The Name Game
American sportsmen have some of the greatest names known to man. In honour of this weekend's Super Bowl we've put together a championship team full of the most beautiful appelations.
This Sunday is Super Bowl Sunday where the champions of the American Football Conference (the New England Patriots) take on the champions of the National Football Conference (the Los Angeles Rams) for the right to be known as World Champions. (I’ve been an NFL fan for 35 seasons and yeah, the ‘World’ bit irritates me too but that’s not why we’re here). From about 10.30pm on February 3rd your Twitter timelines will be full of the titans of the game as they go toe to toe. The Tom Brady’s and Todd Gurley’s, the Julian Edelman’s and Aaron Donald’s.
And Cordarrelle Patterson.
And Ndamukong Suh.
And it got me thinking about some of the names that I’ve obsessed about for three and a half decades whilst my friends were out drinking and getting laid. Names that seem totally natural to me, immersed as I have been in American sporting culture for almost forty years. But to the average Brit they seem, you know, distinctly weird. These (Clancy) household names that roll off my tongue so naturally are seemingly figures of fun for almost everyone else. I mean NASCAR’s Dickie Trickle? That’s funny right? Except the NFL has a Hall of Fame player called Dick Butkus (pictured below right). Which sounds like Butt-Kiss. Which is essentially Dick + Butt + Kiss in one name. And to most people that’s funnier. Except to me it’s not. It’s just the great Chicago Bears linebacker.
There was a baseball player who probably could have lived next door to Elmur Fudd, by the name of Shooty Babitt. Think of the hours of fun you could have with that name. In fact many did. Including his own manager at the Oakland A’s who, after another average Babitt performance told waiting reporters that if they, “ever saw Shooty Babitt playing second base for me again, I want you to Shooty me.” How could I mock Shooty Babitt when I actively remember watching a Florida Atlantic college football game with Yourhighness Morgan playing defense? And that’s a much better name. Ironically, Yourhighness is now a corrections officer at a Sherriff’s office in the sunshine state and therefore has the ability to, er, Shooty people.
Look, American Football may have dubious claims to a world championship, but they have proper names. So, what if Chiefkickingstallion Sims opted for college basketball over college football, and Rusty Kuntz won baseball's World Series with the Detroit Tigers? Wonderful Terrific Monds Jr played for the Pittsburgh Steelers and the San Francisco 49ers in the 1970’s and names don’t get any more beautiful than that.
So, to celebrate the 53rd Super Bowl we thought we’d put together a squad of NFL and college players with magnificent names worthy of a World Championship, and celebrate the beauty of the American sporting name.
QUARTERBACKS: It’s the pivotal position on the team. If you don’t have a quarterback, then you don’t have anything. And it’s fine if your guy is called Tom or Aaron or Ben. I mean hell, the last seventeen Super Bowls have been won, in reverse order by Nick, Tom, Peyton, Tom, Russell, Joe, Eli, Aaron, Drew, Ben, Eli, Peyton, Ben, Tom, Tom, Brad and Tom. Which, two Peyton’s aside is about as dull as ditch-water on the names front. It wasn’t much better in the 80’s and 90’s with Jeff and Troy and Doug and Jim who sound like four guys who’ll put on a really good BBQ and refer to every attendee as 'Champ' and 'Sport' and "Chief' but in terms of sporting champions? No. Hell, the coolest named passer to win a Super Bowl was Bart Starr. Twice. Wouldn’t a ‘World’ Championship feel just a little bit sweeter if Sonny Sixkiller was pulling the strings? Course it would. Nobody would mess with a team that had a quarterback whose could dispose of a body and then jump into a black Escalade and hot-foot it to the stadium to win the big game. They even wrote a song about him, (The Ballad of Sonny Sixkiller). Leader. Legend. Sixkiller.
BACKUPS: Chuck Long (Detroit Lions, pictured left). I mean, a quarterback’s job is to throw the ball down the field. If your name is exactly that, you’re pretty much halfway there. Also, Xavier Longerbeam (Florida A+M), Messiah deWeaver (Michigan State) and Legend Brumbaugh (Maryland).
RUNNING BACKS: The game has moved away from the more traditional players at this position in the last five years as the passing revolution takes hold. And accompanying that change has been an influx of more traditional names: Eight of the top ten running backs this past NFL season have ordinary titles. Like Joe (Mixon). And Adrian (Peterson). And Nick (Chubb). Only Saquon Barkley and Ezekial Elliott stand out from the current crop. But that pair couldn’t hold a candle to the former Carolina Panthers star Tshimanga Biakabatuka (pictured left). Just say it. See how it rolls off your tongue. Say it phonetically: Tishimanga Beeackabatooka. Beautiful isn’t it. How about giving Tim – as he was more commonly known – a teammate? What about New England's BenJarvus Green-Ellis? Less a name and more a firm of lawyers.
BACKUPS: I.M.Hipp (Oakland Raiders), Charcandrick West (Kansas City Chiefs) and Squally Canada (BYU)
WIDE RECIEVERS: The fleet footed speed demons on the end of those long touchdown passes are some of the flashiest players in the game. And they have to be with some of these names. Take the brilliant JuJu Smith-Schuster of Pittsburgh, who was actually born John Smith but because of a childhood nickname - ‘JohnJohn’ - that became ‘JuJu’, and his mother re-marrying and becoming a ‘Schuster’, it meant that something very dull became something altogether sexier. I firmly believe that nobody would buy a John Smith shirt if JuJu was still called John Smith. But because John Smith is now JuJu, it’s the 10th best-selling shirt in America. I even bought my 14-year-old daughter one when I was in the Steel City last November and it was $75 very well spent. But I wouldn’t have parted with a red cent if he’d still been John Smith. Not everyone can carry the name Equanimeous Tristan Imhoptep St. Brown (pictured below left) with panache. St Brown, who subsequently dropped the ‘Tristan Imhoptep’, plays for the Green Bay Packers and was given his name after his father saw the word ‘equanimity’, meaning calm under pressure. Equanimeous also has two brothers, Amon-Ra Julian Heru and Osiris Adrian Amen-Ra. He's in, but they aren't. And what about the former Cleveland Brown's star Webster Slaughter (pictured below) who’s a comma away from a local TV report of a massacre in a small town in Wyoming. I once watched him do a gyrating celebration after a touchdown on a Channel 4 highlights show in the 1990’s with a Gary Imlach voiceover that simply said: ‘Webster Slaughter, lock up your daughter’. It’s funny the things you remember.
BACKUPS: Fair Hooker (Cleveland Browns). Which is less of a name and more of a comfort if your intention is to carry on with ladies of the night. He’s perhaps most famous for making a catch on Monday Night Football to which the commentator at the time remarked: “Fair Hooker……. I haven’t met one yet.” Peerless Price (Buffalo Bills), Yo’Heinz Tyler (Ball State) and Lil’Jordan Humphrey of Texas all make the cut.
OFFENSIVE LINE: You need five guys to protect your quarterback and open holes for your running backs. If you’ve ever seen The Blind Side with Sandra Bullock then you’ll know what I mean. If you haven’t then it’s on Netflix and is very entertaining. Anyway, these are very big human beings who can move like dancers at the Bolshoi. They can also crush you like a grape whilst simultaneously protecting you like a hen protects her chicks. Guy Whimper (New York Giants) doesn’t sound tough, but he was 6’5 and 315lbs and he won a Super Bowl. He’s in. Richie Incognito (Buffalo Bills) should be on everyone’s All-Name Team. In part because he sounds like a superhero and Christ knows Marvel have enough films out about people with less attractive names than his. Surely, it’s just a matter of time?
If they can find him.
King Dunlap (LA Chargers, pictured below) and Pork Chop Womack (Seattle Seahawks) are real people. King is six feet nine. He’s also in. And Pork Chop didn’t go by his given name – Floyd – rather by ‘Chop’. I don’t know about you but a guy who weighs 329lbs and is known locally as ‘Chop’ isn’t someone to mess with. Rounding out my offensive line is D’Brickashaw Ferguson. A fine left tackle at the University of Virginia and subsequently with the New York Jets, his name was inspired by Father Ralph de Bricassart from the novel ‘The Thorn Birds’, which is a factual but rather dull footnote.
BACKUPS: Buzz Nutter (Baltimore Colts), Riley Lovingood (University of Tennessee), Sam Walkingstick (Oklahoma State), Tiller Bucktrot (Tulsa), Blake Householder (Colorado State)
DEFENSIVE LINE: Getting after the opposition quarterback and stopping their running game are keys with this group of powerful men with elite quickness and crazy athletic ability. Big humans with big names. Like Tampa Bay’s Vita Vea. Or Tevita Tuliakiono Tuipuloto Mosese Va’hae Faletau Vea to give him his full name. He’s 349lbs and can bench press 225lbs forty-one times so frankly he can have whatever name he wants. Coy Bacon (LA Rams) is essentially a shy meat, but in reality he was one of the best players in NFL history that people know nothing about, mainly because his heroics took place before statistics were officially kept. Two of the best names on the entire team reside on the defensive line: Baylor’s LeQuantum McDonald and Barkevious Mingo of the Seattle Seahawks. Mingo is especially interesting because he doesn’t even have the best name in his family. That belongs to younger brother Hughtavious. The origins of their names come from the boys’ mum Barbara who used the first part of her name and suffixed it with the tail end of cousin Alkevious's. And then did the same with Dad’s name - Hugh - for Hughtavious. In April 2009 Barkevious upset the likes of Iris Macadangdang, Taco Vandervelde and Crystal Metheny for the title of Name of the Year in an online poll.
BACKUPS: Hercules Mata’afa (Minnesota Vikings), Jack Youngblood (LA Rams), Frostee Rucker (Oakland Raiders) and Xzavier Stewart (Kansas State)
LINEBACKERS: Smaller, faster, more athletic, than defensive linemen, these men are the fearsome hunters in the middle tier of your average defense. Which begs the question, why didn’t Lucious Pusey of Eastern Illinois not change positions? In reality, Pusey was a very solid player who became a high school coach and changed his name to Lucious Seymour.
Unless ‘Seymour’ was his middle name.
Which is a completely different article. He’s joined on the team by Josey Jewell (Denver Broncos, pictured right) who was named after Clint Eastwood's character in the The Outlaw Josey Wales, and Tre’ Threat of Jacksonville State who you’d definitely take to a knife fight. And you’d bring Bryce Schwackhammer of NC State along with you. Just to be on the safe side.
BACKUPS: SirDarean Adams (Michigan State), Thurston Armbrister (Arizona Cardinals), Whitney Mercilus (Houston Texans) and Cassanova McKinzy (Washington)
DEFENSIVE BACKS: Smaller, faster, more athletic than linebackers, these guys are Olympic-sprint fast and possessing the most wonderful names known to sporting man. I could make three teams of World Champions just from this position group. Atari Bigby (pictured right) played seven years in the NFL and won a Super Bowl. He’s paired with Baccari Rambo who played for Washington, Miami and Buffalo. Captain Munnerlyn (Carolina) and Earthwind Moreland (New England) - named after his mothers’ favourite band, Earth Wind and Fire are also both in. But perhaps the best name of all belongs to the former Georgia Tech cornerback Immaculate Perfection Harris who now plies his trade as an insurance broker in Indiana. Remarkably his brother was called Supreme Justice Harris. If he’s not a lawyer then he’s doing it wrong.
BACKUPS: Budda Baker and DJ Swearinger (Arizona Cardinals), DeAndre Houston-Carson (Chicago Bears), Briean Boddy-Calhoun (Cleveland Browns), Cre’Von LeBlanc (Philadelphia Eagles), Adoree’ Jackson (Tennessee Titans), Keni-H Lovely (Western Michigan)
KICKER: Jake Shake of Indiana. Say no more.
So, there you have it. Our World Champion names team, surely coached by the former Detroit Lions offensive co-ordinator Jim-Bob Cooter. I’m off to study fourteen year old General Booty, quarterback of the Cornerstone Christian Warriors High School team in Texas in the hope that he makes it to the big time.