If you're like me--one of 12 Steves at your workplace--you envy
pro football players not for their money or their fame, but for
their breathtaking names. Zeron Flemister, Cletidus Hunt,
Emarlos Leroy, Armegis Spearman, Sulecio Sanford, Flozell Adams,
Shockmain Davis, Antico Dalton, Tebucky Jones, Peppi Zellner,
Cheston Blackshear, Wasswa Serwanga, Laveranues Coles, Na'il
Diggs and Mondriel Fulcher are all employed in the NFL, as is
the insuperable Hannibal Navies, whose name always conjures in
my head a fleet of amphibious elephants--in bathing caps and
nose plugs--swimming ashore at Normandy en route to the Alps.
Whatever its pretensions as the new national pastime, pro
football has surely displaced baseball as the best sport to
announce. Any knucklehead in a network blazer can paint
thousand-word pictures on Sunday simply by reciting the starting
lineups. Receiver Chafie Fields, late of the 49ers? A verdant but
rash-bearing pasture, downstream from Flushing Meadow. Raiders
running back Napoleon Kaufman? A short accountant in a tricorn,
riding a white steed to Price-Waterloo. Giants receiver Amani
Toomer? Two words: designer disease.
For some years now I have been unable to hear the name of
Steelers center Dermontti Dawson without seeing, instantly and
all too vividly, the label for Del Monte Creamy Style Yellow
Corn. (I wish it weren't so.) But more often the images that
illustrate my Sundays are lyrical--almost poetic--and is it any
wonder why? The name of former Dolphins guard O'Lester Pope, when
intoned by Pat Summerall, sounded like the opening of a poem or
song. (Behind him on the depth chart: O'Holy Knight and O'Cursed
If names are destiny, and your son's destiny is to be a pro
football player--and to marry a woman named Destiny, as so many
do--then give his name a stylish spelling. Marty Jenkins will one
day manage a Pizza Hut, which is perfectly fine. But MarTay
Jenkins will play wide receiver for the Cardinals. (Indeed, he
already does.) The difference between a Marty and a MarTay, it
goes without saying, is the difference between a party and a
Of course, parents can't always encode a child's fate in his or
her name. As it turns out, the mother of Priest Holmes could not
preordain her child's occupation--he became a Ravens running back.
The power of suggestion likewise failed the parents of Patriots
defensive back Lawyer Milloy. The Burress family of Virginia
Beach was no doubt displeased that young Plaxico became a
receiver for the Steelers rather than the multinational plastics
conglomerate they had hoped he would be. Such failure to fulfill
one's fate can be a source of bitter disappointment--Ravens
linebacker Cornell Brown attended neither Ivy League school--or of
great relief: Browns defensive end Stalin Colinet hasn't executed
30 million of his countrymen.
NFL games are three hours of tedium occasionally interrupted by
action. So, in the course of a telecast one's mind will wander to
Yalta and beyond. Every down poses a diverting question: Was the
mother of rookie defensive back (cut last Sunday by the
Buccaneers) Earthwind Moreland an Earth Wind & Fire fan? What do
Rams linebacker London Fletcher, Giants offensive tackle Rome
Douglas and former Cardinals defensive back Paris Johnson make of
the stagnating euro?
The perception of gladiatorial grandeur that surrounds pro
football, I am convinced, has everything to do with the
Greco-Roman grandiloquence of its players' names. Aeneas
Williams, Octavious Bishop, Adalius Thomas, Roman Fortin--no
wonder the Super Bowl is Roman numeraled. So thank heaven that
another season has arrived, with all its lovely neologisms.
Jammi German, Stockar McDougle, Errict Rhett, Lemanski Hall,
Olandis Gary, La'Roi Glover, Alshermond Singleton: They are
priceless peers of Peerless Price.
I salute you, Orlando Bobo.
COLOR ILLUSTRATION: DAN PICASSO