In hoops you're nobody without a hip-hop handle. Everyone from his
teammates to his prosecutor knows the Sacramento Kings' Chris
Webber as C-Webb. The Orlando Magic's Tracy McGrady answers to
T-Mac, and Philadelphia 76ers star Allen Iverson is so good you
can call him either AI or the Answer. Rap names work in the NBA,
with its street roots and the hip-hoperati sitting courtside,
from J. Lo and Spike Lee to Sean Combs, a.k.a. Puff Daddy, a.k.a.
P. Diddy. The style works in baseball, too, at least for A-Rod.
But lately the hip-hopping of jocks' names has gotten out of
hand. Last month San Diego Padres manager Bruce Bochy was talking
about a soft-tossing, pasty-faced pitcher named Brian Lawrence.
"We're really counting on B-Law," he said.
Where will it all end? How long before we have to call Art Howe,
the Oakland A's manager, A-Ho?
In case you haven't noticed, the name game is creeping into golf.
Davis Love III sometimes goes by DL3, though I think Vanilla Nice
would be more appropriate. Karrie Webb occasionally answers to
K-Webb, but considering her slump she might think about
shortening it to K-Ebb.
Despite my own hip-hop handles, Ice Milk and Tone Def, I have my
doubts about this trend. Golf may have a Road Hole, but it's
hardly a street game, and while there are plenty of golfaz with
attitude--John Daly was born to be called Busta Drive--no amount of
hip hype should allow the memory of Ol' Dirty Tom Morris to be
dishonored. It would be ludicrous to speak of Fred Funkmaster,
Juli Inksta and Ludacris DiMarco. Just because Justin Rose is
slimmer, more talented and almost as cute as Jennifer Lopez, we
don't have to call him J-Ro.
Still, the possibilities are tempting. It would be fun to refer
to Rosie Jones as RoJo and Hootie Johnson as HooJo. ("I got my
course tweaked by da Faz," HooJo might be tempted to say, "and
damned if I'm gonna let some hoochies into my crib.") Calling
Casey Martin K-Mart makes sense--he's the guy with the cart. It
might be fitting to dub Michael Campbell and Mark Calcavecchia MC
Kiwi and MC Claw, respectively, and to call Colin Montgomerie
Mistah Poutfire, disrespectively. We might be able to keep Stuart
Appleby and Robert Allenby straight if they became Stu-B and
Rob-A. I could see hoisting the claret jug with Eazy-E (Ernie
Els), counting waggles with LL Nino (Sergio Garcia) and getting
outdriven by the pint-sized prince of Wales, Lil' Wu-Z (Ian
Woosnam). Other hip-hop handles to consider: B-Hard (Langer), DJ
Vijay (Singh), and IMD Walrus (Craig Stadler). I'd like to see
Brad Faxon and Loren Roberts putt for the title of Snoop Mossy
Boss. I could root for Mutha Fulke, Lef-T Mickelson and Mark
O'Meara, a.k.a. Em-o-em, and be the first to call the volcanic
Pat Perez, my favorite rookie, P-Pez da F-Bomb Dispensa.
But inevitably there will be abuses. Some Senior tour hipster
might be tempted to call Morris Hatalsky Mo-Hat, and that's going
If they're smart, golf writers and announcers will resist the
temptation to imitate rappers. They'll recognize the trend behind
the trend: By the time a sports fad reaches golf, it's already
played out. Remember the high five? Golfers are still misfiring
on awkward high fives long after other jocks have switched to
fist- and chest-bumping.
Anyway, golf will endure even without hip nicknames because it is
the last major sport to prize decorum and discipline--the game's
squareness is part of its charm. And in this unique cultural
moment golf gets to flaunt its squareness while still enjoying a
modicum of street cred, since it has the No. 1 crossover star in
sports. The rest of us can stumble along in our Bermuda shorts
and starched polos, high-fiving after bogeys, knowing that we've
got the hottest jock of them all in our game--the Notorious T.I.G.
Golf Plus will next appear in the Nov. 11 issue of SPORTS
COLOR ILLUSTRATION: PATRICK MEREWETHER EM-O-EM Mark O'Meara and his fellow playas might have more street cred if they copped hipper nicknames.
Hip-hop handles are slowly creeping into golf. Are you ready for
Mutha Fulke, Juli Inksta and Ludacris DiMarco?