Irish American with American flag and three-leaf clover

Hatin' on Henry

"BOYCOTT LE CHEAT!" goes up the cry from Sean O'Shea of Irish Central. Henry wronged Ireland in Paris those many months ago, and so the reasonable response is to actively avoid the Red Bulls and their new signing.

Because that'll teach them to sign a world class player who raises their profile off the field and helps them on it.

Forget the legitimacy of the reasons for a boycott of Henry and the Red Bulls from a purely sports standpoint; what interests me, as a product of the Irish diaspora myself (though I'm certainly not entirely Irish), is why Irish-Americans should feel strongly enough about Henry's handball to hold a grudge on American soil.

As a nation of immigrants, most of us have ancestors who came to the United States from somewhere else. Those of us beyond a few generations removed from the voyages that brought our families here will often latch onto the culture of the motherland; as a personal example, at various points in my life I've been known to explore all things Irish in an attempt to identify with something other than just my American-ness. I find this to be fairly natural.

Irish-Americans do it, Italian-Americans do it, Polish-Americans do it, people of Greek, English, Scottish, French, German, African and any other origin you can name do it. We're Americans, but also hyphenated Americans in many cases; our cultural pride is split between who we are and who our ancestors were. In soccer terms, this is the most prevalent reason people adopt a national team other than the US, or have a "second" side for which they cheer. Again, this is completely natural.

But, assuming O'Shea is speaking to Irish-Americans born and raised in the US (which it would seem to me he is), how far should this go? I've documented my disappointment with Americans who forsake the USMNT for another, so without rehashing that discussion, I simply wonder why Henry's actions, as deplorable as they were, would justify turning one's back on MLS in New York. What's there to be gained? How would such a thing not make Irish-Americans seem petty and misguided?

I wonder what the Irish, meaning those that were born and raised in Ireland, would make of O'Shea's suggestion. I think more than a few would be confused why an event involving a national team other than the Irish-Americans' "own" (meaning the US of course) would prompt a boycott of a club team. Henry-as-the-devil is pointless casting, the potential boycott an ugly example of Americans attempting to prove their ancestral worth ("Irish-ness" in this case) through misplaced "commiseration" with their old country brethren.

I'll admit that's harsh judgement, and entirely too broadly painted, but it's hard not to see as an element.

Because it's relevant, I leave you with the following video. Please take it in the spirit intended, realize it's slightly anachronistic, an enjoy the sound of The Duke's voice.

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