July 3, 2008 · Updated 12:44 PM
"You never know with Irish folks if they're pulling your leg.The Irish are so practiced at half-truths, told with a twinkle in their eye, that they've turned it into a fine art and coined a term for it: blarney.I can take the liberty to point out this ethnic attribute (and withstand a shillelagh-wielding Dorothy Neil, our resident expert on all things Irish) because I'm full of blarney myself. English is actually Irish. So is Connolly. More on that in a bit.I bring up the issue of blarney because I want to tell the old chestnut about George Gipp, Knute Rockne and the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. It's a story resurrected every football season, and made doubly famous by Ronald Reagan, who played George Gipp in the movie Knute Rockne All American in his pre-presidential days. George Gipp was the undisputed star on the 1920 Notre Dame team. He contracted strep throat that season and his health steadily declined. Coach Rockne visited Gipp hours before he died in the hospital. Gipp's last words (allegedly) were these: I've got to go, Rock. It's alright. I'm not afraid. Some time, Rock, when the team is up against it, when things are wrong and the breaks are beating the boys, tell them to go in there with all they've got and win just one for the Gipper. I don't know where I'll be then, Rock, but I'll know about it, and I'll be happy. Rockne -- a Norwegian who had obviously been spending too much time with the Irish -- told this story to his team years later, before the biggest game of the season. The embellishments are obvious to my Irish eye, but nevertheless it's probably the most famous pep-talk in the history of sports. As those of you who follow the sports pages in the News-Times are probably aware, we've been covering sports by committee this summer. That's worked OK during the summer months. But obviously, with another year of Oak Harbor and Coupeville high school sports looming, we need a full-time sports editor. I'm happy to announce that we've turned to Dennis Connolly for the job. Dennis has been a reporter here at the News-Times for the last year and a half. Conveniently, he's been a sports editor at the Ballard community newspaper in the past, where he covered Ballard High School. Like most fine fellows of Irish heritage, Dennis is a friendly sort. He's well-suited for the sports job. You'll see him out in the community. He's very approachable. You can reach him at email@example.com or by phone at 675-6611.Now, to the pep talk part ... A recent letter to the editor took the News-Times to task for only printing the information I provided and not doing enough original sports coverage about youth athletics. We're guilty. Here is the truth about covering sports at a community newspaper: We need your help. Our staff focuses on varsity high school sports, because a) most young athletes eventually play at that level, and get their day in the sun, and b) unlike daily papers, we do not have a staff big enough to cover it all. We cover a lot of events, but we rely on your input to fully reflect our community in the pages of this paper. This is your paper. We're on the same team. Our door (and e-mail and phone line) is open, because we can't do it without you. And that's no blarney. Mike Page-English is editor of the News-Times. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org"