If you’re a star and your jersey number is 85, it’s normal that you change your name legally from Chad Johnson to Chad Ochocinco. It’s no weirder than one of the most penalized NBA-stars changing his name from Ron Artest into Metta World Peace. Because what’s in a name? I’ll tell you. In the brave new world of constant communications: a lot!
Facebook, Twitter, Commercials, Posters, if you want to be a star, you’ve gotta get your face out there. In sports names often have the equivalent value of brands. We all know Jordans. And we all know Magic. (You’re all thinking about Earvin Johnson now and not the NBA-outfit based in Orlando, am I right?) We all know Big Ben. (Roethlisberger and not the bell in the London, right?) One more for the road: The Kid (Who had Billy and who had Sidney Crosby?). Nicknames are earned, given by fans and then branded. If you’re Kobe Bryant or David Ortiz you can even make suggestions: Black Mamba or Big Papi any one. A hiccough occurs when your nickname turns out to be The Muscle Hamster. So Doug Martin is feverishly pleading for a more ‘brandable’ name. Hamster cage bedding and chew toys are not the first choice endorsements for an NFL running back. Although a muscle hamster in his wheel could give the Duracel bunny a run for his money. Still, all envy goes out to people like Wayne Gretzky. Who’s going to complain being dubbed The Great, right.
But the importance of names, brands, labels doesn’t stop at individuals. Any steamy jazz holes in downtown Salt Lake City? A ‘Dream Team’ winning bronze? America’s Team lagging behind in viewer ratings? Naming and branding outweigh petty issues like reality. It’s all about forming a community, creating a ‘WE’-feeling. Because ‘US’ is great. And great makes money. Just look at the Red Sox Nation filling up stadiums from sea to shiny sea?
Names and brands are great. But they mean nothing without points, wins, titles, dynasties, legacies. And even though stardom has inserted a morphologically out of place ‘I’ in ‘team’, a team still consists of several players. And I for one am really rooting for the LA Lakers and Miami Heat NOT to make the NBA-finals. Do I hate the Lakers: No! Do I hate the Heat: No! (I don’t like sweating in summer, but that’s a different kind of heat) Do Black Mambas scare me: No! Neither am I awestruck when meeting a King. Am I Lex Luther who has secretly sprinkled some kryptonite on Dwight Howards yellow and purple shirt shoulder, or Kobe’s ankle socks: No! Why then? Well, I hate to think that a brand like the Lakers or the Heat can simply buy big names and win championships.
Because it’s not all about the big names, about the players with the cool nicknames, about the big brands and the faces on the commercials, and the soap opera dynasties. Stars and teams have to rely on roleplayers. On grafters who are technically sound, physically able and mentally willing. Think of them as the supporting cast without whom there would be no stars, no stories, no product to sell. They don’t mind the spotlights tracking someone else. They don’t mind being the small change when blockbuster trades are made or salary caps are discussed. At the start of each season they are ready to provide their services to whatever city which be the destination of the plane ticket their agent gives to them.
Only avid fans remember those guys’ names after they’ve done their duty and have moved on. They seldom stick around long enough to get a cool nickname. Nobody wants to brand them. As a group, however, they are provided with a label. Like the early immigrants at Ellis Island were given an ‘americanized’ name, these grafters, these small time earners in the shadows of the big stage get a convenient label. Although it was never planned, I have recently changed jobs for the third time. Always in the same city, always in the same sector. At first I found it annoying that I was always appreciated, but never welcomed into the core team of any company. But now I realize that I just keep learning new stuff, I keep meeting new people, and … I’ve come to realize that I wear my name tag with pride. For I am The Journeyman.
– The Journeyman
**Little is known about The Journeyman, other than his way with words and vast knowledge of sports. Stay tuned for more entries!**