Where Have All The Nicknames Gone?

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Where Have All The Nicknames Gone?
(Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

What ever happened to creative nicknames for athletes?

There once was a time when a nickname really told you something about the player.

Maybe it was the way the athlete played the game. Pete Rose, a guy who always played balls to the wall, truly earned the nickname “Charlie Hustle.”

Maybe the nickname came from a childhood story about the player. “Shoeless” Joe Jackson would not have been Shoeless Joe had a blister not forced him to play a game in his socks while he was growing up.

Some fantastic nicknames can be entirely self-explanatory. Nobody will argue that Wayne Gretzky did not deserve to be called “The Great One.” Ahhh, the simplicity and the beauty.

The Splendid Splinter (Ted Williams), The Sultan of Swat (Babe Ruth), The Human Highlight Film (Dominique Wilkins), Sweetness (Walter Payton). These are what nicknames should be. You should hear the nickname and instantly envision the way that athlete plays or played.

Now, what do we have? The generic –Rod formula? A-Rod, K-Rod, I-Rod, it is pathetic. Wow! You took the players first initial, and you added the first syllable of their last name! What creative genius could come up with such a thing?

Come on! Terrell Owens is just T.O. Allen Iverson is A.I. Kevin Garnett is K.G. LaDainian Tomlinson (as well as Lawrence Taylor) is L.T. These are some of the best athletes of the era we live in, and all we can do is call them by their initials!

Imagine if this trend moved out of sports and into the real world. Should I start writing my articles under the name T.H.? Did President B.O. throw out the ceremonial first pitch at the 2009 MLB All-Star Game? It is stupid outside of sports, and it is stupid in sports as well.

Then, of course, there is the generic Chris Berman format of nicknames… taking the player’s last name, or the first syllable of their last name, and adding something before it to make a stupid pun. Jeff “Brown Paper” Bagwell. David “Supreme Court” Justice.

Does the way Jeff Bagwell played remind you of the bag you took your lunch to school in while in elementary school? Do you really think David Justice will ever make it into the judicial branch of the United States government? I thought not.

Oh, hi Mr. Bagwell and Mr. Justice, I just found your friends. Here are Josh “You Can’t Keep Kosher If You Eat” Hamilton, Peyton “A Y Chromosome Makes You A” Manning, and Chauncey “I’ll Pay The” Billups.

I could keep making up Bermanisms all day, and NONE of them make good nicknames. Shall we do it for coaches? Joe “You Make Me” Maddon? Mike “I Like To” Singletary? They are simply awful.

Have we just gotten lazy? After all, it takes real thought and creativity to come up with a nickname like “Joltin’ Joe” or “The Yankee Clipper” (Joe DiMaggio), or “The Iron Horse” (Lou Gehrig). Meanwhile, a second grader could probably think of D-Wade or T-Mac.

Is it just a sign of the desire of most Americans to make things fast and simple? We love our fast food drive-thrus, our multi-lane superhighways, and our crappy nicknames? Why spend time cooking, enjoying the scenery, or being creative, when we can take half the time and get a final product half as good?

Superstar athletes are some of the most well known people in the United States. They have extravagant personalities to match their extraordinary amounts of athletic talent and fame. We need to give them nicknames that represent those characteristics. Because I guarantee you, ten times out of ten, Joltin’ Joe, The Splendid Splinter, and Charlie Hustle will kick the crap out of T-Mac, A-Rod, and K.G.

Sportswriters, sportscasters, and sports fans, it is time to show some effort. Let’s bring back real nicknames to our favorite athletes.

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