Miles Kington: The dubious honour of a cup in one's name

'It's poor old Davis I feel sorry for,' said the Welshman. 'No one knows who he was or where he came from'
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The Independent Online

"I see that Croatia beat Slovakia in the final of the Davis Cup at the weekend," said the man with the dog, during a lull in conversation at the bar. "Amazing. So all the usual suspects must have been knocked out along the route. Whatever happened to the Yanks and the Aussies?"

"Croatia knocked out the Yanks in the first round, nearly a year ago," said the landlord, who has no particular interest in sport but likes to keep tabs on the statistics so that he can settle arguments. "The Americans never seem to do so well when money is not at stake, do they?"

"You'd think they'd want to win the Davis Cup, though," said the man with the dog. "It being an American invention...".

"Is it?" said the resident Welshman. "I'd always imagined it was a Welshman invented it, with a name like Davis."

All eyes turned to the landlord. The landlord got down the sports reference book he keeps for times when he can't remember the facts. "American," he said, after a quick perusal. "Inaugurated in 1900 by Dwight Filley Davis, a wealthy, tennis-loving Harvard student. The cup itself was designed by an Englishman, if that's any comfort."

"No, it's not," said the man with the dog. "We've always been very good at inventing sports and designing the silverware and having things named after us, but we're bloody awful at winning them. You can't help feeling sorry for the English sometimes. And if we don't, nobody else will."

"It's poor old Davis I feel sorry for," said the Welshman. "Having a cup named after him and nobody having the faintest idea who he was or even where he came from. Fancy having your name live for ever and still be forgotten at the same time."

"It happens to everyone," said the Major. "Think of all those people who had guns named after them. Colt and Webley and Biretta and Maxim and Hotchkiss and ... and ..."

He had run out of guns.

"Kalashnikov," said someone, helpfully.

"Thank you," said the Major. "Who knows anything about these chaps?"

"Or women," said the lady with the green hairdo. "Don't assume that all inventors are men."

"I think all inventors of guns are men," said the Major. "Can't see any ladies inventing methods of killing, God bless 'em. Can't think of anything named after a lady either, come to think of it."

"Here's something," said the landlord, who was still browsing in the tennis archives. "Wightman Cup. Endowed by an American woman player called Hazel Hotchkiss Wightman."

"Hotchkiss?" said the Major. "That name again! Don't suppose she was related to the blighter who invented the Hotchkiss gun, was she?"

"It doesn't tell you things like that in the tennis archives," said the landlord.

"And who was Kalashnikov, anyway?" said the Major. "Assuming he was a chap and not a factory."

"Hold on, hold on," said the landlord, getting down yet another reference book. "One at a time, if you don't mind. Here we are. Mikhail Kalashnikov. Weapons designer. Born 1919. Died ... oh, he's still alive."

"Still alive!" said the Welshman. "Kalashnikov is world famous! And alive! And completely unknown! That's amazing!"

"What was his middle name?" inquired the Major.

"Timofeyevich," said the landlord. "Any other questions before I shut the Good Book?"

"Yes," said the Welshman. "Was the Geiger counter actually invented by a bloke called Geiger?"

"What about the Richter scale?"

"Who was Ryder of Ryder Cup fame?"

"Where does Esrom cheese come from and why is it 'Morse' spelt backwards?"

"Gentlemen! Gentlemen!" cried the landlord in distress. "I am beginning to wish pub quizzes had never been invented!"

"As a matter of interest," said the Welshman, "who did invent pub quizzes?"

"Right, that's it!" said the landlord. "I am exercising my prerogative to demand a change of subject! So, who do you think David Cameron will put in his Shadow Cabinet?"

There was a huge groan, and the bar was clear within seconds.