As I mentioned before, I'm not actually reading Warren St. John's Rammer Jammer Yellow Hammer, I'm just leafing through it. Since the book arrived last Friday afternoon, I happen to have leafed through about 129 consecutive pages in sequential order, but that's purely coincidental.
Anyway, there's a point at which Warren is describing the Bear Bryant Namesake Reunion, which, as the author notes, "is exactly what it sounds like---a gathering of people named after Paul William 'Bear' Bryant."
St. John goes on to observe:
I'm a big believer in the significance of names. Lewis Grizzard wrote a column after the 1984 Clemson game explaining to his unborn son why the boy had been named after Kevin Butler.
Following Georgia's 1996 quadruple-overtime triumph over Auburn, I published a similar column in The Red & Black, which took the form of an open letter to a future son of mine, explaining that he had been named "Robert Edward King" in honor of a Virginia general and a Georgia tailback.
Another such instance is to be found in my profession: John Marshall Harlan was named after the man who was perhaps the most famous U.S. Supreme Court justice . . . and Harlan went on to serve on the High Court himself. Justice Harlan's grandson was named after him and the second John Marshall Harlan also went on to become a Supreme Court justice.
History abounds with similar examples, right up to the present day in Austin, Tex., where the Longhorns have a quarterback named Colt McCoy. It's hard to imagine anyone named "Colt McCoy" doing anything but playing quarterback for the Texas Longhorns.
In the South, you can name your sons one of three ways: after football coaches who won, after generals who lost, or after people in the Bible.
My son, Thomas, isn't named after any single person. My wife, Susan, and I had several positive associations with the name "Thomas," from the Sage of Monticello to Stonewall Jackson, from the author of the Georgia Code and co-founder of the University of Georgia law school to the Father of Scholasticism, from the Archbishop of Canterbury executed by King Henry II to the saint executed by King Henry VIII, so we went with that name. With all due respect to Thomas Davis, my son wasn't named after a Georgia football player.
That wasn't for lack of trying on my part, though. Susan and I waited until Thomas was born to find out whether we were having a boy or a girl---like Crash Davis, I believe in opening your presents Christmas morning rather than Christmas eve---so, while she was expecting, we discussed several names for both boys and girls.
We agree on when you're supposed to open your Christmas presents, but we part company over whether Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone.
At one point, inspired by the "miracle" 93-yard touchdown pass that won the 1980 Georgia-Florida game and preserved the Bulldogs' undefeated season, I suggested "Buck" if we had a boy and "Lindsay" if we had a girl.
Incredulously, Susan asked me, "Do you seriously want to name your son 'Buck'?"
"Of course not," I replied. "His name will be 'Benjamin Franklin Belue King.' We'll just call him 'Buck.'"
Susan nixed that idea, so I moved on to other options. Unfortunately, as is often the case when men and women attempt to communicate with one another, I misunderstood her objection. Since she didn't like the idea of naming our child after Buck Belue or Lindsay Scott, I naturally assumed that her quarrel was with the idea of naming the baby after a Bulldog from the offensive side of the ball.
That made a certain degree of sense to me. After all, I generally consider myself more a fan of stout defense than an aficionado of high-powered offense. Offense often is based on gimmickry and trickery, built on finesse and featuring plays described as "pretty."
Defense wins championships. Offense eats Twinkies.
Defense isn't about misdirection or being sneaky; it's about getting to the ball quickly, arriving in a bad mood, putting a hat on a guy, and laying a slobberknocker on somebody. Offense is as soft as Ralph Friedgen, Mark Mangino, or Charlie Weis---O.C.s, one and all---but D is for real men.
Since I prefer defense, I just assumed that my wife did, too. Otherwise, why would she have married me? It's a fundamental incompatibility that cannot be overcome, like marrying someone of a different religious faith. It simply can't be done. I assume the entire Spurrier family is as offensive as Darth Visor---you can pronounce the word "offensive" any way you like, by the way---and I figured Susan, like me, preferred defense to offense.
This led me to an alternative suggestion. I proposed that, if we had a boy, we name him Erskine Russell King, in honor of the longtime Georgia defensive coordinator. Because Susan tends to be a bit more refined than I am, I tried to sell her on this idea by pointing out that we could get the boy monogrammed sweaters that spelled out "ERK."
Statesboro ain't the only place where he's No. 1.
She wasn't buying it, so I approached the problem from another angle. As I mentioned recently, all newborn babies look like Erk Russell: chubby, wrinkled, and bald. Therefore, I suggested a compromise: we'd only name the boy after Erk if he looked like Erk at birth. I still couldn't sell her on the idea.
I have been asked whether we considered naming Thomas "Mark," in honor of Mark Richt. I have been a Mark Richt fan from the get-go; in the very next episode of "The Dawg Show" following the Jim Donnan firing, my co-host, Travis Rice, and I enthusiastically endorsed the idea---which, at that point, was just an idea---of hiring the Florida State offensive coordinator.
The following fall, Trav and I began counting down Coach Richt's victories, one by one, on the march to his inevitable replacement of Vince Dooley as the winningest football coach in Georgia history. I continued the Mark Richt Victory Watch at Kyle on Football and I will pick up where I left off at Dawg Sports next fall.
I'd hate to think exactly how much Powerade Mark Richt is going to wind up washing out of his hair over the course of his coaching career in the Classic City.
Nevertheless, although I have every confidence that Mark Richt will retire as the most accomplished coach in Georgia lore, I believe it's a little early to start naming children after him. That would be like naming a government building after a public official while he was still in office . . . it likely will pan out, but there's a chance it may not, so why tempt fate?
Suppose someone like me---a University of Georgia graduate, football season ticket holder, and lifelong Bulldog fan---had become a father sometime between January 2, 1949, and September 15, 1949. Such a 'Dawg fan might have been inclined to name his son "Wallace," in honor of Wally Butts.
The case for naming a son after Coach Butts would have been quite strong at that point in time. In his first 10 seasons on the Sanford Stadium sideline (1939-1948), Coach Butts guided the Red and Black to a 79-27-3 record, three S.E.C. titles, two national championships, nine straight winning seasons, and victories in the Oil, Orange, Rose, and Sugar Bowls.
James Wallace Butts was 140-86-9 as Georgia's head football coach. Also, he looked sharp in a hat.
Unfortunately, it was all downhill from there. Between 1949 and 1960, Coach Butts posted a 61-59-6 record, attended only two bowl games, won just one conference crown, had six losing seasons in a 12-year span, and lost to Georgia Tech eight years in a row.
A Georgia fan might have chosen to name a child after Wally Butts, anyway. He remains the second-winningest coach in school history and he is one of the namesakes of the athletic department building. Nevertheless, there are risks to giving a child a name that honors a person whose career achievements are not yet a closed set.
Consequently, I do not have a son named after Mark Richt.
One day, though, I hope to have a grandson named after him.