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Very Sticky Wickets

In our continuing effort to bring you news of interesting first names from around the globe (see here and here and here and here), please consider this recent e-mail from an Australian reader named Alex Lasky:


I write regarding the effect of names on the performance of those who bear them as discussed in “Freakonomics,” particularly when it comes to black males.

As Americans, I suspect you’re unfamiliar with cricket. But from the mid 1970’s to the late 1980’s the West Indies, a team consisting of mainly black players from various Caribbean countries, were the dominant team in international cricket. During their late 1970’s/early 1980’s heyday they were almost unbeatable, despite strong opposition teams.

I bring them up because during their period of dominance, and in the couple of decades before, their players were famous for having given names reminiscent of the English aristocracy, even though they came from humble socioeconomic backgrounds. Players with given names like Learie, Clyde, Wesley, Everton, Lawrence, Garfield, Charles, Lance, Winston, Desmond, Gordon, Isaac Vivian Alexander, Derek, Clive, Brendan, Augustine, Larry, Roger, Joel, Jeffrey, Alvin, Michael, Malcolm, Sylvester and Courtney were legends of the game. Their dress and bearing off-field reflected this aristocratic nomenclature.

The West Indies dominance gradually faded, until by the 2000’s they were one of the weakest international teams in the top division. What I found interesting was the given names of the players during their highly unsuccessful tour of Australia last season: Shivnarine, Tino, Dwayne (x2), Corey, Chris, Wavell, Brian, Jermaine, Daren, Denesh, Marlon, Ramnaresh, Devon and (I kid you not) Fidel. It’s almost like they’ve given up trying.

I wonder if the “given” names of those 70’s and 80’s teams were in fact given, or adopted in the service of cricket dominance. When I was a kid, I called myself Franco Dubner for a few years, since I was enamored with Pittsburgh Steelers running back Franco Harris. But it certainly didn’t help me make the NFL.