My name is Mark, but I hardly ever hear that. I’m called many things (probably some I don’t want to know about), but rarely by my given name. It’s usually Honey from my wife, Dad from my kids, and Mr. D from my students. In fact, when I do hear someone say Mark, I am usually caught unaware, unsure of what I’ve just heard.
Names have power. It’s why we don’t call teachers, doctors, and priests by just their first names very often; we don’t feel like we should have power over them. We have nicknames from various eras in our lives, some that even stick from youth all the way through.
Last week I wrote about my announcing career. One of the things some people tell me they look forward to is what batch of nicknames I might have for players. Some are blatantly stolen from others (Carlie “The Dagger” Wagner is thanks to the Swami), some are spontaneous (Harlee “Vroom Vroom” Vokoun comes to mind), and others have a good story behind them.
The first nickname I handed out came in my third year here. Paul Johnson was working on a project with Danny Gullickson while they sat on the floor. Danny dared Paul to stick a paper clip in an electric outlet. Who could resist something like that besides 99% of us? Paul took the dare, and the next thing everyone in the class knew, a fuse had been blown, and Paul was sitting in a daze with a paper clip in his hand. He was dubbed Sparky, and that name stuck at least through high school.
One of my favorites dates back to when I coached summer rec baseball in Ellendale and Geneva. Justin Stieglbauer was a good player on what was a very good team. However, Stiggy liked to do more than was necessary: he would dive to make a catch when he didn’t have to or take an extra base when he shouldn’t have tried. One day I told him that he was becoming a legend in his own mind, and that was that. The other boys joined in naming Justin “The Legend,” and that’s how I announced him all the way through his senior year of high school.
Curt Pederson and I didn’t always get along in middle school, so I ironically called him “My good friend,” Curt Pederson. I often joked that that was the way I’d introduce him in a varsity game someday. He said if I did that, he’d come up in the booth and smack me. I did it anyway. He said it fired him up so much for the football game that he played a spectacular game, making a number of good defensive plays.
Some nicknames have stuck even after high school. Taylor Holland is a vivacious person, and his motor was always running in school. Before a wrestling meet in high school, I thought that Taylor needed a nickname to match his personality, and thus was born the longest nickname I’ve ever given: The Mouth of the South, the Master of Disaster. To this day, as he assists as a coach for football, I still introduce him that way.
Not everyone gets a nickname. It has to be something that fits and that the crowd might be able to understand. Earlier this year, Leon Schoenrock approached me and said he had the perfect nickname for Kevin Kalis for basketball season: Big Country. Kevin is a force in the lane at 6’6”, so that seemed appropriate. A week ago, some of his classmates told me I should call him Jif, based on some inside joke. Eh, I’ll go with Leon’s suggestion.
Sometimes it’s not even a nickname; some last names are just fun to announce. Joe Moon’s last name was fun to drag out on the vowel sound. Paige Overgaard’s last name lets me go over a hill. Plus, any name that starts with an R can get a growl out of me (think of that for Greg and Geoff Ramaker or even when I can add it to a previous consonant like in Trevor Tracy).
There have been so many fun ones over the years. Alearah “Hello” Neumann, “The Prophet” Eli Bushlack, and Jade “The Blade” Schultz have all been fun, and I look forward to what new ones pop up in the years to come.
Me? I’ll stick to Mr. D, Domeier, Dome Dog, or even Mr. Domeier most days. I expect to hear those much more than Mark… and that’s okay.
Word of the Week: This week’s word is ineluctable, which means impossible to avoid, as in, “It was ineluctable to attend a girls’ basketball game at NRHEG without hearing about a Dagger and a Blade during starting lineups.” Impress your friends and confuse your enemies!