St. Patrick's Day is on the horizon, meaning that soon, a huge number of people will feel compelled to immerse themselves in what they fervently believe is a great example of the Irish culture.
Unfortunately, this usually involves green beer, green beads and consuming a sufficient amount of the first in order to be willing to do stupid things to get the second. Hey, I was in college once, too.
But now that we're grown-up professionals working in fitness and/or athletics and recreation, it's time we counteract this phenomenon. Specifically, it's time we try to raise awareness in the college-age demographic (and dare I say, a younger one as well) that true Irish traditions don't mean pub crawls.
Here in Baltimore, the Gaelic Athletic Association, or GAA, greets March with its "Irish Sports 101" clinic. It's a free public event that promotes two traditional Irish sports: Gaelic football and hurling/camogie. (Check the GAA's website for rules, photos and descriptions of each).
The GAA is devoted to raising the awareness of traditional Gaelic games, and (something that should be particularly important to ersatz St. Patrick's Day partygoers) providing a healthy social outlet at the same time. It oversees travel teams that compete against others around the country, but perhaps more important, it offers local coed league play every week.
A free clinic like those held by the GAA is a great way to bring people out of hibernation and get them active at the start of the spring sports season. It's also a nice social gathering. Because neither Gaelic football nor hurling/camogie (pictured) has the physical contact of American football, trying them isn't intimidating.
And let's face it: Irish sports have a serious wow factor. People can brag that they spent their afternoon working out by playing something their friends have never heard of.
The North American GAA is responsible for Gaelic games in most of the United States - a good place to start if you're checking to see whether or not there's a GAA in your area. If not, see what else you can find through a local heritage society.
If you can get some people away from the party scene and into sports, Irish eyes certainly will be smiling.