Identity Crisis: The NFL and Nation-States

Juliet Capulet once famously asked, “what’s in a name?”  She remarked, precociously (she was, after all, only 14 at the time), that the value of a thing is not found in its name, but in the thing itself.  The fact that she is saying this to justify a crush on her family’s mortal enemy is immaterial.  Imagine any 14 year-old girl.  The first adjective Mr. Thursday is prepared to assign to the image we’ve conjured is “hysterical”.  Now, if a girl who, if alive today, would not have been born until 1992, has enough maturity and intelligence that a name only has meaning in pretentious literature, we wonder why football players, and more importantly, government officials cannot realize the same.

This little quandary stems from two recent events: first, Will James played his second game as a Philadelphia Eagle on Sunday.  Will James is a cornerback, who is known for being very good, albeit injury prone, but he formerly played for the New York Giants under the name Will Peterson.  Second, Bangalore, a city of 7 million people–and the city to which you are connected when you call Dell’s service numbers–no longer exists.  The powers that be have changed the name.  Ladies and gentlemen, we give you “Bengalooru”, the City of Cooked Beans. 

At the Curious Mechanism, we were stunned to learn that anyone, anywhere-outside-of-Texas, would intentionally rename their city after the Musical Fruit.  Upon some quick research, we’ve come upon an explanation.  Bengalooru is short for Benda Kaluru, which means city of cooked beans.  The name is based on a myth that a starving king was fed beans by an old woman on the site of what would become Bangalore/Bengalooru.  It’s a mildly interesting story, but we can’t help but wondering: what’s the point?

Bangalore is one of the most well known cities in the world.  Probably  the most well known in India, and behind Tokyo and Beijing for its recognition throughout Asia.  It’s a massive city and, by Indian standards, a prosperous one.  It is the “global village” that pundits write about.  Bangalore is a place to meet people from anywhere throughout the world.  Bangalore has become Bengalooru as part of a desultory effort by Indian authorities to de-Anglicize their country, since Bangalore was the British name for the place.  India has been doing a lot of this lately–Bombay has become Mumbai, Calcutta is Kolkata and so on.  In a ridiculous maneuver, they’ve given Kamptee its “aboriginal” name, Kampthi, despite history showing that the place was named for Camp T, a trading post owned by Britain’s own East India Company.  India isn’t trying to recapture a lost or Anglicized history, they’re merely trying to whitewash over the obvious influence of the Western world.  Mumbai is still the giant city Bombay was, with all the same history, and problems.  Same for Bengalooru. 

 So, we wonder about Mr. Will James, and others.  Tra Thomas, also of the Eagles, decided during the offseason that he only wanted to be known as William, which has given him the nickname on Philadelphia sports pages as William “Don’t Call Me Tra” Thomas.  Both cite the same sort of reason: they’ve made personal changes, and as part of the New Person that they are, they’re taking on an appropriately new name.  This strikes Mr. Thursday as a similar sort of white-washing.  We don’t know the Williams’ James or Thomas, but outside of injury problems for James and holding penalties for Thomas, we don’t know what they’re trying to escape from, and we don’t see what they’ve changed to.

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1 Comment

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One response to “Identity Crisis: The NFL and Nation-States

  1. It gives a whole new meaning to the WW2-era weapon the “Bangalore Torpedo”. If teenage boys knew where India is, or when WW2 happened, I’m sure they’d love to make some bean jokes.

    You and the strange maps guy should collaborate on a post about the renaming of cities in India.

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