The Jock Name Game

January17/ 2000

… Does one’s birth name predetermine your vocational success?  Today BobLee looks at the monikers of athletes and how a name can effect one’s marketability and public image.  Without a doubt the TOP TWO “names” in sports right now are TIGER “Don’t call me Eldrick” Woods and LANCE Armstrong.  What if we had Chuck O’Cain or Mike Williams (Coach W) or howsabout Ol’ Roy Krzyzewski? … and that whole “Herb” and “Dickie” thing.  

    Did Earl Woods have a vision that his son would be the #1 sports celebrity of the new millennium (in the non-soccer obsessed western world)?  Who arbitrarily names a baby, regardless of his multi-ethnicity, “Tiger”?  Suppose young “Tiger” had not taken to golf.  Could a “Tiger” Woods draw a paycheck from some innocuous corporate brain cell killer spending 9 to 5 in a Dilbert cubicle playing solitaire and downloading porn?  No, of course not. 

  “Tiger” Woods is the consummate name for a highly successful and aggressive individual sport athlete.  It might have worked the other way if Noah, or whoever, had named those sabre-toothed striped cats Eldricks.  Would you pay $100 for a prime seat to watch Seigfried & Roy and their magnificent white Eldricks?

   “Tiger” Woods is snappy, macho and impossible to screw up even for an American sports public with the average IQ of a Q-tip.  It’s even better than “Babe” Ruth who was not remembered George H. Ruth thanks to Shirley Povich or Grantland Rice or his Aunt Sophie or whoever.

   Now we have “Lance” Armstrong which is almost as good.  “Armstrong” brings to some literate minds Jack “The All American Boy” Armstrong.  “Lance” has a nice warrior connotation.  With that name and now retired as a bicycle rider, he might consider a 2nd career as a porn star … if Sheryl Crow doesn’t mind.  I recall porn troll Ron Jeremy saying that Brittany Spears was the consummate porn queen name.  Apparently phallic symbolism is effective in that business gendre.  Should UNC Board of Governors honcho Richard “Stick” Williams take note?

   Lets run thru some other names and their relative image effectiveness.  

Joe Montana – Almost as good as Tiger and Lance.  “Joe” has a lunch pail appeal and MONTANA is Big Sky and macho cowboy.  Joe Delaware would not have worked.  The best names have a total of 4 syllables or less.

Tim Duncan – fits the guy very well.  Tim is a bit wuzzie (think Tiny Tim) but “Duncan” has a strong Scottish clan ring.  The guy with the name is soft-spoken but a warrior.  It works.

Arnold Palmer – Normally would not work.  “Arnold” is Mr Ziffle’s pig or Arnold Stang.  Name another “Arnold” other than the one from Latrobe.  No, the Guv of California is “Awnull”. Mr Palmer rose above his name.

Earvin “Magic” Johnson – Earvin had the same obvious negative of Eldrick but “Magic” was perfect.  This gets us into nicknames which, alas, have pretty much been outlawed by the “politically correct” knuckleheads, except for Chris Berman.  Could “Michael” aka “MJ” aka “His Airness” been “The Black Messiah” … suuuure! … howsabout Mordecai “Three Fingers” Brown?

Jim Brown – a simple no nonsense name that fit the man.  Yes, it carried a subtle racist connection but at least his name wasn’t Jim Crow!  His defensive foil, Sam Huff, was also a strong no nonsense moniker.  Nitschke and Butkus HAD to be linebackers.

Derek Jeter – I like it.  Derek is 50s movie star macho and Jeter is a quick word … meets the 4 syllables or less rule.  His universal cross-over appeal, outside of Boston, is helped by his non ethno-centric name.

A.J. Foyt – works under the syllable rule and how many “A.J.s” are there?  Richard Petty, like Arnold, had to overcome his name.  Real men aren’t “Petty”.  Glenn “Fireball” Roberts was a Hall of Fame nickname.

Brett Favre – an example of the misspelled at birth issue.  It should be FARVE just like Antawn should be Antwan.  Even spelled “correctly”, the name is not as good as Bart Starr.  Bart Starr could be a 50s cowboy movie star or a porn star just as well.  Bart Starr would play for Gil Thorpe.

Darrell Strawberry – no wonder he eventually ran aground.  No Southern boy named Snodgrass or Turnipseed has ever hit it big nor likely ever will … way too much to overcome.

Juniors” can work if not overdone … Young Griffey and Earnhardt can get away with it.  I’ve never cared for Davis Love’s “the 3rd” but realize it’s a tribute to his dad.

Mia Hamm is better than Michelle Akers; but hubby Nomar (Ramon spelled backwards) Garciaparra is a mouthful for the Q-tip crowd.

Johnny Damon looks like a Johnny Damon.  Snappy cool name for a snappy cool guy.

The African Muslim names have never really caught on except for two … Muhammed Ali which simply became “Ali” and Shaquille which is “Shaq”.  I liked Cassius Clay … and speaking of alliterative names …

… NASCAR has cornered this market with Ricky Rudd, Mark Martin, and Ernie Ervin.  Baseball contributes Barry Bonds and Sammy Sosa and Mickey Mantle.

Monte Towe – perfect … “Montes” are scrappy and tough.  Towe is short.  3 total syllables for a scrappy short guy.

 Ric Flair is a stage name … but a PERFECT Fit.

Chrissie Evert is pretty and girlish … Martina Navratilova is neither pretty nor girlish.  Which one was always the most popular?

   Now we get into the switch the names game …

Chuck AMATO follows the Valvano tradition of quippy Wuff coaches of Italian origin with names ending in “o”.  With the Italian ancestry, rivals allude to his “obvious” mafia connections.  They could make him a great opera singer or pasta maker but they prefer “Mafioso”.  Suppose the same man had the name Chuck O’Cain.  He would no doubt be drunk, tied to the IRA, and believe in Leprechauns. 

The basketball coach at Duke is Polish and has a name like that villain in Superman or the character in Li’l Abner with the storm cloud over his head.  I decided to learn to spell Krzyzewski properly just so I could say I can.  It was shortened to Coach K for reasons related to the aforementioned Q-tip IQ of most sports loons.  It is also a moniker of familiarity for his fans as was “Jimmy V”. … let’s switch names … does Ol’ Roy Krzyzewski vs Rosemary’s Other Baby, Mike Williams, work as well … nope!  Krzyzewski sounds like a mouthful of sandpaper. 

 Charles “Lefty” Driesell and Horace “Bones” McKinney were destined at birth to be eccentric sideline stompers.

As if the basketball coach at NCSU did not have enough problems, “Herbs” own hardware stores in Mebane not dance deep into March.   

UNC, that infamous haven for diversity, attracts only pure whitebread named guys … Dean Smith, Bill Dooley, Mack Brown, Roy Williams.  Since only 1% could ever manage to correctly spell Guthridge (NO “e”) or Dougherty, Daugherty, Doherty its probably best that they keep it simple. 

An AD named Richard Baddour “might” be given a modicum of slack by Carolina partisans.  A 59 year old little fella named “Dickie” simply doesn’t have a chance.

Mary Lou Retton got scads more endorsements than Kari Shrug … DUH!  Thanks in part to Ricky Nelson … “Hello Kari Shrug, Good By Heart” … ain’t the same is it?

Long time Swaggerites know damn well I’m gonna mention my personal favorite athlete name … Arantxa Sanchez-Vacario and her contemporary Gabriella Sabatini because the former clears my throat and the latter tickles the roof of my mouth.

We close today’s class in nameology with my own category … notorious serial killers …  John Wayne Gazy, James Earl Ray, Henry Lee Lucas, Lee Harvey Oswald … BobLee Swagger.

Hey, it could be worse … Eldrick Swagger !!!  


Swagger’s Stumper

 If I couldn’t be BobLee I’d want to be Mike Love.

Who is Mike Love?


   Speaking of names … the center on that Larry Brown coached UNC Tar Babies team of 65-66 was Franklin “Rusty” Clark.  “Rusty” worked perfectly for a red-headed 6’11 and 7/8” center but not so well for a 40 year old urologist so he insisted on a grown up doctor name after graduation.   … could Rusty The Urologist help NASCAR’s Dick Trickle?

   His teammates were Dick Grubar, Bill Bunting, Joe Brown, Gerald Tuttle, and Jim Bostic.  Bostic later transferred.

  Do you think the NCAA got rid of freshmen teams just so Dean wouldn’t have to have “Tar Babies” in his program?  YIKES!

  Hokie Jim Alderson appreciates all the Swaggerites checking out his website … Jim and I were comparing enemy lists.  There’s a lot of duplication among the inmates of LoonLand.  He makes goggle-eyed loons cough up hairballs just like moi does … GAKK!

   This column will be skipped over by many, but I had a ball writing it.

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