Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The English Eddie George

In 1900 or thereabouts, Winston Churchill did a speaking tour of the United States. On that trip, he met...Winston Churchill. You can find that story in his book “My Early Life.” Ironically enough, the American Churchill was: 1) a professional military officer who graduated from the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, 2) a published author many times over and 3) a politician. He served in the New Hampshire State Legislature and made an unsuccessful run for the governor’s office in 1912. When the two men had lunch, the English Churchill declared his ambition to become Prime Minister. (Even in his mid-twenties, Jenny Jerome’s son had a high view of his career prospects, though he did have to wait 40 years to achieve that goal.) It’s funny that two unrelated men with the same names should have so much in common. By the same token, I think it’s hilarious that two unrelated men with the same name should be so spectacularly different.

I recently learned of Edward Alan John George, GBE, PC, DL, born September 16, 1938. The man is perhaps England’s most famous banker. He capped a great career in banking by being head of the Bank of England for ten years. He was then named Baron of Saint St. Tudy in Cornwall. I’ve never been there, but I hear it’s quite nice. Mr. George earned the nickname “Steady Eddie,” which strikes me as a great name for a banker. I’d much rather do business with a person so nicknamed than one named “Slick” or “Sleazy.” In order to lure him to speak to a group, one must come up with a five-figure fee. (Editorial comment: apparently, someone thinks the guy knows what he’s doing!)

If Mr. Edward Alan John George were to check into a hotel in New York, London, Paris, Tokyo or just about any other place, I’m sure he would get the red carpet treatment. If, however, he were to attempt the same thin in Columbus, Ohio, common decency would dictate that someone needs to tell him about his Ohio namesake: Edward Nathan George, born September 24, 1973. At this point, English readers are probably scratching their heads, while Ohio readers are laughing out loud. If not, the results are probably embarrassing. I can see a 70-year-old English gentleman walking up to the check-in counter at the Hyatt Regency, announcing that he wishes to check in under the name of Eddie George. At that point, the counter person would say, “Right…and I assume you’ll be using Eddie George’s credit card?” To which George would reply, “Certainly.” The hotel employees would either fall down laughing or call the cops or both.

For the benefit of anyone who has never been to Columbus, Ohio, Edward Nathan George, better known as Eddie, #27. He is a very pleasant young black gentleman who stands six-foot-three with a playing weight of 230 pounds. (That 16 and a half stone to English readers.) He appears to have been forged from the highest-grade steel. He is also blessed with foot speed that enabled him to run faster than a terrified gazelle. He achieved undying fame in Columbus as winner of the 1994 Heisman Trophy as the top player in all of college football. He went on to a spectacular career in the National Football League, retiring as one of the top 20 rushers in the history of the game. He retired at the ripe, old age of 29, a millionaire a couple dozen times over.

So if the former head of the Bank of England ever visits Columbus, perhaps he’ll enjoy having lunch at the restaurant that bears his name: Eddie George’s on High Street, just south of the Ohio State campus. Another irony: as dissimilar as the two Eddie Georges are, it would be an interesting question as to which one of them has a higher net worth. Both men are undoubtedly worth well into the eight figures.

Just when you think there couldn’t be any more unusual name coincidences in this case, the Ohio State Eddie George is married to a striking woman who is a professional singer. The English Eddie George is married to a woman named Vanessa Williams. (No word on whether that lady tried to become Miss America.)

Several years ago, my father was hosting an old friend of his from his hometown in Arkansas. They visited the Woody Hayes Athletic Facility and happened to meet Eddie George. My father introduced himself, and his old friend and they shook hands with Eddie George. During that brief encounter, Mr. George was quite pleasant and well-mannered and made an all-around great impression on my father. Several years later, my father was in the Ohio State University Hospital awaiting triple bypass surgery. When I spoke to him on the phone, he mentioned that Eddie George’s team, the Tennessee Titans, were in the NFL Playoffs and said, “I hear Eddie George is hurt. I hope he gets to play.” I considered this for a moment, then replied: “Dad, reality check: Eddie George is more than fifty years younger than you and makes fifty times the money you do. You’re going in for triple bypass surgery and he might have a strained hamstring, and you’re worried for him? What’s wrong with this picture?” Happily enough, both my father and Eddie George are both doing quite well, thank you.

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