The No. 1 passer in the NFL is named Drew Brees. The two lowest-rated passers are Alex Smith and Derek Anderson.
You might think the disparity lies in natural ability or work ethic, but I insist it's all in the name. Drew “Cool” Brees was destined for greatness; the commonality of Smith and Anderson, mediocrity. Like any theory though, it can't be proven.
I recently opined about car names — my assertion being that a car named with passion and pride, like Dodge “Stealth” or Mustang “Cobra” will always be more in demand than something named Plymouth “Reliant.” Girls like bad boys and powerful — not reliable — cars.
The same holds true for athletes, and much of my wagering success over the past 30 years has been contingent on cool, descriptive player names. I won a lot of moola on the Mississippi Rebels in 2000 when they had a one-two running punch of Joe Gunn and “Deuce” McCallister.
A few years ago, I was successful betting against the South Carolina “Gamecocks” led by quarterback “Chris Smelly.” That's no field general! Deuce became a top NFL running back for the Saints, while Smelly of course, never went pro. Who would want to draft Smelly? If his first game was predictably bad, every sports headline in the country would read, “Smelly stinks it up in NFL debut.”
Earlier this season, I noticed an article “Jets sign Clowney, cut Woodhead.” I thought, “You get rid of a Woodhead, yet sign a Clowney? Why bother?” What a debacle it would have been if they'd all ended up on the same team — a Smelly quarterback handing off to Woodhead and passing to Clowney. The only way I'd ever bet them is if the opposition had a QB named Ben Barfbag passing to Moses Snailsby.
Not surprisingly, Clowney now has a total of one catch for the Jets. I must admit though, Woodhead — a former Chadron State player — has shocked me by averaging 5.4 yards a carry for the Patriots. I contend that's an aberration though. Normally, any last name with the suffix “-head” won't be landing on top. It's always gonna sound like a juvenile putdown, thus I'd never bet on a team led by a QB named Ron Rubbberhead or Pete Poopyhead.
Nicknames are a different animal altogether. When Craig “Ironhead” Heyward ran for the Pitt Panthers, I was all over it. A good “head” nickname while growing up nearly always denotes coolness. In school, we feared an upper-class bully named “Pearhead” Sample, and no one's girlfriend was safe from smooth-talking “Jughead” Marone.
My old Cody Legion teammate was nicknamed “Bullethead” after he intentionally broke the windshield of a parked car with his head at an out-of-town game. I withhold his last name in case there's still a price on his head.
The aforementioned Alex Smith wouldn't have necessarily been cursed had his parents given him a more awe-inspiring first name.
Currently, the Memphis Tigers have a freshman QB named “Cannon” Smith.” Give it a few years, and he'll be guiding an NFL team to the big game. Northwestern's running back “Adonis” Smith is gaining nearly 5 yards a run.
West Virginia put a smackdown on rival Pitt last week, led by QB Geno Smith, but then again, he's passing to a receiver named “Jock” Sanders with running back Noel “Devine” tearing up the turf. No Clowneys or Dunderheads on that team.
I loved the Oakland Raiders of old when they had running backs with names like Napoleon Kaufman and Zach Crockett and wide receivers Willie Gault and James Jett. Jett was fast, my friends.
And now it's time to start winning some Raider money again, all because of a little-known running back with the perfect name, “Rock Cartwright.” With a combined Flintstones/Bonanza handle, it's a can't-miss career on the horizon.
“Willie” will always be more successful than “Bill.” Bill Mays would never have made that famous over-the-head catch for the Giants, and Bill Stargell would have been a career .250 hitter with few home runs. Bill Joe Namath wouldn't have dared guarantee a Jets Super Bowl victory. Pro sports smiles on its Willies.
Looking for a dark horse to bet on next college football season? Might I suggest the obscure Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders? They have a QB named Dwight Dasher who will finally have his record-breaking season. Bet on it!
My name is Blough. As one might have predicted, I am a roofer.