U.S. football is too slow, too nice for Irish tastes Fans raise their glass, but not to toast the game

November 03, 1996|By Bill Glauber | Bill Glauber,SUN FOREIGN STAFF

DUBLIN, Ireland -- The way Dave Sheaham sees it, American football isn't about to catch on in Ireland.

There are too many huddles. The players are too polite. And get this, it's not a violent enough sport for Sheaham, a Dublin mailman.

"A guy goes down on the field, and you walk away," Sheaham said as he watched Notre Dame pound Navy, 54-27, yesterday. "In Ireland, we'd kick 'em when he's on the ground."

By almost every measure, the Shamrock Classic was a roaring success at Croke Park. Except for one thing. The Irish fans who joined the American-dominated crowd didn't have much of a clue as to what was taking place on the field.

And they really didn't care.

Around here, games such as Gaelic football and hurling are played in less than two hours, not three like American football. And they don't do huddles in Ireland. They run. And when a guy gets his head smacked and starts bleeding, he doesn't go to the sidelines. He gets up and plays some more.

"It's all a bit stop-start, isn't it?" Sheaham said as he stood in a runway and sipped a beer with his friend, Ivor Biggen.

"Wouldn't you call this a bit contrived?" Biggen added. "I think there's a lot more urgency in a Gaelic football game."

Nearby, Peter Kelly and Kevin McGrath were trying to decide if they should drink another beer or go back to their seats and watch the game. They chose the beer.

"We're Irish, so we're supporting Notre Dame," Kelly said. "But we're nonchalant about it. Actually, we're at a total loss as to what is going on."

"It's not making any inroads with us," McGrath added. "It's a TV game, isn't it? To watch a whole match with so many intervals really isn't worth it."

"And what do you have, 100 men a side?" Kelly said. "What kind of money do you pay those men?"

Did the men like anything?

"The cheerleaders," Kelly said. "They're not the Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders, but they'll do."

The biggest noise of the afternoon occurred when the Notre Dame cheerleaders performed in front of the thousands of fans -- mostly Irish -- who stood at the far end of the stadium.

And the Irish fans ignited a few waves at halftime. Even the American fans joined in.

"The entertainment is great, and the atmosphere is really good," said Barbara Corrigan, a stadium worker. "But it's all so confusing. I suppose you have to get used to it."

Alex Murphy, 14, and his brother Andrew, 13, loved what they saw. They even started to decipher some of the rules.

"It's great the way two teams came over here to play," Andrew said. "It really boosts the people. I like this. It's just like rugby."

Pub Date: 11/03/96

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