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In the Name Of the Father
Steve Rushin
February 28, 2000
An athlete's first step toward immortality is to name his kids after his favorite person: himself
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February 28, 2000

In The Name Of The Father

An athlete's first step toward immortality is to name his kids after his favorite person: himself

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Professional Athletes are not, as we in the media would have you believe, egomaniacs. The vast majority are selfless, not self-absorbed. Boxer George Foreman dotes on his children George, George, George, George, George and Georgetta. Mavericks forward John (Hot Rod) Williams adores his kids John, Johnna, Johnpaul and Johnfrancis. Whom does Cardinals cornerback Ty Howard love most: his son Ty, his son Tyrell or his daughter Tyler? The answer is clear: It's a three-way Ty!

"Our children are not individuals whose rights and tastes are casually respected from infancy, as they are in some primitive societies," author Ruth Fulton Benedict theorized in 1934. "They are fundamentally extensions of our own egos." To which we say: Hogwash. Cowboys cornerback Deion Sanders's son and daughter—Deion and Diondra—are hardly extensions of his modest ego, any more than the son and daughter of Jazz forward Karl Malone (Karl and Karlee) or Braves infielder Ozzie Guillen (Ozzie and Ozney) or Bills running back Sam Gash (Sam and Samantha) or Phillies infielder Alex Arias (Alex and Alexandria) or Hawks center Lorenzen Wright (Lorenzen and Loren) or Pirates outfielder Wilfredo Cordero (Wilfredo and Wilanny) or Bengals defensive end Michael Bankston (Michael and Mikaela) or big league second baseman Carlos Baerga (Carlos and Karla) or Raptors guard Tyrone Bogues (Tyrone and Tyeisha) or Pirates infielder Luis Sojo (Luis and LesLuis) are extensions of those athletes' infinitesimal egos.

And even if they were, so what? "To love oneself," wrote Oscar Wilde, "is the beginning of a lifelong romance." Ergo, to love oneself as torridly as Chargers linebacker Gerald Dixon does is to stoke an affair that will last three lifetimes. Gerald, after all, has sons Gerald and Gerald. Or is it the other way around?

In the absence of a small modifier—Sonics guard Gary Payton helpfully named his boys Gary Jr. and Gary II; Hornets forward Anthony Mason's kids are Anthony and Antoine; big league pitcher Mel Rojas has Mel and Melvin—it can be difficult to summon the right offspring for a father-son heart-to-heart. Big league catcher Benito (Benny) Santiago, for instance, has two boys: Benito and Benito.

Benny's daughter, on the other hand, is Bennybeth. Like Red Sox infielder Jose Offerman—one of whose daughters is Joseann—Santiago has flouted the pro athlete's preferred method for naming a girl, which is to amend his own first name, or to append one (or, at most, two) vowels to it, as in the case of Devils enforcer Claude Lemieux (Claudia), Bears receiver Bobby Engram (Bobbi), Bears linebacker Barry Minter ( Bari), Devil Rays DH Jose Canseco (Josie), Packers cornerback Tyrone Williams (Tyra), Braves rightfielder Brian Jordan (Bri-ana), Seahawks running back Ahman Green (Ahmani), Falcons receiver Terance Mathis (Terae) or Broncos linebacker Nate Wayne (Nata). It is perhaps too much to hope that Nata will one day marry a son of Panthers lineman Nate Newton (either son: Nate or Nathaniel).

While Giants guard Ron Stone is blessed with a pair of patronymed girls—Ronnie and Ronna—many athletes deliberately steer clear of naming their daughters after themselves. After Blue Jays outfielder Raul Mondesi fathered two boys, Raul and Raul, he called his first girl Kisha, and discreetly saved Raul for her middle name: Kisha Rauleiny Mondesi.

Shakespeare asked, "What's in a name?" To which Roger Clemens might well respond, "The word me." The Yankees pitcher has started each of his children's names—Koby, Kory, Kacy and Kody—with a K, the scorecard notation for his specialty, the strikeout. Why Clemens didn't simply name the kids Roger, Roger, Roger and LaRoger is anybody's guess, though the famous father may have feared casting too long a shadow over his young ones. (Latrell Sprewell II was not as lucky.)

So let us praise former big leaguer Juan Samuel, who prudently put no such pressure on his firstborn son. Samuel didn't dare name his boy Juan. No, sir: He named him Samuel.

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