Wade Boggs once said to a television interviewer, in attempting to explain his predilection for the third person, "My father always told me not to be a braggart, not to say I, I, I." (To which one can only say i-yi-yi.)
Bo Jackson, on the other hand, really did call himself "Bo" because his stutter made it difficult to say "I." This is probably not the reason that Turkmenistan's president for life, Saparmurat Niyazov, refers to himself in the third person--nor why his golden statue in the capital city of Ashgabat perpetually rotates to face the sun.
A recent book, Ladies and Gentlemen, the Bronx Is Burning, recalls New York City in the summer of 1977, dominated by two third-person aficionados--Yankees slugger Reggie Jackson and serial killer Son of Sam--neither of whom favored Me in the Me Decade.
History would sound very different if everyone spoke like boxer Roy Jones Jr. Imagine: "The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. has a dream." "General Douglas MacArthur shall return." " Julius Caesar came, Julius Caesar saw, Julius Caesar conquered."
And yet, as Snoop Dogg rapped " Snoop Dogg in the house" at the London Live 8 concert, it became clear that there's a genius to speaking in the third person. For starters, it allows oneself to distance oneself from oneself, as Richard Nixon did when he said, "You won't have Nixon to kick around anymore."
It's also a savvy way of self-branding. David Robinson never called himself the Admiral. But Christopher Columbus did, in his own journals. And guess which Admiral gets his own holiday?
Nobody recognized the value of this voice better than Rickey Henderson, who always managed to make "Rickey" work for him. Sometimes literally so. Henderson once left a voice mail for Padres general manager Kevin Towers in which he said, "Kevin, this is Rickey, calling on behalf of Rickey."
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