Sports and Nicknames: We Need to Stop

Nicknames are a big thing for sports. They give tag lines to the big name players, and allow for creative wit. In the past, nicknames were derived from personas and personal flair when playing. Such names as Wilt the Stilt, for his freakish height and long legs; or his Airness, for Michael Jordan’s ability to “fly”. I can think of many old sports greats with long lasting legacies rooted by their nicknames. While I think nicknames are a good thing to come from greatness in sports, that simply is not so anymore. These days, the news world has become so obsessed with tagging players for the sake of story writing, something has been lost in the transition.

Today, players are tagged well before they go pro. These aren’t clever nicknames either; they’re bland numbers and letters. Things like CP3 for Chris Paul 3, which I was accepting of, because it was almost a Star Wars C3P0 pun. That, however, is just one of the dozens, if not hundreds of “nicknames” now derived purely from initials and jersey numbers. So congratulations to all the sports players out there. You’re nothing more than ID numbers. Reading about the NFL draft combine already has several players tagged by this system.

What’s disturbing is these IDs are for the good players too, and not the average or bench warmers. The greats come out a little better, but are still hampered by premature nicknaming, and given names that really don’t fit with their current accomplishments. The biggest example has got to be Lebron James. He was hyped as the next Jordan when he entered the NBA, and given the nickname “King James” before he ever put on an NBA jersey.

Ten years later, “The King” has yet to win a championship, and has even gone so far as to leave his home town team to join what was once his biggest rival, Dwayne Wade (DW3), in Miami. I’m not here to argue over what he did being right or wrong, but I will say this, his nickname does not follow his path. Why do we call him “The King”? He is the King of nothing, except maybe ill advised premature nicknames.

Maybe that’s why people have taken so much to Linsanity. His is a nickname derived from the event that sparked the sports madness. A name that people say with emotion, because it expresses just how insane his performance, and story is. What would he be had he been tagged when he entered the NBA? J17, a far cry from Linsanity, and really boring.

So, I think its time to stop. Nicknames are great, but we need to let the stories create the names, instead of trying to come up with them to predict the stories. Let Linsanity serve as the shining example of a sports nickname done right in sharp contrast to King James.

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2 responses to “Sports and Nicknames: We Need to Stop”

  1. Sean Breslin says :

    Agreed. Everything and everyone doesn’t have to have a nickname.

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