By the Book: It’s Final Four and Emerald Isle Month

03/20/2016 9:00 AM |

Breaks

Many people use the term March Madness and I’m never sure whether they’re referring to the NCAA basketball tournament or the excitement brought forth by St. Patrick’s Day, with its parades and general good will. We were in Savannah and were amazed at the size of its parade. We soon learned that it’s the second biggest one in America. In Georgia. Who knew?

One hundred years ago, in 1916, Easter Sunday fell on April 23. That morning the Irish rebels stormed Dublin’s General Post Office and took possession. The English counterattacked immediately, and the fighting was fierce — the battle for Irish independence had begun. Early the next morning, Commandant-General P. H. Pearse proclaimed the birth of the Irish Republic; the mayhem didn’t cease until 1921.

Yeats wrote: “Too long a sacrifice can make a stone of the heart … I write it out in a verse / MacDonagh and McBride / And Connolly and Pearse / Now and in time to be / wherever green is worn / are changed, changed utterly / a terrible beauty is born.”

There have been many Irish authors over the years. Their books aren’t necessarily about Ireland, or even Irish people, but all seem to have that lilt, that careful regard for the possibilities the English language offers.

Colm Toibin’s charming ‘Brooklyn’ became a movie and an Academy Award nominee, Anna Quindlen (‘One True Thing’) and Alice McDermott (‘Charming Billy’) have a gift of portraying normal people in a way that touches us, that feels familiar. Pete Hamill has the gift, as does Colum McCann. And we’re not only talking about upright citizens — the nasty characters in George V. Higgins’ ‘The Friends of Eddie Coyle’ are wonderfully nasty, as are the bad guys in Dennis Lehane’s ‘Mystic River.’ Irish authors bring you in and lure you on.

I couldn’t find much fiction about basketball, but two good authors showed up: David Halberstam — ‘Breaks of the Game’ and ‘Playing for Keeps’ — and Mike Lupica — ‘Travel Team’ and ‘Hot Hand’ (these two sound suspiciously like teen fiction). There were more than enough “I want to thank my mother …” autobiographies.

While we’re on basketball (which we called underwearball up in the Bronx), here are 12 professional players that might appear in a lineup: James, Jerebko, Wade, Harvoni, Nowitzki, Ajinga, Duncan, Belsomra, Curry, Hezonja, Anthony, Orencia

The thing is, only nine of them are names of NBA players, the other three are oddly named prescriptions that are pervasive on television. Can you spot them — the medications we’re urged to take unless we happen to be pregnant or have a lung or kidney problem, a blood pressure or constipation problem, an ulcer or diabetes problem, a heart or arthritis problem, a chest pain problem or if our belly button has somehow become unbuttoned? I’m dubious, but ask your doctor about Porzingis.

Anyway, I hope you had an upbeat St. Patrick’s Day even if your mother didn’t come from Ireland or if you think Galway Bay is in Cleveland. And a bit of Jameson’s can boost anyone’s day.

Mr. Case, of Southold, is retired from Oxford University Press. He can be reached at [email protected]

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