Following the demise of the “Chief Wahoo” logo used by MLB’s Cleveland Indians, ESPN’s Max Kellerman and MLB Network’s Brian Kenny set their sights on the Fighting Leprechaun used for The University of Notre Dame’s atheltic teams, dubbed the “Fighting Irish.” a moniker that’s been equally branded as “offensive” by people like Kellerman and Kenny.
I have a few friends that agree with the two sports media personalities; specifically my friend Dan Twohig, who believes the image of the leprechaun that is used by Notre Dame and by the Celtics is derived from caricatures created in Victorian England to stereotype the Irish as less than human.
“Today the Irish embrace the idea of the leprechaun,” said Twohig on Twitter. “There is even a leprechaun museum in Dublin. That does not take away the fact that the specific characters are racist stereotypes.”
Now I cannot speak to the Celtics logo, because I’ve done no research on it, but I have done my homework on the imagery. I will say I don’t particularly like the logo, never have, but it’s an aesthetic thing for me.
Nor do I dismiss the idea that many have depicted the Irish in abhorrent fashion.
However, when I delved into the history, I found nothing of the sort — as it related to the ND logo. Ted Drake — who also designed the still-used logo for the Chicago Bulls — was the artist who created the “Fighting Leprechaun” in 1964
After he created it for the University of Notre Dame, the school paid him 50 bucks for his work, updated and copyrighted it themselves. The mostly Irish school with an Irish Catholic leadership– then updated it and made it their own:
When asked about his creation many years later, Drake shared the following:
“…the first thing I can remember drawing – I just vaguely remember it – but I’ve been told that at the age of four, a neighbor came over. They were planning a St. Patrick’s Day party and they wondered if “little Theodore” – that was me – could draw them an Irishman. That’s the first thing I remember drawing.”
That’s kind of prophetic, isn’t it – seeing as your most famous creation is the Fighting Irish leprechaun for Notre Dame?
“Yes, isn’t that kind of strange that that was the first thing I did? Probably the thing I will be most remembered for, if at all, is that little leprechaun.”
So using my good friend Dan’s logic, four-year old Drake channeled his inner racist and drew a leprechaun, then many years later, decided to do so again…for the Irish school with the mostly Irish administration and clerical faculty.
Then there’s this artwork that Drake created for the U.S. Navy…see the resemblance to our little leprechaun? Racist or nah?
I’m a member of the Ancient Order of Hibernians, my father is Irish, my wife is Irish, and many of my friends are Irish. It has never offended me, and now that I know the history, I’m even more convinced that Drake’s depiction of the leprechaun is symbolic of the fight that every Irishman has in his heart for his country, his family and his faith.
Here’s my response:
Look, I got hammered by my fellow Islander fans when I said I was pulling for the Rangers to win the Cup last year. I didn’t wear any Rangers gear, or anything like that. But they were playing the Penguins, Flyers, Canadiens and Kings on the way. I’m going to root for them?
Part of it was doing some freelance work for SNY.tv last year, writing about all of NY’s teams, and writing about the playoffs is more fun. But it’s more than that.
Having lived outside NY, and seeing how other people feel about NY, I’ve become very pro-NY, even with the teams I’m not a fan of. I can appreciate these other fans’ love for their team, but trash-talking other fans is, well, juvenile.
I was at a Jets game in 1983 to watch my Atlanta Falcons at Shea Stadium; I wore my red Falcons helmet and my Steve Bartkowski jersey. Now I didn’t hate the Jets, I actually liked that team (especially Bob Crable, had his jersey), but the Falcons were — and are — my team. Grown men jeered, cursed, threw food and screamed at me — I think I was 14 — as Jets built a 21-0 lead. As the Falcons came all the way back and finally won 27-21, it was pretty awesome. Bartkowski threw a couple of TD passes, one to my fave William Andrews the other to Billy “White Shoes” Johnson — who also had a 70-yard punt return TD. But I didn’t say a word. I didn’t dance or scream, or throw anything back at the grown-ass people who didn’t know me. I didn’t have to. My guys won.
I’ve had similar experiences, like the year the Jets mauled the Falcons at the Meadowlands in 1998. Poor Steve DeBerg started because Chris Chandler was hurt. I took a lot of heat that day too. Yet, when the Falcons went to the Super Bowl and the Jets didn’t that year, none of my Jets fans friends got a “suck it” call from me. I don’t do that.
See, I’m trying to teach my son about how to be a good sportsman, to avoid the Sportscenter mentality as he grows as an athlete and as a fan. Be better than the grown-ass people who cuss and taunt women and children at sporting events. When your team wins, treat people who lost like you’d want to be treated.
Sure, I have enjoy my debates with Rangers/Devils/Nets/Yankees/Giants/Jets fans, but ultimately they love their team, as I do mine. The only teams I truly despise?
The Chicago Cubs
The Philadelphia Flyers
The New Orleans Saints
The Miami Heat
Well, most of the time, I ignore the stupid fans. Sometimes, like today I will call out people for their bad form. They don’t get it either, but I make the effort for people I like who are being petty.
But, ultimately, most of the time I will know more about the teams you root for than you do. So, yes, I have a problem with negative energy. I pull for New York teams.
This is Gotham Nation after all, isn’t it?
Appropriate to share today, which would have been Jackie Robinson’s 95th birthday, a archived podcast on which I talk about the roles that Negro League Legend Buck O’ Neil — including excerpts from my one-on-one interview with him just a few months before he passed away — and “Black Aces” author Jim “Mudcat” Grant played in the African-American journey to Major League Baseball.
My good friend Gary Armida asked me Five Goood Questions. I hope I gave five good answers.
When the Mets decided to enter into the Kaz Matsui sweepstakes, a lot of things had to happen. They had to engage the help of the other Wilpon son — Bruce, married to the daughter of Japanese billionare Kenshin Oshima — and Leon Lee, the father of then-All Star first baseman Derrek Lee.
As a thank you, Lee was hired to manage the Single-A Brooklyn Cyclones in 2004. Jeff Wilpon ran the Cyclones then, and when Fred Wilpon’s pride and joy was faced with a tough situation, he dealt with it swiftly.
On April 8, Lee was arrested for indecent exposure in a hotel after seeking to quiet a noisy late-night crowd that was disturbing his team.
The NY Times’ Lee Jenkins detailed the way in which he was treated here – http://www.nytimes.com/2005/03/02/sports/baseball/02lee.html?pagewanted=2&_r=0&ei=5090&en=063dccf0be18fe8f&ex=1267419600&partner=rssuserland
Another version of the story is here, including a description — which I can confirm because I was covering the Brooklyn Cyclones at the time — of how Jeff Wilpon handled the situation.
Lee pressed for more than a year, costing him thousands of dollars and his baseball good name, just to get a court date to clear his name. The charges were dropped in 2005.
It’s a good thing for Jeff Wilpon that he doesn’t work for Jeff Wilpon…
I can’t predict what’s going to happen, he’s a different guy. He has the strongest desire I’ve ever heard about not ending his career without making it in New York. That’s motivation. I have high regard for what he has left. I think he will be an important addition to this club. He has one wonderful, smart and strong-willed wife, she loves Greenwich, where they live. She’s ecstatic. She wants to be here. They want to be here. It makes a difference. He’s going to live in Greenwich when he’s through playing. So he has a lot of motivation.” – Fred Wilpon, on the return of Bobby Bonilla to the Mets in 1999.
My nephew Kevin Walker, a senior starting WR / PR for Plainedge, and his teammates are facing Lawrence at 2pm later today at Hofstra, as for the third straight postseason Lawrence and Plainedge will meet to decide the Conference III Nassau championship.
One of my favorite players of all time, former Atlanta Falcons great and Pro Bowl running back had this to say to Kevin and the team via Twitter
— Jamal Anderson (@jamthedirtybird) November 23, 2013
Here’s a preview from MSG Varsity: