The Packers drafting Ha Ha Clinton-Dix got me thinking that we don't have as many great sports nicknames as we used to. Ha Ha is mercifully NOT Mr. Clinton-Dix's real first name (it's Ha'Sean--his grandmother is the one that started calling him Ha Ha as a child). But it's not a good nickname either.
Today's sports nicknames are either lame abbreviations of a player's first and last names--(i.e. A-Rod, K-Rod, MJ, AI and KG) or the players bestow it upon themselves as part of some slick Nike marketing campaign (like "King James" or "The Black Mamba" for Kobe Bryant). C'mon man, you can't give yourself a nickname! It's gotta be something somebody else thinks you should be called.
When I was a kid sports were filled with guys who were never known by their real names. The NBA had The Iceman, Tiny, Pistol Pete, The Chief, World B Free, Clyde the Glide, and of course Doctor J. Jerry West was so great he had TWO nicknames--Mister Clutch when he played, and The Logo since he retired (as his silhouette is used in the NBA emblem).
In baseball there was Boog, Mister October, Charlie Hustle, Hammerin' Hank, Pee Wee, The Mad Hungarian and the Human Rain Delay. Football had The Snake, Broadway Joe, The Mad Bomber, The Hitman and Night Train.
Hockey had most of my favorites: The Golden Jet, The Rocket, Mister Hockey, The Hammer, The Grim Reaper and of course The Great One--which was certainly deserved for Wayne Gretzky.
The ultimate nicknames give the player a sense of being even "greater" than if they had just kept their regular names. Do you think Eldrick Woods would have intimidated as many fellow competitors as Tiger has? Would Chick Hearn (another great nickname--as opposed to Francis) have been as excited to describe the sweet no-look pass from Ervin Johnson--as he was for Magic? And would George Herman Ruth have been as huge an American icon as "Babe" has been?
So let's get working on better nicknames for our athletes today. We could start by changing "Ha Ha" Clinton-Dix to something that is actually funny--like the "Monica Lewinsky Treat".