The Name of the Rose

Published Wednesday, 09 October 2013
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If Shakespeare were around today I'm sure he'd be Tweeting furiously.

Using 140 characters to sum up the day's events - the historic and the banal.

But a topic that appears trifling to some may be of crucial importance to others.

Sport so often elevates the trivial to undeserved prominence. Now, two sports teams separated by thousands of miles find themselves threatened by the weight of history and protest.

Tottenham Hotspur, a football club famously supported by many within London's Jewish community, was often abused in the past by rival fans who derided Spurs supporters as "Yids".

Now many Tottenham fans have fought back by trying to reclaim that abusive word for their very own. They go to matches and proudly chant that they are the "Yid Army".

Across the Atlantic and in another national capital, an American Football team finds itself the subject of national debate.

The Washington Redskins take their name from an outmoded and dated reference to Native Americans.

The Redskins' badge features a caricature profile "an Indian".

The club is coming under pressure to change its name. Some Native Americans condemn it as a racial slur.

Even Barack Obama has joined the debate. The President says he'd consider changing the Redskins' name if he were the team owner.

Two teams - an ocean between apart - with fans agonizing over names, nicknames, epithets, chants and history.

At times like this, I often reach for the Bard of Avon for guidance and advice. Where would Shakespeare stand on this issue?

In 'Romeo and Juliet' his tragic heroine asks:

"What's in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet."

But history teaches us that the sweetness of one perfume may be a sickly and sickening aroma to other noses.

In 21st century Northern Ireland we struggle with names and symbols. They are a source of dissent, division and even violence.

Perhaps, though, we ought to take comfort that across the world others find their current identities weighed down by the baggage of history.

At least we're not alone.

© UTV News
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Mark McFadden
Mark McFadden

Mark McFadden is a world-award winning journalist based in the north West.

Known for his expertise on Bloody Sunday and the Saville Inquiry, he was the only reporter to cover the Inquiry from inception to completion.

In his spare time Mark is a keen guitarist and golfer (when the weather allows).

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