Thursday night, the “Jolly, Old, Fat Man,” will come down our chimney and leave way too many presents to my very spoiled fourth-grader, Sam. I call Santa Clause the Jolly, Old, Fat Man. That’s my nickname for him. I’ve heard him called St. Nick, Santa and several other ways of describing this very generous fable of our imaginations.
This may be a very strange way to lead into my weekly blog. Christmas Day is this Friday, so I had to do something in the spirit of the holiday. However, I want to talk about nicknames. That’s why I mentioned my nickname for Santa Clause. Charlie, the sports editor of the Maryville Daily Forum, asked me how our players get along with so many new players. In other words, he wondered how the team’s chemistry was developing.
Team chemistry is very hard to measure. Sometimes, when players spend a lot of time together off the floor, it means they have great chemistry. I’ve had other teams that really didn’t like each other, but had great team chemistry. There is only one constant among my teams that had chemistry – those teams all had great nicknames.
When I was five year’s old and growing up in a town of 220 people, you weren’t considered one of the guys until you had a nickname. All the old guys that sat on benches in front of Tegmeier’s Garage always called me “Little Steiny” because I looked like my dad. However, it wasn’t until a certain football game with older kids did I really get a nickname. I was much smaller than the other players, so I had to be the all-time center. I hated it and had to stand on the sidelines during all kickoffs. During one kickoff the ball came to me. I took off, broke a tackle and was headed for a sure touchdown when a 210-pound fourth-grader caught me from behind. I wasn’t very fast either. A kid who had the nickname “Footski” was laughing so hard he couldn’t chase me. He said I looked like a peanut running the ball. That day I became one of the guys and am forever known as “Peanuts.” I still get called that at reunions.
My past teams have had a lot of great nicknames over the years. Some I just can’t put into a blog that may be read by children. Before women basketball players wore their hair in pony tails, I had a great point guard who never had a hair out of place. She never wore it in a pony tail, but it looked the same after the game as before. Her teammates affectionately called her “Final Net.”
Another player with a great nickname was a post player by the name of Pam. She was about 6’1″ and skinny as a rail. She was straight off the farm and a little introverted. However, we had a great team that seemed to have chemistry. Pam soon became “Noodles” and later just Spamie, because it rhymed with Pamie. Spamie got her degree in business, now lives in a big city and plays professional sand volleyball. Not bad for an introvert from the sticks that is still known as Spamie to her alumni teammates. If nicknames are the judge of good team chemistry, this year’s women’s basketball team is a lab filled with strange chemicals. At almost every practice, someone seems to get a new nickname. I investigated and found out Melissa Nyquist, a redshirt sophomore forward on our team, is the director of nicknames.
If you ask anyone what is Nyquist’s first name, most of them would have no clue. She’s just “Mo” to all of them. Her fourth grade coach gave her that nickname and it stuck. I guess if Melissa has to endure Mo, she must feel everyone should have the same fate. My favorite is Gabby Curtis’s nickname. Someone asked Gabby about her middle name. She said it was Chris. However, Mo thought she said “Chip”, so now we have a guard almost everyone calls “Chip.” Another one I really like belongs to sophomore guard Shelly Martin. Mo was again the author of Shelly’s nickname, “Tink.” Mo also heard someone call Monai Douglass a name other than Monai and it became an instant nickname. Monai, a freshman from St. Louis, had a teammate call her “Mona.” So she is no longer, M (long O), N (long A), she is now Mona.
Some nicknames come easy for Mo. For instance, Tara Roach is just “T.” Mo figures why waist all the energy saying Tara when “T” will do. Alexis and Candace Boeh, as most people know, are identical twins. However, one of them died their hair. Now Candace has dark hair and Alexis has lighter hair. I’m not sure which one did the dying. This is all way too complicated for Mo. They are both now officially known to their teammates as “The Twins.” It doesn’t matter to Mo who has dark or light hair, any one of them is just “The Twin.”
Gentry Dietz received the nickname “G” from Mo, but she has another, more interesting nickname that Mo can’t take credit for. Either Shelly or my son, Sam, once missed pronounced Gentry’s name and called her Gench. I guess it’s like the Gench that stole Christmas; or was that the Grinch?
For myself, I’m sure there are a few locker room nicknames that can’t be printed here. However, since my first coaching job, I have just become “Stein.” I’m sure a few people think that might show disrespect. To me, it just makes me feel like one of the guys.
I hope St. Nick, Santa, or the Jolly, Old, Fat Man is good to you this week. Sam is pretty sure that Santa may be Stein, or just Dad to Sam. However, the tooth fairy did come through a couple of months ago so you never know.