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An Irish vacation

To say I needed some time off would be like saying football is kind of a big deal in McDuffie County. It was obvious. Enter the once-every-two-years family vacation.

We had planned and saved for this trip to Ireland for about a year, and it couldn't have come at a better time. My parents, my sister, my wife and I all traveled to the Emerald Isle for two weeks. I think we've returned with refreshed perspectives.

There were green pastures, stone walls, castles, medieval ruins, wonderful music, exotic sports and quaint cities with welcoming people. It was enough to make me want to stay.

There is so much history in a place like that. We only have about three hundred years of history telling us what it means to be an American. And our struggle for independence was so easy compared to Ireland.

The Irish people fought for 700 years before becoming an independent state. And even then they weren't unified. Northern Ireland still remains under British control to this day. Issues dealing with that still boil under the surface.

But the fight for sovereignty is not even the beginning. The Celts, who still permeate the culture, arrived in Ireland thousands of years ago. The Irish have such a rich history that we can't even touch in America.

Needless to say, the trip did me some good. It took the blinders off and helped me to remember that there are things happening outside of my small world. The trip especially helped me to see that some of the things we get up tight about these days are idiotic. People in the past have had it much worse.

Millions of people died or left Ireland for America during the Great Famine of the 1840s. The British government has only within the last few years apologized to the Irish for not doing something to help combat that disaster.

But it wasn't all history, tragedy and art on the trip. I was able to have some fun. Probably the most memorable event of the trip for a sports fan like me was the Sunday afternoon excursion to Croke Parke in Dublin.

I witnessed a hurling match between Wexford and Kilkenny. Hurling is a combination of every sport you can think of. There are elements of baseball, football, hockey, soccer, and even basketball in this ancient sport. It makes the claim of being the fastest field sport in the world, and it doesn't disappoint.

There were more than 27,000 people present for the game in which none of the players were paid a dime. They just play because they love to, and because they want to bring the trophy home for their county.

That kind of devotion is unheard of in America. We pay our athletes millions of dollars and they still whine about having to drive a two-year-old Ferrari because they think they don't make enough.

All in all, this was a needed vacation from the troubles at home. I would just like to report that I am no longer jetlagged, but it will take a long time to recover from the culture shock of being back in the U.S.A.

Web posted on Thursday, July 1, 2004

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