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First, they came for the Indian…

Letter to the Editor | Thursday, March 30, 2006

I guess it was inevitable that the leprechaun mascot of Notre Dame would be deemed offensive to someone sooner or later. While Howley can speak about the indignity endured by the Irish who are portrayed as Quiet Man cast members by the tourist board, I can speak about the significance of the Fighting Irish brand to Americans of Irish ancestry.

First, it is important to remember that a sport mascot is chosen for the positive characteristics that the athletes are called upon to emulate. Indians are brave and fierce and strong. They represent the warrior spirit that athletes carry into their competitions. No school chose an Indian to be disrespectful.

While a leprechaun is a mythical creature, he is pugnacious and clever, fearless and sly. Thomas Nast’s nineteenth century cartoons depicted the Irish immigrant as an ape-like creature and much of America’s opportunity was out of reach for the sorry lot of us. How fitting that the University of Notre Dame, as it welcomed the shunned Catholics, would take the sting out of this ugly caricature and adopt it as their leprechaun mascot. Fighting is a good thing to master if you are heading out to challenge an opponent. Not drunken brawling, but a spirited struggle to overcome obstacles.

The leprechaun of Notre Dame is an American symbol, not an Irish one. Americans who were raised by Irish immigrants take pride in the unprecidented dominance of Notre Dame in so many areas. It’s an elite institution with a blue-collar pedigree. A meritocracy. The lantern-jawed leprechaun with his raised fists is the perfect mascot.

Mary Dudasikoutside observerMarch 27