And I Thought I Understood. This Will Be Different.
I have a strict rule with religion and politics. I don’t like to discuss or comment on either for many reasons. So I will stay the course explaining the lesson of real life we experienced in Northern Ireland. Sure, I was aware of the conflict as more than often me and my father watched Walter Cronkite or John Chancellor on the nightly news. Sure I asked many questions about the conflict, the street fighting and the bombings. Sure, I grew up with the awareness of the conflict but it was never top of mind as I roamed the parks and streets of Miami. After a couple of days in Dublin, a wonderful, thriving city full of life (and too many pubs), the train north put us in Belfast. A short walk to our hotel in the city center and then off to explore…..and as theme goes ” a two-hour tour”. We decided to see Belfast using the Black Cab tour – basically a driver and his taxi. Out of the car comes a 6’1″ exact combination of Sean Bean, Jason Statham, and Vinnie Jones. He has us sit in the car, still parked in front of the hotel, and for 10 minutes goes on to tell us exactly who he is, what he thinks, and his POV on Northern Ireland and it’s history of terror. He obviously has our full and undivided attention as he drives and explains that the city of Belfast is defined by Falls Road on the Catholic side and Shankill Road on the Protestant side. He asks us many times to get out to look at the war murals, the head office of Sinn Fein, the Irish Republic Army’s (IRA) political arm, and the so-called IRA museum, where we look through documents, posters, and photos as well as a myriad of weapons used in the conflict. He shows us the wall the still divides the city and the gates that are still closed in the evenings to prevent the separatists from fighting. Then he takes us to Shankill Road on the Protestant side, which he told us he would do though I could tell he wanted nothing to do with the area. We stop at the remains of the Red Lion Pub on Shankill Road where he walks us through simple wall murals that show photos of what was once a pub, it’s patrons, and the three people killed and 30 injured when in November of 1971, an IRA brigade bombed the pub. The reality: our driver was/is an IRA operative, jailed twice and definitely the type of man you don’t make enemies with. I asked him about the existence of the IRA today and he just gave me a look and told me that the IRA will never really go away. The two-hour experience was everything emotional, shocking, historic and sad. Our driver was sincere, tough and one-sided but he did give us the POV of “the other side”. I asked the driver about a real ‘neutral’, no-man’s land within Belfast. He smiled and replied “This is Belfast. There is none.” Background: Around ninety years ago Ireland was split in two after people living there went to war against their British rulers. The south, where Dublin is located, became a separate state, now called the Republic of Ireland. This division between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland led to decades of unrest and violence in Northern Ireland, which remained part of the UK. “The Troubles”, as Northern Ireland’s sectarian strife came to be known, erupted many decades ago, when Catholic Irish nationalists, favoring unification with the Irish Republic to the south, began a violent and terror-filled campaign against Britain and the Loyalist Protestant paramilitaries who supported continued British rule. Ireland, including the North, is lively, beautiful and historic. We visited Howth on the southeast coast, which was charming, beautiful and a great place to spend time away from the busy streets of Dublin. You can’t go wrong visiting Ireland and when in Belfast get a history lesson by taking the Black Cab tour.
This will be not be a 28-3 halftime lead and subsequent debacle. This will not be the the Falcons in Miami’s Super Bowl with their starting safety arrested the night before the game. This will not be the 1991, 1992, 1996 or 1999 Atlanta Braves. This is Atlanta United. This is Arthur Blank, Darren Eales and Gerardo (Tata) Martino. This is the MLS Championship at home with 74,000 fans absolutely going crazy for 90+ minutes. This is a team of warriors. While everyone just ‘loves their style of play’, this team showed us in the NYRB series that they can go to war and fight, and more importantly play a style that may be ugly but wins games. With Tata, Miguel, and possibly Josef departing, as well as players who will not be resigned for next year, this team, made up of players from different backgrounds and nationalities, will come onto the field Saturday night ready to go to war. Portland is a formidable opponent with a rookie coach who has won championships at different levels, but in Mercedes Benz Stadium, under the watchful eye of Arthur Blank and 74,000 supporters, Atlanta United will bring home the silverware. By the way, there WILL be a parade, and Tata better be given a key to the City as he moves on to run the national team of Mexico. I am fired up and will be at the stadium to witness this team going to war to get it done. Unite & Conquer.
Adios and have a Funday Sunday!!!