What’s In a Name? Nothing These Days

Is it a lack of creativity by sports journalists? Or are there just too damn many of them that keeping up is more important than creativity?

The idea of “breaking news” is long gone. ESPN will scroll “breaking news” along its bottom line hours after the news actually broke. In the 24/7 newscycle, there is little reward for actually working hard as a journalist and breaking news.

So, is that part of the reason that we no longer have outstanding nicknames for our sports stars?

Alex Rodriguez is A-Rod. I heard a SportsCenter anchor refer to Adrian Gonzalez as A-Gon, which is a horrendous ripoff.

The Big 3? Really?

LeBron James was anointed King James because it played off a ruler more famous for his versions of The Bible. LeBron isn’t king of anything. His Miami Thrice trio (that’s the nickname we prefer) is known across the land as The Big 3. Yet, when Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett joined Paul Pierce in Boston, they were the Big 3. Are they no longer? A few years back Barry Zito, Mark Mulder and Tim Hudson were the Big 3. Is it that difficult to turn a trick on the number 3 and reference it as something other than “Big?” America can’t make that better?

When the Patriots cheated, it was called “Spygate” in a nod to the Watergate scandal that ruined Nixon. Folks, Watergate was thus dubbed because it took place in the Watergate Hotel. Now we just throw the suffix “gate” to the end of something fishy and it sticks. How lazy are we getting?

Whatever happened to creativity in sports? That was one of the main reasons it was fun.

You rooted for “The Splendid Splinter,” “The Say Hey Kid” and “Pudge,” which was – and still is – Carlton Fisk, because Ivan Rodriguez is a watered down version.









We miss guys named Mookie. And Stretch. And Goose. And Rock. And, of course, Oil Can.

We prefer nicknames that are animalistic because we want our athletes to have that attacking, carnivore, win-at-all-costs, king-of-the-jungle attitude. Andre Dawson was “The Hawk,” Jim Hunter was “Catfish,” Fred McGriff was “The Crime Dog,” Andres Galarraga was “The Big Cat” and Jack Nicklaus was “The Golden Bear.” There were a few Jake’s named “The Snake.” Those guys sound like the ultimate warrior you’d want on your team.

Speaking of … The Ultimate Warrior remains a great wrestling nickname.

Nicknames instantly put a picture in your mind. Guys who answer to “Iceman,” “The Big Hurt” and “Thrill.”

Some nicknames are self-given like Rod Smart’s “He Hate Me” and Kobe Bryant’s ridiculous insistence he be known as “The Black Mamba” which, coincidentally, he made public around the same time the Kill Bill series came out.

Some take it too far and change their name. We’re looking at you, Chad Johnson Ochocinco.

We don’t want guys who were given their nicknames as kids like Glen “Big Baby” Davis and Eldrick “Tiger” Woods.

We want to label guys “The Mad Hungarian” or “The Grim Reaper” or “Old Bootnose” or even “Big Country.”

The “Ickey Shuffle” wouldn’t be as much fun if it were the “Elbert L. Woods Shuffle” now would it?


Guys named “Lefty” because they’re left-handed are as vanilla as baseball players adding a “Y” to the end of every person’s name so that Jones is “Jonesy.”

Hell, Hammerin’ Hank Aaron’s nickname gave birth to Stanley Burrell’s nickname. You might know him as MC Hammer. For years I thought Magic was Earvin Johnson’s first name. I didn’t know Air Jordan and Michael Jordan were the same guy for at least a year. That’s the power of a nickname.

George Herman Ruth had several: The Great Bambino, The Sultan of Swat, The Colossus of Clout, The King of Swing. Babe works too.

William “The Refrigerator” Perry scored a touchdown in the Bears’ Super Bowl blowout of New England when Walter “Sweetness” Payton did not. Maybe because sweets are usually found in “The Freezer,” aka B.J. Raji.

Some nicknames make you think of the wrong images. “The Big Unit” does not belong on a pitching mound, but rather on websites you shouldn’t view at work. Same with Mark “Action” Jackson, Boris “Boom Boom” Becker, Lester “The Molester” Hayes and Dan “Big Daddy” Wilkinson. And, lest we forget ManRam, er, Manny Ramirez.

Perhaps sportswriters should take a page out of the WWE playbook and come up with gripping nicknames. “Stone Cold” is excellent. “The Rock” is simply Dwayne Johnson’s name, I don’t care what Hollywood says. “The Heartbreak Kid” is superb. Macho Man Randy Savage and Ravishing Rick Rude are equally gorgeous. Who doesn’t love “The Nature Boy”? Woooooooo!

For goodness sakes, Where have you gone, Joltin’ Joe DiMaggio?


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