Sport nicknames can be great, especially when they emerge naturally.
Stan “The Man” Musial was given his by apprehensive fans in Brooklyn’s Ebbets Field. Watching the Cardinal great approach the plate — Musial killed Dodger pitching — they would murmur, “Here comes that man again.”
Willie Mays was dubbed “The Say Hey Kid” because as a rookie, when he didn’t know someone’s name, he’d shout, “Say, hey over there.”
The nickname of hockey great Bernie “Boom-Boom” Geoffrion, the inventor of the slap shot, came from the sound of his stick hitting the puck.
Reggie Jackson was called “Mr. October” by Yankees teammate Thurman Munson after destroying the Dodgers in the 1977 World Series.
But I’m not sure what to think about the emergent name for the Aggies’ Johnny Manziel. The Texas A&M students who began calling the quarterback “Johnny Football” may not have done him any favors.
The redshirt freshman stayed somewhat under the radar the first nine games of 2012. Then came the Aggies’ nationally televised upset of Alabama, sparked in large part by Manziel’s enthusiastic play.
Suddenly, Manziel and his nickname were everywhere — to the point that Texas A&M and Manziel’s family are trying to copyright the moniker to prevent outsiders from making a quick buck off his success, a move that could profit Manziel when his amateur days are over.
But the “Johnny Football” name is also going to attract the attention of every top defensive player Manziel faces the rest of his college career. Whenever he’s sacked, or just hit particularly hard, as he’s going down you can bet he’ll hear something like:
“Johnny Football this.”
Maybe that’s why Manziel doesn’t appear overly fond of the appellation.
On Twitter, after someone razzed him for “accepting the nickname,” he wrote, “How did I accept that nickname? When have you ever seen me use it?”
Well, he may not use it. But to keep it from being used derisively by others, he nonetheless better live up to it.
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Speaking of names — or the lack thereof — in journalism, anonymous sources are both necessary and problematic.
Necessary because without them, some things that need to be said would not be said; problematic because a comment without attribution cannot be checked for accuracy or, for that matter, properly evaluated in terms of context.
The anonymous quotes attacking the abilities of Tim Tebow, reportedly coming from a few New York Jets, don’t exactly rise to the level of the information that fueled the stories around Watergate or the publication of the Pentagon Papers.
As Jill Abramson, now executive editor of The New York Times, put it in a 2008 discussion of the topic, “There are noble anonymous sources and less noble ones.”
Put the unattributed quotes given to Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News in the latter category.
Contact Jim Gordon at email@example.com.