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 Sum-merall, sounded like the opening of a poem or song. (Behind him on the depth chart: O'Holy Knight and O'Cursed Fate.)
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 partay.
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.