Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Where did the pipe go?

I make no bones about the fact that I am a Notre Dame Fan.

I grew up in Northern Indiana watching the Irish play, but truly became a fan in Europe – where one of the few tastes of home was AFN carrying all ND Home Games.  At times, that was the football we got.

Just the other night, as I was watching the Irish upset #1 Syracuse, something popped into my mind – whatever happened to the pipe the Leprechaun used to smoke?

originalYou see, the late artist Ted Drake  was commissioned back in 1964 to create a logo to represent the Fighting Irish Leprechaun of Notre Dame.  Prior to this, the mascot of the university was a the Irish terrier Clashmore Mike.

For a mere $50, he created what was to go on to be one the most recognizable and memorable logos of all time.  A logo that definitely show the use of a traditional stemmed clay pipe.  You can see the original at the Eck Visitor Center.



Initially used on the 1964 football pocket cover, the logo was then placed on football programs and eventually appeared on the cover of Time magazine (along with coach Ara Parseghian) in  November 1964 (his first year at Notre Dame), still with the aforementioned pipe.

Mr. Drake even did another watercolor, this time with the Leprechaun striking the classic Heisman pose – again  with pipe.  This, by the way, is one of my favorite depictions and if anyone knows where I can get a print, I would really appreciate it.


As we go into 1973, the Leprechaun is still enjoying his pipe as he graces the National Championship Commemorative Bottle by 7-Up.  As a kid (I was 5 at the time) I remember this bottle being everywhere around Indiana, and they can still be found on Ebay and at swap meets/garage sales to this day.  Bottle7upnotredame

A 2nd bottle was done in 1978, again for a National Championship, but this only had a gold football player with an interlocking ND on his jersey (not very accurate).

Some time between 1973 and today, the logo deviated from the original piece: dropping the red hair, ruddy complexion and (sadly) the pipe.  One has to wonder if this was done at the beginning of the current era of political correctness – where nobody wants to expose children to any form of smoking.  It also could be tied the Public Health Cigarette Smoking Act of of 1970 – an act that interestingly did not begin to officially take effect until January 2 1971 – per a compromise to allow broadcasters to air cigarette commercials during the telecasts of New Year’s Day Bowl Games.


Of course, traditionalists need to have no fear – The pipe does return in a recent painting entitled “The Original Fighting Irish” by former Notre Dame lacrosse player Revere La Noue.

Original Fighting Irish

This excellent painting has become so popular, that current Irish Coach Brian Kelly had a print placed near his office and has said -

“You don't see faces.  You see blue-collar. You see a bit of a swagger. You see toughness. Growing up as an Irish Catholic in Boston, that's what I remember Notre Dame being. That's been one of our goals every day -- to get that fight back in the Fighting Irish. It's good because that's who I am anyway."

Prints can be purchased at www.FightingIrishGallery.com, including individual pieces of our smoking man….who now has a name - Quinn

Hopefully Notre Dame will get back to those days of being the gritty, hard nosed, blue-collar teams of my youth.  I think they are making progress and soon we will see that reemergence.

While I doubt that we will see a return of the pipe (at least in an official capacity), perhaps Notre Dame is trying to at least get back into the tough image with the return of the Shillelagh (with my son).


If you have more information regarding the pipe’s removal, please feel free to email me at ed@smokesandbooze.com

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