Smyth, famous for his “onion bag” metaphor during his ESPN soccer commentaries, is ready to bag this parade safely into the history books. But not before he savors every minute.
“I don’t mind if it snows, as long as it isn’t windy because that would play havoc with my hair,” quipped the Knockbridge, County Louth native in a phone interview this week.
And just in case people don’t know him on sight he had a quick follow up.
“My barber charges me twenty dollars. Three for the haircut and seventeen to find the hair,” he said.
Smyth’s ease with words mirrors his ease with the role that he had been granted to play on St. Patrick’s Day.
Asked if he was ready to lead the world’s biggest celebration of St. Patrick, Smyth came back with a striker-speed volley.
“I was born ready,” he said.
Smyth said he had been overwhelmed in recent weeks by what he described as the “overwhelming” outpouring of affection and support for his leadership of the 247th parade.
“It has really caught me by surprise,” he said.
What won’t catch him by surprise is any TV reporter on the avenue. Smyth himself has been a parade commentator for some years on WNBC.
This year his wife Treasa will be filling in for her husband. Smyth reckons her Cork accent will be a big hit with viewers.
Smyth said that if he could be granted one wish on his big day it would be that the undocumented Irish would benefit from some kind of immigration reform passed by Congress.
Smyth will lead a parade that, compared to some in the past few years, is relatively free of controversy.
The issue of gay marchers participating as groups with their own banners continues and there will be a protest on Fifth Avenue just a little north of St. Patrick’s Cathedral.
City Council Speaker Christine Quinn will again stay away from the parade out of sympathy with the gay protesters.
A row over the place in the line of march of the New York Fire Department Emerald Society pipes and drums as well as the ranks of firefighters walking behind them has been settled and the firefighters will return to their usual slot on Monday.
One question mark at press time concerned the presence or otherwise at the parade of embattled New York Governor Eliot Spitzer.
A place in St. Patrick’s Cathedral for the pre-parade Mass is always reserved for the governor and the state’s top politician usually marches at the head of the New York State Police contingent.
Parade chairman John Dunleavy said that the seat in the cathedral would be kept free but he was in the dark as to what might actually happen with regard to the governor’s participation or otherwise.
Meanwhile, Tommy Smyth is dusting off his marching shoes, an old familiar and comfortable pair.
“I’ll be marching up the avenue breaking every red light. There will be 9,000 cops behind me. Not one of them will catch me, or give me a ticket,” he said with a laugh.