A bookish look at cars and sport


The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark TwainHere's an idea: how about if all the cars and trucks and sports teams we name for fleet and powerful animals and cosmic energies and cool-sounding things that don't actually exist or mean anything (Integra! Camry!) are, effective immediately, renamed for literary characters and authors.

Wouldn't that be great? So instead of the Escalade we have the Evangeline, instead of the El Dorado we have the Elmer Gantry, instead of the Hummer we have the massive gleaming Huckleberry Finn.

And it's even more fun with sports teams — the Kimberley Kims! The Port Macquarie Patrick Whites! The Townsville Twains! Imagine the logo possibilities — the Twains with a bushy-haired Samuel Langhorn Clemens peering cheerfully over the bill of their ball caps, the University of Melbourne's Fighting David Maloufs with that wise bespectacled soul on their broad chests ... the mind doth reel.

And this allows us, at least on my home turf in the still-grappling-with-racism-although-slightly-less-so-today-what-with-our-black-president America, to sidestep the problem of sports teams being named for people with skin slightly darker than most of the people playing and following that team: Redskins, Braves, Chiefs, Indians. It's a dopey custom, and we are easily rid of it when we find ourselves rooting instead for the Cleveland Icaruses and the Kansas City Chinos (with the overture from West Side Story blaring from every speaker in the stadium).

For once city council and corporate board meetings would be riveting, as Los Angeles teams vie to see who can snag the names Marlowe and Chandler, and who will be the Los Angeles Easy Rawlins, with a box seat reserved for the great novelist Walter Mosley. The New Orleans Moviegoers, the Harvard University Fighting Henry Adamses ...

And the loss of so many weird and puzzling car names would be a great gift to the known world. Achieva, Cabrio, Elantra, Galant, Impreza, Passat, Reatta, Vandura, all gone and unmourned, and in their places we find the Deerslayer, the Scarlet Letter, the Augie March, the Joe Wilson, the Banjo Clark (for all that he was a real and wonderful man, was there ever more of an Australian legend than the national Uncle?).

Although there are some current cars that could and should keep their names: the Somerset and the Swift, for two, not to mention Stanzas and Dashers and Darts.

I can hear you arguing now: isn't it an act of wild creation itself, to invent ridiculous names for cars, names that sound sort of cool and dashing and fast at first, but as soon as you think about it you start laughing so hard your sprain your eye, and then you laugh harder imagining the eager devious souls who had to sell those names to the high priests of marketing, who many times incredibly must have said yes! when someone, clearly goofing or addled on too much cough medicine, said hey, how about we name the new model the Camargue? or Justy? or Nubira? which now I have to stop thinking about this because my eye hurts? And to answer your question, yes.

Anyway I think this is an excellent idea, because it leads to hours of happy dreaming about the University of Massachusetts Moby-Dicks, or the Kalgoorlie Kenneth Cooks, or the Toronto Robertson Davies, on which team every player is asked to sport the enormous glowing beard of the late salty soul for whom the team is named.

Such speculations, I find, are perfect for wasting the hours that a responsible man would be looking after the laundry and the parakeets, but this line of thinking brings me right to the late William Wharton, who would have smiled widely, I bet, if the Baltimore Orioles renamed themselves the Birdys in his honor, which they haven't yet. But they might.

Brian DoyleBrian Doyle is the editor of Portland Magazine at the University of Portland, and the author most recently of Thirsty for the Joy: Australian & American Voices.

Topic tags: cars, sports teams, Escalade, El Dorado, Elmer Gantry, Hummer, Kimberley Kims, Port Macquarie Patrick White



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And my Humber Humbert would surely have to be black.
Peter in Melbourne | 05 August 2009

Thank the Lord for the Internet. I was about to smugly suggest that Mr Doyle had conflated Banjo Patterson with Marcus Clarke when (in a blessed moment of cautious research) I found that he knows more than I do: http://www.loreoftheland.com.au/indigenous/banjo/index.html.

The Camargue is a swampy (though romantic) region in France, which opens up a new range of possibilities for team and vehicle names: the Simpson Deserts, the Dismal Swamps, the Mount Desolations and the Death Valleys.
David B | 05 August 2009


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