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And they came for the leprechaun, too

By Rich Manieri 

I’m right infrequently enough that I like to point it out when it happens. This time, I wasn’t only right. I was downright prophetic.

A few weeks ago, in a column about “cancel culture,” I touched on the elimination of certain team mascots as a capitulation to toxic wokeism. I jokingly mentioned that someone ought to take a look at the Notre Dame leprechaun. Turns out, someone did. Poor little fella.

Not that anyone listens to me, of course. Plus, if there’s one thing we know about members of the woke left it’s that they have no sense of humor. So, either they took me seriously and decided to grab their proverbial pitchforks and descend – virtually, of course – on South Bend, or more likely, they concluded, on their own, that the leprechaun should be planted in a shallow grave underneath the nearest rainbow.

In a study of mascots – not a joke – Quality Logo Products ranked Notre Dame’s Fighting Irish leprechaun, bless his little green drawers, the fourth-most offensive college mascot in the nation. Fourth is not good, at least not out of 128 Division I mascots. The top three offenders all had some sort of Native American theme. The poll, which had appeared on Quality Logo’s website, has since been taken down.

The Irish news website has now taken out its shillelagh to have a go at the leprechaun. Niall O’Dowd writes, “Let’s face it, the fighting Irish leprechaun hardly reflects well on the Irish no more than the dreadful term “Redskins” reflected on American Indians.”

As for what should happen to the leprechaun, O’Dowd continues, “He needs to retire to Gloca Morra where there’s a twinkle in every eye and a begob and begorrah on everyone’s lips and a drink in every hand served by a bosomy barmaid who sings “Toor a Loora Loora” on demand.

But it seems the leprechaun isn’t all that keen to walk off into the Emerald Isle sunset just yet. Notre Dame has officially declared this whole affair, “Malarkey!”

“In both the upraised fists of the leprechaun mascot and the use of the word ‘fighting,’ the intent is to recognize the determination of the Irish people and, symbolically, the university’s athletes,” the university said in a statement.

Hopefully, this sets the record straight for those who incorrectly assumed the leprechaun is making fists because he had one too many Kilkenny Cream Ale’s and went looking for trouble.

If you’re still not convinced, you can take it up with the leprechaun himself. He has his own Twitter account.

Kudos to Notre Dame and its supporters for not caving. I, while not a Notre Dame fame, happen to love leprechauns, even the pugnacious ones, and was only persuaded recently that they aren’t real. I’m still not convinced.

Not only did the leprechaun and Fighting Irish faithful refuse to give in, they apparently put the fear of the Almighty into the good folks – or just folks – at Quality Logo Products, who reposted the survey minus the “most offensive” category. And it gets a little sillier, if that’s possible. The company posted its survey methodology.

“The study participants were 55.4% male, 43.6 female, and 1% non-binary. They ranged in age from 18-79, with a median age of 36. In terms of sexual orientation, 85.1% identified as heterosexual, 2.8% as gay or lesbian, 10.9% as bisexual and the remaining 1.1% preferred not to say.”

This is important information because when analyzing any survey about mascots, my first question is always, how many bisexuals were polled?

We should just be glad that the leprechaun has stood up to the haters. He realizes that it never ends with just leprechauns. It’s only a matter of time before they come for Pistol Pete, the Demon Deacon and Purdue Pete, no relation to Pistol. What then? Do we really want to live in a world where Willie the Wildcat and Sammy the Spartan live in constant fear of exile or worse?

“No!” I say. Stand firm, all of you big-headed and sometimes unrecognizable mascots. Keep fighting the good fight, Stanford Tree and Western Kentucky’s Big Red, who looks suspiciously like McDonald’s Grimace. We have your back, or your front. It’s hard to tell the difference.

Nevertheless, for inspiration, look to the leprechaun, while you still can.

Rich Manieri is a Philadelphia-born journalist and author. He is currently a professor of journalism at Asbury University in Kentucky.

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