The sad demise of nicknames

There’s a good, though overly academic, piece in the NYTimes today about the sad demise of sports nicknames. It’s a topic we’ve ranted about in Slam and over at SlamOnline for years. Slam has made efforts to create nicknames for players and have them stick. To the best of my knowledge, there has not been a true success there yet, though I welcome being told I am wrong by someone.

You don’t have to be a genius or one of the academics that the NYT spoke to grasp the slide from Magic, Pearl, Black Jesus, Slick, the Microwave, even Air Jordan to D-Wade and Melo. Stat is kind of worthy and Big Baby, as noted in the article, rules the current roost.

But I think it goes deeper than the sports world. I grew up with Icky, Muzzy, Ice, Itzy, Skirbs, Ripper and McGoo. My kids have Jackson, Luke, Gabe and Maddie.  I thought this was mostly a Pittsburgh thing. I mean, where else would a beloved stadium vendor get a nice, long obit in the local paper, like this.  And it was well earned; RIP “Coke heeeere” man.

But maybe it wasn’t just a Pittsburgh thing. Did everyone my age and older know a host of people with nicknames?

PS: Best nickname in the old hood may have been “Big Marv the Jew” – especially since he was called that by everyone at the JCC.

PPS: In response to several queries, I have had lots of nicknames, but no one that stuck like those mentioned above. I am Bub, Fat Al, Pipeline, Fu Man Jew, Robo…

7 replies
  1. Joan
    Joan says:

    So true! And no one ever names their dunks anymore like Darryl Dawkins used to do. My fave of course was "Chocolate Thunder". By the way, Magic, Black Jesus and Pearl were all nicknames of Earl Monroe.
    Uncle Ben

  2. alanpaul
    alanpaul says:

    Unc Ben,
    Sadly, judging by this post and other online evidence, your nickname is not The hanging Judge, but simply "Joan."

  3. Bonet
    Bonet says:

    The nickname in pro sports might not be entirely dead. Boxer Manny Pacquiao goes by the lame Pacman. But he's also known as Pambansang Kamao. Translated from Tagalog: The National Fist. Now that's solid. (credit: heard that from Frank Deford this morning on the radio)

    – Bonzy

  4. alanpaul
    alanpaul says:

    Bones, the national fist is a winner. Sadly in the news today, Tractor Traylor was another classic nickname.

  5. JMS
    JMS says:

    Big Al aka Pipeline,

    i read the same article and wondered if the WSJ was really that out of touch with Wall Street. Surely those writing at the paper know some of the following people: Buzzy, O'D, Raids, Buss, Swartzy, Brew-dog, and, yes, Solly.

    While nicknames are clearly on the decline, they are still alive on many trading floors. Interestingly, I actually attribute the decline to something far more egalitarian…..women in the workplace. I dont know any women with nicknames. And when you look at your list, none of those people are women either. I think this is all a function of the fact that nicknames are actually exclusively male, which is no longer acceptable. Thus if the decline in nicknames is a by product of workplace balance, then that is a small negative in an otherwise positive trend.

    BTW – Rogie, Beefo and the Boaf are none to pleased to have been excluded from your list.



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