Thursday, September 19, 2013

Names In The News: Jadeveon Clowney


Most of the entrants in our 2013 Name of the Year bracket (voting starts September 23rd!) are obscure athletes, scientists, and (alleged) criminals, but there are always a multitude of great names making news, particularly in the world of sports. One of the best players in Division I college football is Jadeveon Clowney, the star defensive end for the South Carolina Gamecocks and a former Name of the Year entrant; Clowney was a seven seed in the 2011 tournament and lost to Madz Negro in the second round.

Clowney was the subject of much media attention even before his first game for the Gamecocks. A 6'6", 274-pound giant, Clowney was rated by ESPN as the top college football recruit in the nation during his senior year in high school. After he was named as the Southeastern Conference's Freshman of the Year thanks to a superb 2011 campaign, Clowney emerged in 2012 as arguably the best defensive lineman in college football. Many fans (myself included) found his flat-out obliteration of Michigan running back Vincent Smith during the Outback Bowl to be the best single play of the year. Now, in 2013, Clowney is a candidate for Heisman Trophy, though a loss to conference rival Georgia and a foot injury have hurt his chances.

No matter where Clowney and the Gamecocks end up in 2013, he is likely to be the first player off the board during the next NFL draft. Athletes as talented Clowney are a rare treat, which makes it easy to forget that Jadeveon Clowney is a very good name. His first name is an epic mishmash of bold-sounding syllables, which, when placed together in concert, end up sounding less like a Greek god and more like a video game character. Jadeveon's last name subsequently places that character as the killer clown boss at the end of a haunted circus level.

For sports fans like myself, it is often hard to balance a great name with an exceptional athlete. Most people can appreciate the high onomastic quality of D'Brickashaw Ferguson (himself a NOTY contestant in 2006), but to me, Ferguson is nothing more than the long time left tackle on my favorite NFL team. I've long gotten over the shock of his name, to the point that I am now desensitized to it. "Yes," I'll respond any time a non-fan voices his or her amazement that there is a person out there named D'Brickashaw, "his name's pretty cool, I guess. But did you know he has started every game since the start of the 2006 season?"

It is important for sports fans to occasionally step back and appreciate the beauty of a great name, even one they have heard many times. For almost an entire decade, the best player in baseball was a guy whose last name is pronounced poo-holes. One of the five greatest basketball players of all time chose to go by the name Magic Johnson. We may not think about these fantastic names when watching those superstars' legendary highlight reels, but they are worth remembering. And should Jadeveon Clowney become a star in the NFL, his psycho clown moniker deserves to be just as legendary.