Column: A Bull by any other name

The Manassa Mauler. The Sultan of Swat. The Galloping Ghost. Night Train.

Those are all sports nicknames of yesteryear and, in my humble opinion, evidence of a lost art. The sports nicknames of today just don’t seem to me to have the appeal of the above names belonging, respectively, to Jack Dempsey, Babe Ruth, Red Grange and Dick Lane.

I often wondered why clever sports nicknames seemed to have gone the way of the dodo bird, so I started seeking other opinions. One theory given by one of my coworkers sounded pretty good to me: Players move around so much that fans don’t have a chance to connect to them, and so don’t bother (or don’t have the time) to assign them a moniker. Not bad for an amateur.

Then, like I often do, I had a change of heart – I wasn’t sure if the nicknames were really that bland after all – so I turned to USF’s own sports authority, Dr. Randy Miller in the Mass Communications department, for some answers. He said the nicknames today are less prosaic and more likely to be assigned by the athletes themselves. They’re also simpler, oftentimes simply an abbreviation of the athletes’ names and not based on attributes: thus “Shaq” for Shaquille O’Neal. (Helpful tip – if you ever want to have an intelligent discussion about sports, talk to Dr. Miller. Tell him I sent you.)

Here at USF, the nickname situation isn’t exactly wonderful, either. Sam “Hollywood” Sanders is an exception and a great name, but he no longer plays for the Bulls. I’ve heard guard Jimmy Baxter referred to as “Jumping Bean,” but I have no idea where that came from. Then there’s “Tron” for Altron Jackson, just like Dr. Miller said.

So I put out the challenge to my colleagues in our bunker to be ESPN sportscaster Chris Berman for a day and come up with some catchy nicknames for our Bulls. The results (I won’t say which are mine and which are theirs) proved two things to me: 1 – We are not Chris Berman; 2 – We have way too much free time on our hands. You be the judge.

Eric “Battle of the Little” Gildhorn, tennis player – History majors would appreciate this name, although it’s a little long. Andrea “Ripe” Buenano, catcher – I know, this one is just plain silly.

Alana “Built Like a” Tanksley, shooting guard – This name doesn’t exactly fit the svelte Tanksley too well, so I’ll move on to her high-scoring teammate …

Aiya “Caramba” Shepard, shooting guard – Apologies to my Spanish-speaking friends. I can picture it now: one side of the Sun Dome chants “Aiya,” the other chants “Caramba” … well, maybe not.

Melissa “Magic” Tape, point guard – I don’t think this name will, ah, stick for too long. Besides, I might be violating some trademarks. On the bright side, she is a point guard, and there is that other point guard named Magic, and … oh, never mind.

Gerrick “Eraser” Morris, center – Anybody who blocks that many shots needs some kind of name.

Mike “Zeus” Bernard, center – Not to be confused with the Greek god. Remember the wrestler from the movie No Holds Barred? Deebo from the Ice Cube film Friday? Don’t tell me you don’t see the resemblance.

Reggie “Vanilla” Kohn, point guard – No explanation needed.

There you have it. If you have names you’d like to share, e-mail us at We’ll be printing some of the better submissions and your names, too, will go down in USF lore. Maybe.

  • Khari Williams is The Oracle Sports Editor. Contact him at