When Mets first baseman Marv Throneberry embraced the nickname Marvelous, he was winking at his own lack of marvelosity. Wizards star Gilbert Arenas is marvelous and likes to try on nicknames like neckties. So he has called himself Mr. President, then Agent Zero and lately, for his hot hand, Hibachi. He pulls it off.
Likewise, Bengals receiver Chad Johnson, who used to call himself 7-Eleven "because I'm always open." After making two catches in a game against the Ravens in his third year, he graciously conceded, "There's nothing I can say: 7-Eleven got robbed." He has since switched numerical nicknames, becoming Ocho Cinco.
Shaquille O'Neal christens himself with all the frequency—but none of the pomposity—of P. Diddy. And he backs up each new nickname. It's why Muhammad Ali is entitled to call himself GOAT: He really is the Greatest of All Time.
Even when players do make good on a boast, they should bear in mind the ravages of time. Canadian Football League slotback Milt Stegall—not content with The Touchdown Beagle—gave himself the nickname Turtle Man, a reference to his abs, which he considers to be as hard and carved as a tortoise's shell. But what will the Winnipeg Blue Bomber call himself years from now, when those abs become ab-nots?
Chargers linebacker Shawne Merriman likes to refer to himself as Lights Out, and someday, surely, he'll want the lights out when his eyes fall upon his LIGHTS OUT tattoo. After all, nicknames, like tattoos, last a lifetime. Which raises a troubling question: Do you really want to be called Lights Out when you need a Clapper to turn out the lights?
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