The top ten: American footballers' names
John Rentoul is chief political commentator for The Independent on Sunday, and visiting professor at King's College, London, and at Queen Mary University of London. Previously he was chief leader writer for The Independent. He has written a biography of Tony Blair, whom he admired more at the end of his time in office than he did at the beginning.
Sunday 26 May 2013
Each year the National Football League holds a three-day ceremony called "the draft", in which American football teams choose new players from the training grounds of college. This year's draft was once again a window on the mostly black American working-class tradition of invented first names, often with French influences, apostrophes and variant spellings.
1. Barkevious Mingo Drafted by the Cleveland Browns, his brothers are Hugh and Hughtavious. With thanks to Mark Henderson for this one.
2. Tyrann Mathieu Drafted by the Arizona Cardinals. Nicknamed “Honey Badger”. (No, I don’t know either.)
3. D’Brickashaw Ferguson Drafted seven years ago by the New York Jets. Named after Father Ralph de Bricassart, a character in 1980s TV mini-series The Thorn Birds.
4. Antwaan Randle El The former Pittsburgh Steeler is retired now, but he was an outstanding player with an equally outstanding name.
5. Chad Ochocinco Drafted by the Cincinnati Bengals, Chad changed his name from Johnson to the Spanish for 8-5, the number on his shirt, in 2008.
6. BenJarvus Green-Ellis Now with the Cincinnati Bengals, he was nicknamed “The Law Firm” by his former teammates at the New England Patriots.
7. Adoree’ Jackson, This top college prospect from Serra High has an apostrophe to test the most exacting pedant.
8. D’Ronzjiah Mathews He’s still in high school, at South Fort Myers in Florida; can’t wait for him to join the NFL.
9. Lousaka Polite Ex-Atlanta Falcon and Miami Dolphin, now an unsigned free agent, this fullback is nothing if not… well, you know the rest.
10. Plaxico Burress The former Pittsburgh Steeler stand-out served time after shooting himself in the leg with an unlicensed gun. As for his name, as my colleague Robert Epstein says, “just because”
Next week: The Top 10 books people buy but don’t read. Send your suggestions, and ideas for future Top 10s, to email@example.com
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