Sport has delivered few more life affirming images than that of Tyson Fury belting out 'American Pie' in the early hours of this morning last week after beating Deontay Wilder in their world heavyweight title fight.
Fury had just produced one of the finest boxing performances in decades, yet he seemed as carefree and relaxed as a man answering a noble call to do his karaoke duty at some family function. Outside the ring the spectators were singing along. Inside the ring it was a sea of smiles. And out in TV land we were smiling too.
It was a great moment but there was a more significant one just before Fury did a better job on Don McLean's classic than Madonna managed. Unprompted by the interviewer he declared, "I just want to say, big shout to Deontay Wilder. He came here tonight, he manned up, he really did show the heart of a champion. I hit him with a clear right hand and dropped him and he got up and battled into round seven. He is a warrior, he will be back and he will be a champion again."
In an era when pre-fight trash talk is frequently followed by the victor rubbing defeat in the face of the vanquished, these were generous words which represented something more than a rote acknowledgment of an opponent's contribution. Fury showed real humanity at a moment when he might have thought only of himself. His country should be proud of him.
But which country? Because the somewhat muted Irish response to Fury's victory is the sporting dog that didn't bark in the night. This is, after all, a country unrivalled in its eagerness to claim a share in all kinds of success on the basis of ancestry.
We loved to point out the Irish roots of The Pogues, Oasis, The Smiths, Boy George and Kate Bush. Lately we've been fawning all over Steve Coogan. When Declan Rice, who qualified for Ireland by virtue of a grandparent, jumped ship to England there was many a chin rubbing meditation on his dual heritage. Ronald Reagan, Muhammad Ali, John F Kennedy and sundry other Yanks have been publicly feted on the back of Irish connections which were sometimes on the tenuous side.
So where's the love for Tyson Fury? With a father from Tuam and a mother from Belfast, his claim to Irishness is obvious on ancestral grounds alone. But there's more to it than that. He boxed for Ireland as an amateur and might have represented this country at the 2008 Olympics had he not been excluded from the national championships after being ruled ineligible because of his English birth.
In 2012 he became the Irish heavyweight champion after a fifth-round stoppage of Martin Rogan in Belfast. The victory meant a great deal to Fury who said, "I vacated the British and Commonwealth titles, which some people say are more prestigious than the Irish title, but not to me. I vacated those belts for an Irish shot because it meant more to me."
Because here's another thing about Tyson Fury. No-one likes to bang on about how important their Irishness is more than the world heavyweight champion. And that includes people born in Ireland.
In 2011: "If you've got any kind of Irish in you, I don't care where you're from in the world, New Zealand or Afghanistan, it doesn't matter, you're brought up as a little child and your father says this is what you are, this is where you come from. Forget everything else."
In 2013: "All my people are from Ireland. I was born in Manchester but I am Irish. I have lived in Ireland, visited all my life and when I fight I represent Ireland.
In 2015. "I'm going to be the first heavyweight champion that has come from Ireland in over 100 years. And even though I speak with a British voice and I've been born and raised in Manchester, that's the way I see it."
There are many more examples. It couldn't be clearer. He's told us often enough. His Irishness is massively important to Tyson Fury. It's not something he's suddenly decided to embrace because he's pissed off about Brexit and needs a passport that makes travelling to Europe a bit handier.
But for a lot of people in this country, Fury's Traveller ancestry makes him the wrong kind of Irish. Why deny it? This is a land where a man could finish second in a Presidential election almost solely because of comments he made about a particular ethnic group. Don't deny that either. Peter Casey was going nowhere electorally before he attacked Travellers and he's been going nowhere since.
An outsider might have found it odd that among Casey's defenders on social media at the time were people whose Twitter bios included #YesEquality, #FuckTrump and whose other tweets included denunciations of prejudice elsewhere in the world.
They wouldn't have realised that many here regard anti-Traveller bigotry as the one acceptable prejudice. This one is different because it's ours. A recent survey revealed that 91 per cent would not like to have a Traveller as a family member, 85 per cent would not have a Traveller as a friend, 83 per cent would not like to employ a Traveller, 78 per cent would not like to have a Traveller as a neighbour and 75 per cent would not like to work with one.
These are shocking and shameful statistics which may explain why Fury's success is not a source of unanimous joy in Ireland. Having to praise 'one of them,' would stick in a lot of craws.
That's their loss because Tyson Fury is one of the great performers of our age. Before his emergence, the world heavyweight title had reached its nadir. From being the world's most prestigious sporting crown, it had become an irrelevance.
Fury almost single-handedly changed that. First by dethroning ultra-efficient charisma-free zone Wladimir Klitschko in November 2015. And then by eschewing the safety-first approach of modern boxing by travelling to fight unbeaten world champion Deontay Wilder in Los Angeles less than six months after returning from an almost three-year lay-off during which his weight ballooned as he struggled with depression, drugs and drink.
In that fight Fury not only out-boxed the dangerous Wilder, but won many new fans with a miraculous recovery from a last round knockdown. As Wilder himself noted at the time, nine out of ten referees would have stopped the fight at that stage. Instead Fury, displaying enormous bravery, hauled himself off the canvas and made it to the final bell. His reward was to be denied a deserved victory by judges who declared the bout a draw.
Maybe that dubious decision was all for the best. Last week's rematch was the most anticipated heavyweight title bout in decades, a classic old style encounter between two big explosive men. Fury's performance was also in the classic mould.
The canny defensive style of the first fight had vanished, instead he took the fight to his big-hitting opponent and pummelled him into submission. You probably have to go back to the champion he's named after for a more complete performance in this division. Tyson Fury made the heavyweight title great again.
There are those who insist that homophobic and sexist comments from several years back must be forever held against Fury. My own feeling is that these comments had more to do with the fighter's occasional weakness for foolish blather than any real hatred in his heart. Conor McGregor achieved national treasure status despite behaviour which seemed more hateful than Fury's silly rhetoric.
Meanwhile, the canonisation of Kobe Bryant continues with hardly a mention of the fact that the player once paid off a woman who'd accused him of rape after accepting that she'd been in the right.
The reluctance to examine this aspect of Bryant's past stems in part from the reluctance of white pundits to trash an African-American hero given the history of racial prejudice in the US.
Similarly, berating Fury for his verbal offences against social justice seems hypocritical if you've never commented on the actual injustices suffered by his community in Ireland and England.
In the run-up to last week's fight, a Fox Sports interviewer tried to make capital of Wilder's comments that he would "make Tyson Fury a Black History Month trivia question." Fury's reply? "There's nothing racial about this fight. We're all human beings, it doesn't matter if you're black, white, pink or green, we all share the same blood."
After the fight the champion sent a special message on Snapchat to John Burke, a three-year-old boy from Kilkenny currently fighting cancer. "Son, get well soon and I hear you're my biggest fan and you're going to come to my next fight when we're back in the UK baby. All the best, God bless you son, see you soon."
Does that sound like a bad man to you? Or does it sound like someone we can be proud of?
Sunday Indo Sport