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Sunday, May 4, 2014
Great Football Nicknames are on Life Support
Every year about this time, NFL Network runs a "top 100" show. This year, they had the top 100 of all time and viewing it got me to thinking. Yes, a mind is a terrible thing, especially in MY case sometimes, but where oh WHERE did the cool nicknames go???
"Back in the Day," the NFL had guys like Elroy "Crazy Legs" Hirsch, Dick "Night Train" Lane, Billy "White Shoes" Johnson, and William "the Refrigerator" Perry.
They had Prime Time - or "Neon" Deion Sanders....so good just one nickname wasn't enough.
"The Diesel" - John Riggins. Jevon "The Freak" Kearse. Captain Comeback - Roger "the Dodger" Staubach - another guy sporting two of them. "Slingin" Sammy Baugh. "Bambi" - Lance Alworth. "Bullet" Bob Hayes. The list goes on and on for pre-1980's players.
Some of my personal favorites were the first two I mentioned...Crazy Legs and Night Train, and include Dave Casper - remember "The Ghost to the Post" play? That one fit because he was a nice guy off the field (Casper the friendly ghost), and the fact that his fair skin was beyond white. Christian "The Nigerian Nightmare" Okoye. Ed "Too Tall" Jones. Reggie White "The Minister of Defense." "Mean" Joe Greene had a nice ring to it, and of course, there's always "Sweetness" which describes Walter Payton's incredible ability.
My all-time favorite, however, has to be Daryle LaMonica...."The Mad Bomber." EPIC for a deep-throwing quarterback! One can almost see him in a seven-step drop holding one of those old-timey bombs with a fuse lit...you know, the ones that look like a black bowling ball?
To be fair, there are a few current players that have nicknames. Tom Terrific (Brady), "All Day" Adrian Peterson, and perhaps the most creative and oddball one of all time, Doug Martin is "The Muscle Hamster." He hates that nickname, and I can imagine why. It doesn't sound particularly flattering, but then again all-time great Jerry Rice had to endure "Fifi" for a year or two because of an unfortunate hairdo he sported early in his career so nobody is immune. Jerome "The Bus" Bettis has been retired for a few years now, but his nickname fit him to a "T" for sure.
As for the Panthers, we actually had two "Supermen" - Steve Smith and Cam Newton - until about a month ago. Smith actually has Superman's emblem tattooed on his arm among thousands of dollars worth of other art. Luke Kuechly is sort of a default "Clark Kent" due to the Superman references on offense...and the fact he bears a physical resemblance to the mild-mannered alter ego especially when wearing his glasses.
For those that know Superman lore, perhaps Steve Smith's should have been changed to "Bizarro" once Cam came into the league. As a complete non sequitur, "Man of Steel" is by far the best Superman movie out there. Take it from someone with 40+ years of history having Superman as his own hero here, but perhaps that should be Luke Kuehcly's nickname instead? Man of Steel? That would work for the game's premier middle linebacker!
The thing is that few of these current NFL players have good nicknames that really stick and are synonymous with the player. In today's world full of texting your BFF and LOL'ing at everything, "nicknames" have simply been born out of initials. "CJ2K" for Chris Johnson's 2,000-yard rushing season is sort of "meh" these days since he's so far removed from it now. Robert Griffin III? RG3. People are already referring to as-yet undrafted WR Odell Beckham, Jr. as "OBJ."
I suppose as pop culture goes, so goes nicknames. It's an inevitable evolution of sorts but one that is getting less and less creative overall.
If I might suggest a few from comic book lore: Ndamukong Suh; "The Hulk." Josh "Flash" Gordon. And along with the "Superman" theme, although he's not a player, Bill Belichick would be "Brainiac" and Peyton Manning - "General Zod." Since Brett Favre really never had a nickname (although he was referred to as a gunslinger, a number of QBs are also), and he holds the NFL record for consecutive games played without missing one with 297, "Iron Man" would fit nicely. MLB's Lou Gehrig was "the Iron Horse," after all.
At least we do have Megatron, "Beast Mode," and the Muscle Hamster, so I guess there's still hope yet.
And we do have the Kraken!
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