This all started on the morning of Dec. 7, 1995.
Not the commemoration of the Pearl Harbor attack, but the stunning news that the Montreal Canadiens hockey team had traded Patrick Roy, one of the three best goalies in the history of the game, to the Colorado Avalanche for three players. In exchange, Montreal received Colorado’s goalie, whose name happened to be Jocelyn Thibault.
I leaped out of bed in panic. It was unimaginable. My first thought, prophetically enough, was that this was the end of a competitive franchise, a Nostradamus moment that has actually been proven to be correct.
My second thought, was, “Hey, did he say Jocelyn?”
Isn’t that a girl’s name? Who would name a boy “Jocelyn?” What is this?
From that moment, irrationally deciding that Jocelyn Thibault, would prove to be useless, I further gardened the idea that the male athletes who had “girl’s names” would never realize their full potential since their parents had not been smart enough to give them a strong boy’s name like Thomas, or John or yes, David.
It was not possible. Surely having a girl’s name would likely cause the little guy to suffer severe psychological damage from the wear and tear of female name associations. Imagine the ribbing in elementary school, the sweaty change rooms of high school, and the towel flicking.
It occurred to me that I needed to build a case against athletes who had girl’s names.
They must be pansies, I thought.
For instance, it was Ty Cobb who was probably the greatest hitter in baseball in the first half of the 20th century, not “Tyra Cobb.” George Herman “Babe” Ruth was not Georgina Ruth. Hockey legend Wayne Gretzky was not "Winona Gretzky". Wilt Chamberlain not “Wilma Chamberlain.”
Imagine if Irving Favre had named his son Betty instead of Brett. Do you think that Betty Favre would still be playing at age 40?
Would Michael Jordan have had the extended career he did if his name was Michelle?
Of course not.
I smugly and secretly harboured this notion for years. Especially after Patrick Roy (not Pattie Roy by the way), went on to win two Stanley Cups for the Colorado Avalanche, and a big goalie mitt full of awards and accolades. Meanwhile, Jocelyn Thibault, psychologically crippled that he was, spent a few nondescript seasons in Montreal before being traded off to Chicago.
More time passed. My iron clad argument was this: name one lifetime great male in any sport who had or has a girl’s name. And then I said, “Well, I’m waiting.”
And then one day, someone actually said, “What about Peyton Manning?”
I raced to Google like a thoroughbred and saw with my own eyes: Peyton. One of the most popular girl’s names for the year 2003. I gaped in horror!
Soon, more names filtered in.
“What about Marian Hossa?”
“What about Marion Barber?”
“What about Courtney Roby?”
“What about Drew Brees?”
“What about Marian Gaborik, second in scoring in the NHL this year?”
“What about Drew Daughty?”
“What about Alex Rodriguez?”
Okay, don’t push me on A-Rod. It’s mostly a boy’s name.
Watching the Dolphins game yesterday, among other things, I began to wonder about the name Vontae as in Vontae Davis. He had an interception early in the game, but later got torched repeatedly by Vince Young.
Hmm. And the only reference I could find to the name Vontae was in fact for a girl.
And what about Cameron Wake. Is there not a famous actress named Cameron Diaz?
And finally Pat White. If Pat White is short for Patrick, no problem, but look out if it is short for Patricia.
Then again, maybe not.