Even the sports world turns Irish on St. Patrick’s Day

Published 4:37 am Tuesday, March 17, 2015

It’s St. Patrick’s Day, a day honoring one of the greatest missionaries of all-time. St. Patrick converted the entire country of Ireland to Christianity in a 30-year period before dying on March 17, 461 A.D.

On this day, everyone becomes Irish including sports teams. The Cincinnati Reds will usually wear green uniforms on this day and the Columbus Blue Jackets are scheduled to wear green uniforms in their game Tuesday night.

One of my favorite local sports figures was the late, great James J. “Bear” Mains who used to send me notes, information and thank-you cards, and he would always include his calling card.

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While his personal information was on one side, he always had an Irish blessing on the other side. His favorite was:


May the road rise to meet you

May the win be always at your back

May the sun shine warm upon your face

May the rains fall soft upon your fields

And until we meet again

May God hold you in the palm or His hand.

Although “Bear” always send a blessing, I ran across an opposite card once that had this poem:


May those who love us, love us.

And those that don’t love us,

May God turn their hearts.

And if He doesn’t turn their hearts,

May He turn their ankles

So we’ll know them by their limping.

My great grandparents John and Mary McGown came to this country during the Irish potato famine and settled out the current State Route 650. He had a coalmine until one day the workers stood around and refused to work.

They demanded a pay increase or they wouldn’t work. John McGown turned and went to the opening of the mine and shut it down. He cleared some land and became a farmer.

Man, how I wish I could have met him. It certainly explains some of my personality.

It is that kind of fighting spirit and attitude that led to the nickname of the Notre Dame athletic teams.

There are several stories regarding how Notre Dame got its nickname.

One comes from an 1887 game against Northwestern in which Notre Dame led 5-0 at the half in Evansville, Ill., and Wildcat fans began to chant, “Kill the Fighting Irish” when they came out for the second half.

There was a lot of anti-Irish and anti-Catholic sentiments in America. The Irish were the worst treated people in this country’s history when they arrived on the east coast. They were not allowed in restaurants, hotels and many business. The only jobs they could get were the hardest physical labor jobs.

They were called “Micks,” a derogatory term derived from many Irishmen with names beginning with the “Mc” spelling.

Another story had Notre Dame trailing Michigan in a 1909 game.

Quarterback John Murphy yelled at his teammates — who happened to have names like Dolan, Kelly, Glen, Duffy and Ryan — “What’s the batter with you guys? You’re all Irish and you’re not fighting worth a lick.”

Notre Dame came back to win the game and the press — after overhearing the remark — reported the game as a victory for the “Fighting Irish.”

The most accepted story was the press coined the name for their “never say die” fighting spirit, their Irish qualities of grit, determination and tenacity, and overcoming the abusive taunting directed at the athletes from the small, private, Catholic school.

In the 1940s, the FBI uncovered a plot by the Ku Klux Klan to blow up Notre Dame Stadium during a football game.

And you think fans hate the Irish in today’s world?

But whatever Irish blood or lack of, it doesn’t matter today. It’s okay to shout out “Top of the morn,” “Erin go brah,” or “Faith and begorrah!” Tomorrow you can go back to your real lineage.

I’m going to stick with my Irish ancestry.


Jim Walker is sports editor of The Ironton Tribune.