It was a lot easier to play the Name Game back in the days when people were named Shirley, Lincoln, and Tony. Now that celebrities have set the bar at a level as far away from common sense as humanly possible, names have spiraled out of control. Everything from hand fruit to descriptions of places and types of pickled vegetables to things you might find on a matchbook have been used to name the next generation of misfits who will grow up to be on the receiving end of countless beatings, swirlies, and wedgies. Athletes have taken the practice a step further. Seemingly dissatisfied with their given names, they have decided to change their names, presumably using some name-generator website on the Internet, creating an amalgam of foolishness and craziness before brandishing their “choice” as some kind of homage or political statement.
It’s fully understandable when you come across cases like Hakeem Olajuwon, who decided to add add the ‘H’ to his name early in his career or Dan Gadzuric- once gad-ZER-ik, later gad-ZOO-reech. Joe Theisman changed the pronunciation of his last name from “TEES-man” to rhyme with “Heisman” in an ill-fated attempt to win the trophy given to the top college player. Horrible irony, considering that it was the thigh that ended his career. There was even a time when the Nuggets’ J.R. Smith spent a day-and-a-half as Earl Smith just to avoid detection after a bad shooting night. In addition to the legion of spelling and pronunciation changers, there are plenty of athletes who were brought up in broken spelling homes. Chone? Andruw? Dwyane? It’s enough to cause my spell-check to take an early retirement.
For some, a name change might have been a recommended course of action. God Shammgod? A 20-game unmemorable stint in the NBA would suggest someone other than a divine messenger. Dick Pole? Come on, Richard is always available. Either way, the man must have had thick skin (pun not exactly intended). Ben Gay? If you couldn’t hear the footsteps, the thick smell of mentholatum might have been a cue. Dick Trickle? Ron Tugnutt? Haven’t these guys heard of briefs?
This past week, however, the spotlight has been thrust upon a different type of crazy. Who else would be the perfect person to tell us about it than Metta World Peace (nee Ron Artest, nee Ron Ron, and NAY!)? A mid-game jaunt through the stands in Detroit, auctioning off his championship ring, and spending last summer playing dodge ball at the L.A. Jewish Community Center — who said sports and kreplach don’t mix? — apparently didn’t feed his eccentric Jones.
Some players possess jaw-dropping talent. Others have great showmanship. Apparently, a growing number have too much time on their hands. While orange jump suits seem to be the rage in courthouse attire of late, there is a trend in some sports figures showing up to court voluntarily. Chad Ochocinco demonstrated to the world his lack of linguistic abilities when he changed his last name from Johnson, in 2006. He was trying to harbor appreciation for his foreign fan base while altering his name to match his jersey number in Spanish. Rumor has it that he successfully failed to do both. Five years of school-enforced Spanish and the only word I retained is “Tapatío,” but I do believe Ochocinco is not the proper word for “eighty-five.” Chad [insert name here] has decided that he will be changing his name back to Johnson in the near future, though, since his treads are starting to wear out; perhaps he could have taken a cue from that mechanic down the street and altered his moniker to “Llantas Usadas.”
What I am still not certain of is, is World Peace the entire last name for Ron Ron’s newest creation? Should there not be hyphens, then? They certainly work for Ben-Jarvis Green-Ellis, which sounds like the name of the firm handling Ron’s — sorry — Metta’s name change. Based on in-depth research (translated: copying and pasting from another website), Metta is a Buddhist term meaning “kindliness and friendliness toward others.” Word is that this was chosen because there is no idiomatic Buddhist expression for “completely lost his mind.” The NBA will still have the final word on how much of the name will go on the jersey, so Metta’s plan could quite possibly go to… pieces. While a host of athletes have changed their names for religious reasons, it appears that this might just be a case of MWP trying to draw attention to a worthy cause or, simply, that David Stern wouldn’t let Ron change his appellation to “Save the Whales” or “McLovin.’”
If this name-changing fandango catches on, imagine the possibilities. Advertisers would be lining up. They’ve already replaced the names on the fronts of WNBA jerseys, but how about paying athletes to change their names for endorsement purposes. You can just imagine a coach yelling from the sideline, “Give up the ball underneath, State Farm is there.”
This could very well spur an influx of ironic name changing that affect all walks of life. The schlimazel in 1C might become Rich Guy. Your local politician, Honest Mann. Feel free to look for my new column next week, authored by Insightful Writing.Google+