The Great Nickname Debate

Obviously, I've been quite pleased with myself over the whole Blake Superior thing.  I really think it's a terrific nickname, and I plan to keep using it.  I'm surprised that some of you citizens don't like it, but that's your prerogative.  Of course it won't keep my from using Blake Superior - probably a lot - and if you want to use some other name for him, you're welcome to do that as well.  In fact, go start your own blog and call him what you want.  But the official Clips Nation moniker for Blake Griffin is 'Blake Superior'.  What makes it official?  Me.  My blog, my rules.

But it all raises something interesting about the nature of nicknames.  I was somewhat gratified that in Citizen moKi's impromptu poll, Blake Superior was in fact the leading vote getter, with 24 out of 98 votes.  In second place was the simple BG with 22 votes.  Which begs the question - can a guy's initials be his nickname?

Initials are simply that - initials.  So while many people, including myself, will certainly refer to him as BG quite frequently, I just don't put that in the same category as Blake Superior.  The question isn't "How will you refer to Blake Griffin?"  Without doubt, we'll frequently refer to him as "Blake", or "Griffin", or "Blake Griffin" or even "BG".  But none of those are really nicknames - they're just variations on his name.

It's actually a bit of a shame in fact.  I would go into a long lament about the demise of the sports nickname, but Devin Gordon of Newsweek beat me to it.  CP3, Melo, DWade... is this really the best we can do?  Some combination of first initials, shortened names, and uniform numbers?  Really?  So yeah, we can call the guy BG or BGriff (4 votes) or Griff (3 votes), and probably some of us will, and that's fine.  But we also need a name that is more than a simple editing exercise - we need a name with a backstory.

The Clippers own history with nicknames is pretty dismal.  There was very little sweet about Michael (Kandiman) Olowokandi's game.  The best Clippers player of the past decade went by the oh so creative initials EB (although he now goes by FElton around these parts, which has a perfectly lovely backstory).  The most seemingly clever Clippers nickname of recent history, "Kaveman", was never a good fit for a player who chooses to finesse shots around the basket when he should be overpowering people - I wish Chris Kaman behaved like a Neanderthal on the court, but he's usually much too refined for his own good.  (If he's a caveman, he's one of those Geico ones, playing squash and drinking Merlot, at least as regards his on court persona.)

We've used a handful of our own appellations here at Clips Nation over the years, like Blanket (Cuttino Mobley) and Kaman 2.0 and MBFGC and the aforementioned FElton.  It's fun having these little inside jokes and codes that only we understand, even if they don't catch on elsewhere (although FElton did refer to "Kaman 2.0" at least once late in the 07-08 season).

Let me also say that I have pragmatic reasons for wanting multiple ways of referring to players, Blake Griffin in particular.  I'm likely going to be writing about him quite a lot over the next several years, and frankly stories flow much more easily if you're not typing the same name over and over.  "Griffin looked good.  Griffin got 20 rebounds.  Griffin played solid defense."  I will almost certainly be using BG at times, as a quick alternative.  But it'll make my job a lot easier if we have more choices.  So by all means, make more suggestions.  I'll use as many as I like.  After all, Shaq has at least 26 different self-appointed sobriquets.

(See?  It's also nice to have choices when it comes to words, not just people.  I love all of the different synonyms for "nickname."  Appellation, sobriquet, moniker, nom de plume, nom de guerre, alias, handle....  Nickname is a great word for nicknames.)

The irony here, is that a 'Griffin' is a mythological beast with the body of a lion and the head and wings of an eagle.  It was meant to combine the king of the jungle with the king of the skies - to take an incredibly powerful creature and give it the ability to also soar - which is EXACTLY what is unique about Blake Griffin.  Way back in June when the Clippers worked him out, when I saw him with my own eyes, it was astonishing to see this beast of a man flying through the air.  He IS a griffin.  Unfortunately, that can't be his nickname, because it's already his name.

Nonetheless, I like the imagery enough that I haven't given up on devising a way to use it.  Maybe by putting an article in front of it - The Griffin.  That's pretty good.  Or maybe by using an alternate spelling, like Gryphon.  I also considered a literalist approach - call him Lion Eagle or Eagle Lion - but it ends up having too much of a Native American sound to it.  Mythological Beast has some merit, but is even more of a mouthful than Blake Superior. 

So while there are other possibilities, and I'm sure we'll come up with more and more, there's no question that I'll be using Blake Superior.  It's descriptive (he is superior physically, as a player, in terms of dedication, etc.) and it is a play on a famous landmark (Lake Superior is that largest lake in North America, in case anyone still doesn't get it - no, it doesn't have anything to do with nuns).  The fact that it's also the name of an imaginary friend on Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends is just gravy. 

I know that someone commented that the initials formed by Blake Superior were unfortunate, but that's just not relevant.  If you're calling him Blake Superior, call him that.  If you want to refer to him by initials, call him BG.  This isn't his 'every-trip-down-the-court' handle - this is for special occasions.  Think about a Cavs game - Mike Breen doesn't refer to 'King James' every time he touches the ball - usually it's LeBron this or LeBron that.  But after a big play, it's "King James with the emphatic dunk."  Same thing.

It will be interesting to see if Blake Superior catches on.  The headline writers at ESPN.com came up with it (hopefully independently), and I've already plugged it with Ralph.  Lisa Dillman complimented me on it last week, so she's been checking in and is aware of it, and says she likes it.  So we'll see.  Whether or not it catches on outside of Clips Nation, we can still have fun with it here.  But our little community is growing, and getting more attention, so it's certainly possible that it could bust out.  Ultimately he'll get the nickname he gets - I doubt that my own efforts are going to have much bearing on that.

And while we're on the subject, I'll leave you with a new nickname suggestion for the Clippers other young cornerstone - how about Cash Gordon?

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