Thursday, March 15, 2012
What did you say?
Brian Boyd, I have a bone to pick with you.
For those of you who listen NPR, you may have heard Robert Segal and Melissa Block interview Boyd, a writer for the Dublin Times, on the afternoon program, “All Things Considered.” The program addressed Nike’s release of a new shoe called “The Black and Tan,” and the controversy surrounding it.
Apparently, the original intent was for the shoe - which features the colors black and tan - to be a nod to the drink “Black and Tan,” which is a combination of a dark stout, like Guinness and an ale such as Harp. In fact, inside the shoe, there’s an image of a pint of beer.
Anyhoo, Nike has released the shoe around St. Patrick’s Day. But, the shoe’s name does not sit well abroad with my Irish brethren. And here’s why: Black and Tan was the name of a contigent of the British army who committed horrible acts against the Irish in the 1920s. They were sent to Ireland to quell an uprising, but massacred many innocent people in the process. In the eyes of the Irish, the name of this shoe would be akin to calling it the Nike Nazi or Nike Taliban.
Nike has since issued an apology, although I haven’t heard of plans to scrap the shoe or call it something else.
So, back to the interview. As an Irish American who has visited Ireland, I enjoy the opportunity to hear interviews with Irish writers, poets, artists, journalists and so on. But, Mr. Boyd is a jerk. Here’s a portion of the interview:
ROBERT SIEGEL: I talked today with Brian Boyd of The Irish Times newspaper, and he explained.
BRIAN BOYD: It has certain historical associations. The Black and Tans were a ruthless auxiliary force of the British army before we became independent in the 1920s. They were responsible for wide-scale massacres, butchering of people. You would not - we don't even - for example, in the U.S. you may go into a bar and ask for a drink called a Black and Tan.
SIEGEL: And that would be - I'm not saying this from great personal familiarity - that would be a half of a black beer, like a Guinness, and a half of a pale ale with it. But you wouldn't call it that in Ireland?
BOYD: No, we'd use different terms. And in fact, we wouldn't really dilute our Guinness over here. It's not really the done thing to do.
Me: False! You're so full of it.
MELISSA BLOCK: Now, Nike has released a statement saying: We apologize, no offense was intended. At the same time, Nike says the sneaker has been, quote, unofficially named by some as the Black and Tan.
SIEGEL: That said, if you look inside the shoe - as we have done with online photos - you see an image of a pint of beer with two colors, black and tan.
BLOCK: Brian Boyd of The Irish Times has reported on some outrage over the shoe. But really, he says, it's not about a shoe. It's about a holiday.
BOYD: It's how the Americans view Saint Patrick's Day and view Irish culture and history. And it's the very fact that some people are saying that these are beer-themed sneakers, that the only way to celebrate a national holiday of a country with a very rich culture and a very rich history and literature, et cetera, is to pour massive amounts of alcohol down your body.
It's how the American treat St. Patrick's Day. So we're using this story to say, look, it's the silly Americans, stupid Americans, look what they're doing again. They've got it all wrong.
Me: What the hell??
SIEGEL: Which is, by the way, a default mode for journalism across the pond.
BLOCK: But still, it seems Nike did not have its smartest moment with the Black and Tan shoe.
Mr. Boyd, where do you think the concept of drinking on St. Patrick's Day in America came from? You do realize that millions - MILLIONS - of Irish emmigrated to America in the mid-to-late 1800s? (Including my own family.) Clearly, those folks brought some traditions with them. Many in a bottle.
Now, I'm not calling the Irish drunks. But, let's not pretend that in Ireland, and England (and my hubby can attest to this during his time studying in England), drinking is not a sport. Of course, this can be said about many parts of the world.
So, stop with the asinine "stupid American" comments. Sounds like somebody needs a drink.
Friends, wear your green with pride this weekend. I shall toast Mr. Boyd and tell him to kiss my Blarney Stone. :)
Images from ifinecookie.com and beembee.com