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There was a time when great nicknames dominated sports. There was “Sweetness,” “Magic,” “The Mailman,” but now it seems those days are gone.
Now nicknames have devolved into taking the first letter of their first name and the first few letters of their last name and combining them. We’re stuck with “A-Rod,” “D-Will,” “D-Fav.” Today’s nicknames are boring, unimaginative and, in my opinion, kind of stupid. It used to be a badge of honor to be bestowed a nickname. Like the fierce defensive lines of the Minnesota Vikings, who were named the Purple People Eaters, or the defense of the Pittsburgh Steelers, who were known simply as “the Steel Curtain.”
Those nicknames were great, and honestly, I didn’t mind the first time I heard someone make a nickname of the first letter of the first name and first few letters of the last name. The first player I can remember who that was done to was Alex Rodriguez, or A-Rod. It didn’t seem that bad at first, though; it was kind of his thing and, at the time, it was unique.
But then, commentators got lazy, I guess. They started doing it to every athlete. The worst that I’ve seen came last week. I saw one of my friends getting ready to go to a Utah Jazz game. He was wearing a shirt with Derek Favors’ face on it that said “D-Fav.” After seeing his shirt and the ridiculous nickname, this needs to stop.
We need to bring back good, creative, descriptive nicknames. It seems, though, that currently, the only source of good nicknames comes from Chris Berman. He’s always a sure bet to come up with something creative to call players. But even Berman’s nicknames aren’t what I’d like to see. Sure, they’re creative, but most of them are a little long and play on alliteration rather than something specific about the player. Still, though, I’m sure former New York Yankee Chuck Knoblauch preferred Berman’s “New Kids on the Knoblauch” nickname to what he could have been called by analysts today, “C-Knob.”
I would like to take a little space, though, and highlight two nicknames Berman came up with that are genius. The first isn’t catchy at all. It’s a mouthful, but I love it: Scott “Supercalifragilisticexipiali” Brosius. The other nickname is catchy, fits with his name and is easy to remember. The problem is it isn’t exactly terrifying: Albert “Winnie the” Pujols.
I have been trying to think of the best nickname of a student-athlete here at Weber State University, but had trouble coming up with more than a few. The best I could think of was Xavian Johnson of the WSU football team. I’ve heard a few people in the press box refer to him as “Professor X,” but I don’t think that nickname has really caught on.
It used to be that you earned your nickname. It was given to you based on something unique about you or your style of play. Like, with Walter Payton, being dubbed Sweetness came from both the sweet way that he played the game and the sweet, caring person he was. Or Karl Malone was The Mailman because he delivered the ball strong to the hoop.
I’d like to say that there will be another great era of nicknames, but I fear that, with the rise of Twitter and texting, a return to great, creative nicknames instead of shortened versions of their real names probably isn’t very likely.