The Queen and I
A visit from the Queen seems to bring out the silliness in even the most staid closet Anglophiles. If you don’t believe me, read David Brooks’s column, “Where History Reigns” in the New York Times today.
For my part, I’m not sure what all the fuss is about, but I couldn’t resist perusing the list of guests invited to the White House for the state dinner. I’m not sure what an “equerry-in-waiting” to the queen does, but I guess he would need to be invited. It also makes sense that former ambassadors to Britain would be on the list, as well a few politicians and journalists. I suppose inviting Calvin Borel, the winning jockey of the 2007 Kentucky Derby, makes sense, given the Queen’s fondness for horses. But Peyton Manning!! I could see inviting Sir David Manning, the British Ambassador to the United States, but Peyton Manning, the quarterback of the Indianapolis Colts?
At first, I found the fact that Peyton Manning had been invited to the White House deeply puzzling. Then I remembered my meeting with Pope Benedict last year. Standing in line to shake hands with the pope, I prepared what I would say during our brief encounter. I would say something about how valuable the conference on genomic medicine had been; how important it is that the Catholic Church is taking a leadership role in thinking through the ethical issues in genomics, etc.
When I began my brief spiel, Benedict’s response was priceless: “So,” he said, “you’re from the States.” I felt that I was in the middle of the scene from the baseball movie, Bull Durham, where the infielders gather at the pitcher’s mound, presumably to talk about how to pitch the next batter or how to align the defense. Instead, they are talking about what they should get a teammate for a wedding present. I was prepared to talk theology; Benedict was talking accents.
Maybe it does make sense to invite Peyton Manning to the White House or to the Vatican, for that matter. At least it makes sense if, like the players in Bull Durham, Manning doesn’t take himself too seriously. Even queens and popes need a break from self-serving politicians. Who knows, the pope might even find Manning’s accent worthy of note.