Sunday, June 24, 2018
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Players — and units — earn nicknames at Super Bowls

So the "Sheriff" is on his way to the "Big Apple."

Who knows? If he can get by the "Legion of Boom," he might win the "Whole Enchilada."

Ah, yes. It's the Super Bowl, a game where the history is written by the nicknames of the conquerors. Looking back, it's hard to tell whether this game was played by gunslingers or quarterbacks, by pro wrestlers or linebackers.

Oh, and watch yourself. Here comes "Beast Mode."

Do you think "Pot Roast" can stop him?

It's odd because in most sports, the best nicknames seem to be snatched out of old black and white films, where it seems as if everyone was called "Crazy Legs" or "Whizzer" or the "Bambino." No one seems to have a cool nickname anymore.

That is not until you get to the Super Bowl. The Super Bowl is still the playground of great aliases, of the "Steel Curtain" or the "Doomsday Defense" or "Orange Crush" or the "Purple People Eaters."

The Super Bowl was where "Prime Time" made his money, not to mention "Snake" and "Hacksaw" and "Joe Cool." It's the home of "The Refrigerator" and "The Bus" and "Too Tall," of the "Mad Stork" and the "Ghost" and the "Minister of Defense."

The Super Bowl is home of the "No-Name Defense" and the "Hogs" and the "Monsters of the Midway." It's where "America's Team" and the "Over-the-Hill Gang" and the "Greatest Show on Turf" played. It's where "Hollywood" and "Sweetness" and the "Three Amigos" wrote their name in lore.

The Super Bowl didn't invent these nicknames; it just cemented them.

And now? It's being played in the shadow of "The City That Never Sleeps." Of course it is.

Take Peyton Manning. It isn't enough that Manning's name is synonymous with great quarterback play. It isn't enough that when you say "Peyton,'' everyone immediately thinks of Manning and his play and his records and his commercials.

Nope. These days, Manning is the "Sheriff," presumably because of his history of storming into another team's stadium and taking control. Give former Bucs coach Jon Gruden credit for popularizing that one.

On Sunday, Manning goes up against one of the great nicknames of this era when he faces the Seahawks' secondary that is labeled the "Legion of Boom.'' Can a "Sheriff" arrest an entire legion, especially one that goes boom? We'll see.

Of course, Manning will have help in the form of wide receivers Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker. Or, as they are known in Denver, "Black and Decker." They came up with that one themselves.

There are others. Broncos defensive lineman Terrance Knighton is called "Pot Roast,'' because a teammate saw him order it for dinner once. Hey, you are what you eat.

The rest of the Broncos? Tight end Julius Thomas, naturally, is "Orange Julius." Linebacker Wesley Woodyard is the "Lumberjack." In college, they referred to receiver Wes Welker as "The Natural.''

And the Seahawks?

Start with this conclusion. In a game of nicknames, Marshawn Lynch is winning. He has successfully marketed his "Beast Mode'' nickname to a franchise that earned more than $100,000 last year. "Beast Mode" is an attempt to define Lynch's running style.

Of course, what "Legion of Boom" is complete without "Bam Bam?" That is the nickname of safety Kam Chancellor.

There are others. Defensive tackle Brandon Mebane is "Bang Bang." Defensive tackle Jared Smith is known as "Fat Rabbit.'' Offensive tackle Russell Okung is "Big Daddy." Safety Earl Thomas is "Deuce." Once, before playing against Calvin "Megatron'' Johnson, cornerback Richard Sherman announced his nickname was "Optimus Prime.''

Adrian Peterson used to refer to wide receiver Percy Harvin as "Mighty Mouse'' when he was with the Vikings. And, as it turns out, Lynch also gives nicknames. For instance, offensive lineman Breno Giacomini grew up in Brazil. So, naturally, Lynch refers to him as "The Big Russian.''

As for quarterback Russell Wilson, the search has been on for some time to find just the right nickname. Oh, there is the "Dangeruss" moniker that has been attached to him, and the Seahawks recently introduced a "Dangeruss Dog'' at their concession stands. Still, it sounds a bit clunky. Wilson deserves better.

Maybe in this game, Wilson finds one. Maybe it's lying on the 50. Maybe it's waiting in the end zone.

Of course, by the end of the day, the nickname worth having already belongs to a Denver cornerback named Roland Bailey.

You know, the one they call "Champ."

     
           
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