What Is in a Name, Besides Humiliation?

Report: Ohio State fans who named kids after Jim Tressel show no regrets – College Football News | FOX Sports on MSN: “Four years later, and with the coach awaiting the terms of his departure from OSU, Kati Bockover said that there was no doubt her daughter would remain a Tressel. ‘We love [Jim Tressel]. We’re proud of him,’ she added. ‘People are asking if she’s changing her name. Absolutely not. No remorse, no regrets, no way.’ ”

It is perhaps way overdue to propose the expansion of the not-often-heeded conventions for buying an athletic jersey for application in the area of baby-naming. There is a similarity in the economics behind both decisions: for baby names, the gravity is apparent; for jerseys, the cost is prohibitive. Little can be done for the poor souls in Ohio, of course, but others contemplating as-yet-untainted names (Usain, Oksana, Ironhead, etc.) can still benefit.

  1. RETIRED PLAYERS ONLY. The first rule has to be that you should not wear a jersey with (i.e. name a baby after) a player who is still playing. Not only is his or her performance on the field a potential liability, but active players also are slightly more likely to make negative news (i.e. fail a drug test, get arrested for drunken driving, date a Kardashian). Never mind the risk that they be traded to a rival team. Before settling on a player’s name, all are advised to wait for the player to reach a stately, doddering old age.
  2. REPLICAS ARE O.K. Given the ethical ambiguity of supporting big-time sports with the hundreds of dollars an authentic jersey can cost, leeway is here granted for any clothing that comes close to resembling the real thing. In the same way, parents who want to name their child after a sports figure in a slightly oblique way, say, “Payton” in honor of Walter Payton or, uhm, “Catfish” for Jim Hunter are given the go-ahead. Such names have the added benefit of being obscure; the singer Erykah Badu has a child named Seven, and it is assumed it is not to honor Mickey Mantle.
  3. STYLISTIC QUIRKS ARE NOT. In the same way that women are advised to avoid any sports accessory in pink, a thumbs down is offered here to the recent flag-honoring caps pimped by major league baseball (the same goes for caps in argyle). These look even more ridiculous on the head of an ordinary person. The corollary here for parents is to stay close to the herd when it comes to spelling. That means absolutely no babies should be named “Jeet’r” for Derek Jeter or “Glyde” for Clyde Drexler. “A-Rod” is right out.
  4. KEEP IT CASUAL. Most wags advise fans to keep their jerseys untucked, if only because you tend to look ridiculous trying to lend dignity to something so juvenile. Most players on the field lean toward the disheveled. For parents, this advice translates as, Allow your child to use a nickname or a middle name if he or she does not share your inane sentimentality. You don’t have to be an alcoholic, born-again Christian country star to behold the power of a name.

(Jersey-Only) Addendum

  • Consider matching the fashion protocols of your team. To wit, if your team does not put names on jerseys, you should follow suit. Your peers will know which player you are honoring, and you will avoid the condescending sneers of soreheads.
  • Consider, too, if it is necessary to also own a so-called throwback jersey, following the same policy. Many teams did not have names on jerseys before then 1970s.
  • On a related note, consider matching your choice of player name to a jersey style he or she might have actually worn.
  • There really is a lot of good, fun stuff written online about buying and wearing jerseys. But what I really want to write is that jerseys should properly hold the same place in your life as cutting class and drinking soda two liters at a time. Once you are out of the eighth grade and have things to do, put the jerseys away.
  • But that seems harsh.

Others said:

Fan Nation
“If you’re a ‘real’ fan, show your support for one of the other guys out there…don’t just blend in with all the other fair weather fans.” … “You’re better than that, you know that your team is more than its star…don’t be that guy.”
River Avenue Blues
“You should only be wearing baseball attire of a team in your current ballpark. The lone exception to this is if you are sporting merchandise of a closely affiliated rival. If you’re wearing Red Sox gear at a Yankees/Twins game, I know who you’re rooting for. If you’re wearing Diamondbacks gear, you just look stupid.”
Heard It From Hoard
“By the way, not everyone agrees that wearing jerseys is cool. I caught a female comedian named Whitney Cummings on the Tonight Show last week who questioned why so many guys wear jerseys while watching their favorite teams play on TV. As she pointed out, she doesn’t put on scrubs to watch Grey’s Anatomy.”
Field Gulls
“I stay away from the white jerseys, because, frankly, I’m too goddamn fat. A white jersey would make me look like a beached whale, and a neon green one would make me look like a whale that beached itself after swimming past the Hanford Nuclear Reservation.”