By Jason Menard
A name can be a powerful thing. It can serve as a calling card for generations to come. It can serve to intimidate one’s opponents – either on the field of play or in battle. And it can be a definitive statement about one’s prowess.
Or you can be ‘Useless’ Ulysses Gomez.
The other night I was absent-mindedly watching TV while working on another project. In the background, some mixed-martial-arts competition was playing. I didn’t pay attention to the match – it was serving largely as background white noise for my work. That is until I heard the ring announcer name one of the match’s participants. And that’s when I heard the worst nickname in all of sports – Useless.
Useless. Really? Nicknames in sport are supposed to intimidate – the only way this name could aid Gomez’s chances of winning is by incapacitating his opponent with laughter.
I learned early on about the importance of nicknames. It was during high school when we were preparing for a Latin banquet. Our role was to provide entertainment in the form of a mock gladiator spectacle. We had everything choreographed and I was to serve as the announcer. And that’s when it happened.
My friend came up to me and said, “Jay, I think I’ve got the perfect name for my gladiator.”
“OK,” I replied, “What is it [name withheld to protect the not-so-innocent. Or bright.]?”
“I want to be called The Beast of Bestiality.”
Longer pause to gather myself.
Pause while I considered allowing him to go through with this.
One more pause while I considered how much trouble I’d get in if I actually let him go through with this.
“Uhm, listen [Beast of Bestiality], I really think you should reconsider,” I said. “You do know what bestiality is, right?”
“Yeah,” he replied. “It means being savage. Fighting your opponent like you were a wild animal.”
“Uhm, no,” I explained. “It means you like to do unspeakable things to furry animals.”
And a crisis – and a potential moment of comedic gold – was averted.
Nicknames are important. I can rattle off a few and you’re likely to know to whom I’m referring: Dr. J, The Chicoutimi Cucumber, Sweetness, and The Flower come to mind. There are also nicknames that can only be held by one person: The Great One and Air. Other nicknames have usurped the person’s actual name as a way to identify them: Magic Johnson and Tiger Woods are examples of that.
Unfortunately, nicknames are quickly becoming a thing of the past. Today’s athletes don’t put in the effort that they used to. Now it’s simply a matter of adding a ‘y’ or an “ie” to the end of their first or last names: names like Chelly or Burnsie.
It makes me miss the days of Chocolate Thunder, Charlie Hustle, and Crazy Legs. That said, I may be part of the problem.
After all, I put the kibosh on The Beast of Bestiality.