what was I talking about before? Oh, right...)
For the longest time I took issue with the nickname of my hometown Syracuse Orangemen, with the Orangemen of course also being the name of a Northern Irish political organization affiliated with Anti-Catholic paramilitary organizations.
But in 2004, Syracuse University, more likely attempting to appease the National Organization of Women rather than Sinn Fein, dropped the offending "men" to be simply known as the Syracuse Orange.
With nothing left to focus my Irish ire upon, I was forced to redirect my nit-picking and in doing so determined I should take aim at the granddaddy of them all - the sacred cow, the "University of College Football in America," as ESPN's Tony Kornheiser dubbed them - the Notre Dame Fighting Irish.
Why shouldn't Irish-America be offended by the "Fighting Irish?" The name suggests the Irish are a surly, belligerent race - and while centuries of sectarian violence and countless bar brawls between guys named Sully and Murph have done nothing to dissuade that stereotype, it's still inappropriate to say something like that, let alone base a team's mascot on such a cultural pigeon-holing.
Could you imagine the Notre Dame Brawling Scotsmen, or something equally offensive, like the Notre Dame Cheese-Eating Frenchmen, the Notre Dame Ambivalent Swiss, the Notre Dame Whoring Dutch, the Notre Dame Exploding Arabs or the Washington Redskins? It's downright unthinkable.
Yet plastered on hats, t-shirts, beer mugs and shot glasses across the nation and around the world is the image of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish.
And how about the mascot itself - the dour little leprechaun in a pugilistic pose, with his ape-like face and typecast truculence reminiscent of 19th Century Nativist propaganda cartoons, back when "No Irish Need Apply" still applied.
It's on par with any Seminole, Illini, Indian or Chief.
Or is it? The thing about the Notre Dame Fighting Irish is that the team and the university, being emblematic of Irish-America, have actually done a tremendous job generating awareness of the Irish culture. For many people, the interest stops short of the end zone. But for some it goes further, opening doors to an enlightenment of Irish history, literature, culture and, unfortunately, cuisine.
The Irish in this country, no matter on what side of the pond they were born, maintain a strong attachment to the land of their fathers. Were it not for the presence of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish in the American psyche, in many cases that attachment would never be recognized.
The benefit of cultural mascots far outweighs any harm or insult certain individuals may perceive. Provided the organizations using these culturally specific nicknames do so in a respectful manner, it can serve as a tool to educate and elevate that culture in the public consciousness.
Otherwise, future generations might think Illini is just the plural of Illinois or Utah was named after Keanu Reeve's character in "Point Break."
Take it as a compliment and view it with a sense of pride, rather than resorting to litigious sniveling and grandstanding.
Essentially, direct your efforts towards something truly appalling, like corporate corruption, Sudanese refugees, or the American Gulf Coast, and leave the trite hair-splitting to hack columnists like me, who often feel the need to invent an issue so we have something to spew out in time for our deadline. GO IRISH!!!
Christopher M. Halleron, freelance writer/bitter bartender, writes a biweekly humor column for The Hudson Current and websites in the New York Metro area. He spends a lot of his time either in front of or behind the bar in Hoboken, New Jersey where his tolerance for liquor grows stronger as his tolerance for society is eroded on a daily basis. Feel free to drop him a line at email@example.com.