What’s in a name? It depends on who you are. Some people take pride in their family name, eager to point out lineage, and looking forward to breeding extension. Some change names for religious reasons, and others will make the switch to increase opportunities in selected fields. But then we get to Cincinnati’s Chad Johnson, who legally changed his name for no other reason than to assure himself a seat upon the sports media whore throne.
In his junior year at UCLA, running back Maurice Drew learned that his grandfather suffered a heart attack in the stands of the Rose Bowl while watching his grandson play. To honor his fallen family member and biggest supporter, Maurice changed his name, hyphenating it to include the name “Jones” to reflect his grandfather’s memory. The talkative and cocky Cassius Clay converted to Islam, changing his name to Muhammad Ali. Lou Alcindor (Kareem Abdul Jabbar), Bobby Moore (Ahmad Rashad), and Chris Jackson (Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf) did the same. Coincidentally, Rauf's career went down the sh*tter, after his name change, unlike the others that are legendary. If my name was Eldrick Woods, I’d probably change it to “Tiger” too. Rhino, muskrat, aardvark or whatever other mammal you can think of, but just don't call me Eldrick. And as for Lucious Pusey, does anyone really need an explanation to why a change was necessary? It's the perfect name for a female co-star in James Bond movies. But if you're a 200 pound linebacker, scrapping it was long overdue.
Fearing discrimination in Hollywood, Jewish actors and actresses often changed their names to hide their heritage. Joyce Frankenberg (Jane Seymour), Allen Konigsberg (Woody Allen), and Eugene Orowitz (Michael Landon), all made the changes to increase opportunities on the silver screen. Marion Morrison didn’t make the change for ethnic reasons, but didn’t see the name fairing well for a tough gun slinging cowboy, so he went with John Wayne instead.
But Chad Ocho-Cinco falls into a different category all together. This isn’t a change to open doors in the entertainment industry, honor your family or show religious conversion. This is entertainment, along the same lines as Bozo. So much for, “it’s not the name on the back that matters.” It does matter to Chad. For years he’s tried to be bigger than the name on the front of his uniform, and for years he has succeeded. His parents can only be about as proud as the parents of Rod Smart. After all, their son was one of the most popular players of the XFL, and a lot of the popularity came from his name. Imagine yourself as a parent sitting and watching a game with friends, and someone asks which is your son. Your answer would be, “No. 30, He Hate Me”. The Johnson’s can now answer with “No. 85, Ocho-Cinco”. But at least Rod was actually smart, and didn’t make a legal name change.
My wish for this DOH’mer is that he leaves the Bengals soon and lands in a place with a lousy quarterback. Not only do I want him to play with the Joey Harrington and Rex Grossmans of the world, I’m also hoping jersey No. 85 will be taken. Now this clown would either have to come out of pocket with a large sum of money to purchase the number from a teammate or suffer the ridicule of being “Ocho-Cinco” and wearing jersey No. 86 or whatever. Wouldn’t that be perfect? Would he then feel the family name is special or run back to court for “Ocho-Seis”?
Sometimes it takes life lessons before someone will realize how ridiculous their actions may be. Since his days at Oregon State, Chad Johnson has been catered, without a single lesson received. With Delusions of grandeur, he is a superhero, cartoon character, and anything else that will allow him to standout, catch media attention, and be elevated to a plateau greater than his team and Bengals teammates. But reality is that he's just a wide receiver, and possesses the tools and athletic talent to be everything on the field. But off the field, away from those teammates and the organization, he is nothing. Suffer a career ending injury today, and it won’t matter how many times you change your name, because the media has no reason to talk to you. They interview the crazy guy from the Bengals, and not the guy bagging groceries that has “ocho-cinco” on his timecard.
I can look at tee-ball leagues, and children ranging from ages 6-9, and they'll have the clever little nicknames on the back of their jerseys. By the time those kids reach high school, they would be humiliated at the thought. Those kids all grew up. The overgrown kid in Cincinnati never has. At least that other media whore, Clinton Portis, portrays his variety of characters off the field, and is strictly business between the lines. But this one, Mr. Ocho-Cinco, spends his off field time planning new attention grabbing antics to bring to the game that allow him to standout above everyone else on the field. I guess touchdowns, receptions, and yardage wasn't enough. That's the boring football life, and unacceptable for caped gridiron superheroes.