The Sporting Life


Arts & Culture

Discussing the recent damage done to the Poe House and Museum earlier, I mentioned in passing that Baltimore was the only American city to have honored a local literary light. Well, our ever-vigilant readers were quick to remind us of other bookish squads around the globe.

The Toronto Argonauts, we were informed, “just won Canada’s Grey Cup in Homeric fashion.” (One could theoretically make an argument for the Spartans, too.) Edinburgh’s Heart of Midlothian Football Club may have technically been named for a jail, but it was Walter Scott’s 1818 novel, The Heart of Midlothian, that made the title globally famous.

And if we’re really digging deep, it wouldn’t do to ignore the 2012 London Olympic mascots, Wenlock and Mandeville. While, officially, the latter is named for named for Stoke Mandeville Hospital, the estimable Medieval Material Culture Blog makes a compelling case for another (possibly subconscious) motivation:

These mascots would be right at home with all of the fantastical peoples described in The Travels of Sir John Mandeville. And he certainly does an amazing amount of international travel for a 14th century Englishman—as far afield as Egypt, Persia, Syria, Ethiopia, Amazonia, and so on.

Granted, he has nothing to do with athletic competition, as far as I recall. And it is a bit, er, fanciful. But I could see these mascots being modern-day descendants, perhaps, of the peoples of the islands around Dondun.

And surely, some of these Dondunese islanders would be strong contenders for medals—the ones with horses’ hooves, who are “strong and mighty, and swift runners; for they take wild beasts with running, and eat them” could win the marathon. The ones “that go upon their hands and their feet as beasts, … all skinned and feathered, and they will leap as lightly into trees, and from tree to tree, as it were squirrels or apes”—well, that sounds like an amazing gymnastic routine right there, doesn’t it?