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Why do they call them The Fighting Irish?

“Whiskey in the Jar,” a song about getting drunk, getting laid, and armed conflict

A passenger on the upper deck wore a T-shirt that read “Irish Lives Matter.”
A passenger on the upper deck wore a T-shirt that read “Irish Lives Matter.”

San Diego State University has appointed a task force to make a recommendation about whether or not to keep Monty Montezuma, the school’s Aztec warrior mascot. As of this writing, there has been no corresponding move by the University of Notre Dame to consider ditching the Hibernian brawler who represents the Fighting Irish of that august institution. I was late to the 2018 San Diego Saint Patrick’s Day Parade, but even a few minutes at the corner of Fifth and Upas was enough to suggest a reason why. My people do tend to scrap.

First up, the La Jolla High School Marching Vikings, waving green flags emblazoned with golden harps and bearing the motto Erin Go Bragh. But their black and red banner shows a sailing ship and a skull wearing a horned helmet. What’s that they’re playing? “Whiskey in the Jar,” a song about getting drunk, getting laid, and armed conflict. Well, the Vikings would know; they spent a couple of hundred years warring and er, mingling with the Irish, from about 800-1000 AD.

After that came fights with the English, starting around 1170 and stopping in…well, the peace has held for about 20 years now, yes? And here we have a bright red double-decker beauty from the British Bus Co, cruising along like The Troubles never happened. Not far behind it march the stern and weathered remnants of the Scottish American Military Society in their kilts. Remember when Robert the Bruce’s brother Edward invaded Ireland in 1315 and got himself declared king? He got himself cut into four pieces not long after, but these things happen.

Oh look, it’s this year’s Italian-American Civic Association princess, perched atop a silver Mustang convertible. The Italians got The Godfather, but the Irish mob was here first, and we won the New York City mob war, at least until the Genoveses took out Mickey Spillane. And speaking of New York City, it was good to see an African-American leaning out the window of the low-rider Statutory Grape, basking in cheers and applause as he closed out the parade. The draft riots of 1863 saw an awful lot of Irish-on-Black violence.

Statutory Grape brought the big finish and got the big applause.

Still, all that’s in the past. Now, we’ve got this parade, “an invitation to all San Diego to be Irish with us for the day,” in the words of founder James Foley. The biggest donation to this year’s event comes from the Friendly Sons of Saint Patrick: over $25,000, raised through its Smilin’ Irishman contest. (The Fighting who, now?) Put on a $60 shamrock suit from Target, maybe a hat that reads “I’m not Irish, but I drink like one,” and head into Balboa Park for a pint.

Or maybe don’t: the Chinelos de Morelos were easily the most spectacular spectacle I beheld on March 17th, and their masks, costumes, and dance were developed as a mockery of European culture. The banner at their forefront advertised Sidral Mundet, a Mexican apple soda. The slogan: “I’m not Irish; drink me anyway.”

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A passenger on the upper deck wore a T-shirt that read “Irish Lives Matter.”
A passenger on the upper deck wore a T-shirt that read “Irish Lives Matter.”

San Diego State University has appointed a task force to make a recommendation about whether or not to keep Monty Montezuma, the school’s Aztec warrior mascot. As of this writing, there has been no corresponding move by the University of Notre Dame to consider ditching the Hibernian brawler who represents the Fighting Irish of that august institution. I was late to the 2018 San Diego Saint Patrick’s Day Parade, but even a few minutes at the corner of Fifth and Upas was enough to suggest a reason why. My people do tend to scrap.

First up, the La Jolla High School Marching Vikings, waving green flags emblazoned with golden harps and bearing the motto Erin Go Bragh. But their black and red banner shows a sailing ship and a skull wearing a horned helmet. What’s that they’re playing? “Whiskey in the Jar,” a song about getting drunk, getting laid, and armed conflict. Well, the Vikings would know; they spent a couple of hundred years warring and er, mingling with the Irish, from about 800-1000 AD.

After that came fights with the English, starting around 1170 and stopping in…well, the peace has held for about 20 years now, yes? And here we have a bright red double-decker beauty from the British Bus Co, cruising along like The Troubles never happened. Not far behind it march the stern and weathered remnants of the Scottish American Military Society in their kilts. Remember when Robert the Bruce’s brother Edward invaded Ireland in 1315 and got himself declared king? He got himself cut into four pieces not long after, but these things happen.

Oh look, it’s this year’s Italian-American Civic Association princess, perched atop a silver Mustang convertible. The Italians got The Godfather, but the Irish mob was here first, and we won the New York City mob war, at least until the Genoveses took out Mickey Spillane. And speaking of New York City, it was good to see an African-American leaning out the window of the low-rider Statutory Grape, basking in cheers and applause as he closed out the parade. The draft riots of 1863 saw an awful lot of Irish-on-Black violence.

Statutory Grape brought the big finish and got the big applause.

Still, all that’s in the past. Now, we’ve got this parade, “an invitation to all San Diego to be Irish with us for the day,” in the words of founder James Foley. The biggest donation to this year’s event comes from the Friendly Sons of Saint Patrick: over $25,000, raised through its Smilin’ Irishman contest. (The Fighting who, now?) Put on a $60 shamrock suit from Target, maybe a hat that reads “I’m not Irish, but I drink like one,” and head into Balboa Park for a pint.

Or maybe don’t: the Chinelos de Morelos were easily the most spectacular spectacle I beheld on March 17th, and their masks, costumes, and dance were developed as a mockery of European culture. The banner at their forefront advertised Sidral Mundet, a Mexican apple soda. The slogan: “I’m not Irish; drink me anyway.”

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