As mentioned in the Labelry “charter” (if you could call it that), this blog is all about the art and science of labeling…including the branding of people. This particular post is about a fantastic new person brand.
Just when I was getting ready to hold funeral services for the lost art of the sports nickname, along comes Denard “Shoelace” Robinson (above), the exciting young quarterback at the University of Michigan who has burst onto the national stage this year with his exceptional play. Apparently he answers to “Shoelace” because he prefers shoes without laces– not that it matters, as long as there is some explanation. “Shoelace” is a great nickname that has all the attributes of a great brand name: it is fun, unique, memorable, distinctive, has authentic narrative to it, and even has some nice meter to it… “Shoelace Robinson” sounds like a character of myth and legend.
Ex-pro basketball player Chris “C-Webb” Webber (who by complete coincidence also went to the University of Michigan) unwittingly became the basis for a true scourge in nicknaming, that being the construct of First Initial-First Syllable of Last Name. As far as naming goes, how incredibly unimaginative, how uninspired, how downright lazy. This model spawned a gazillion copies (perhaps most famously Alex “A-Rod” Rodriguez). For example, when the Boston Red Sox acquired Victor Martinez, my first thought was, “please, fans and media – don’t start calling him ‘V-Mart.’” Yet that is exactly what happened. V-Mart? That’s the best you can do?
The Splendid Spinter. Hammerin’ Hank. Nightrain Lane. Pistol Pete. The Galloping Ghost. Mr. October. Iron Mike. Charlie Hustle. I could go on and on about the great nicknames of sports stars past. Let’s hope that Shoelace Robinson inspires more nicknames that take us back to the future. At least he doesn’t go by “D. Rob.”