First Alex Collins gets famous for Irish dancing, Liam McHugh gets Super Bowl preshow gig, and then there's the Philly Eagles who'll have to show Tom Brady a whole love of "Bucko."
Irish dancing Alex Collins
Perhaps you’ve seen the rousing video of National Football League player Alex Collins, a running back for the Baltimore Ravens, doing nifty Irish dance moves on the TV show Most Valuable Performer.
The show focuses on professional football players who have hidden off-the-field talents -- and somehow Collins didn’t win. What talent could a professional football player have that could possibly be more “hidden” (not to mention unlikely), than Irish dancing?
Opera singing, it turns out! Collins’ teammate, kicker Justin Tucker, won the contest, wowing audiences with his best Pavarotti imitation.
Anyway, that most American of overblown spectacles, the Super Bowl, is going down this Sunday, and it features two great, historically Irish cities. The Irish already won a preliminary victory of sorts last week, at least off the field.
A media controversy broke out when it was revealed that legendary sports broadcaster Bob Costas was conspicuously left off the Super Bowl’s broadcasting team. Some speculated that Costas was being punished for making controversial comments about the NFL’s policies related to concussions and other head injuries. Costas ended up saying the decision was “mutually agreeable.”
Either way, replacing Costas on the Super Bowl’s pre-game show is Long Island native and Irish American Liam McHugh. McHugh grew up in Williston Park, attended Herricks High School, and in recent years has served as a broadcaster for the National Hockey League as well as -- fittingly enough -- the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame.
As for the Super Bowl game itself -- and any Irish Americans wondering which side to root for -- Notre Dame actually serves as a useful symbol. The whole image of scrappy battling leprechauns is rooted in Irish Americans and their historic position as underdogs in this country. There was a day when folks could proudly root for Notre Dame and still feel like they were pulling for the little guy.
If that appeals to you, then you’ve simply got to root for the Philadelphia Eagles in the Super Bowl. Not only are they classic underdogs, but staring at them from across the field are the mighty New England Patriots, a dynasty as powerful as there has ever been in any sport.
And that includes the mighty Fighting Irish of Notre Dame.
Not a few Irish Americans living in and around the Boston area revel in the Patriots’ dominance, personified, of course, in their princely quarterback Tom Brady, whose ancestors hail from Cavan and Cork.
As with the Irish themselves, given all of their American success, it’s easy to forget that Brady himself was once an underdog. Before appearing in all of those Super Bowls (this Sunday will be Brady’s eighth), Brady was a mere back-up quarterback and, famously, was not drafted until 198 other players were picked by NFL teams.
But that was then.
So, if you’re one of those triumphalist Irish Americans who don’t really give a fig about history (or more accurately, pick and choose aspects of the past that fit your winning image), well, you’ll probably be rooting for the Pats.
Truth be told, there’s a reason the Eagles are underdogs. If they are to have any chance at all against the Patriots, they will have to harass the heck out of Brady with rough defense. In short, they will have to channel the ghost of Francis Joseph Kilroy, who was forever known as “Bucko.”
A Philly-born Irishman, Bucko Kilroy became a bruising defender for the great championship Eagles teams of the late 1940s, and was famous for his tough treatment of opposing quarterbacks.
Unless the Eagles show Brady a whole lot of Bucko, their best shot at winning anything will probably involve opera or Irish dancing.