Friday, October 31, 2008

Thamel On Tebow: The Definitive Article

The New York Times' Pete Thamel is the best reporter in college football. He was very early on recognizing Urban Meyer's greatness at Utah and has been ahead of the pack with Meyer, Florida and Tebow ever since. This was a tremendous piece on Tebow's preparation. (And the accompanying Q&A is a must-read for all Tebowphiles.)

Thursday, October 23, 2008

My Tebow Kid-Naming Existential Crisis Makes It To The New York Times

Did you catch my essay in last week's New York Times' PLAY magazine weekly online edition about the decision-making that goes into weighing whether to name your kid after an athlete?

Call it "Project: Tebow." In addition to your compliments, many of you emailed to wonder why it was so short.


The fact is: They wanted 300 words; I gave them something closer to 500. This was, of course, my own fault -- I should have constructed it for 300 words. Believe me: I always appreciate a good edit, and -- if you look at my essays with them listed on the right -- they give them to me.


That said, I wanted to publish the original, longer version in full, for those of you who wanted to read more on it. Mind you, it's not better; it's just longer. Here you go:


"Timothy Tebow Shanoff" has a nice ring to it, doesn't it?

In the lead-up to the birth of my son last week, baby names were on the brain – and on the table.

Sports fans are willing to do a lot of irrational things – scream helplessly at the TV, play dress-up in player jerseys. But maybe nothing about this irrationality hits closer to home than the pressure produced when we're naming our children.

It is not like my wife and I were actually going to name our kid after Tim Tebow, our favorite athlete. That would be as ludicrous as naming your kid after, say, Brett Favre. (What was Eric Mangini thinking?)

But for every name put on the table, my instant reaction was usually, "Hmm: Yes, but what athlete will my fellow fans think of first?"

Eli? Great name. But, after this past Super Bowl, I think it will be a wee bit overdone in the greater New York area.

Isiah? If the first thing you thought of was "Isiah Thomas," you will understand why I rejected that name in about 2 seconds.

Nate? Um, you mean like "Newton?"

Noah was a strong contender, though ultimately discarded because my Florida fandom would inevitably lead folks to believe I named him after Gator great Joakim Noah.

So what about Tim? We could do worse. It's a nice name. Tebow is a talented player and, from all accounts, saintly as a person. (I mean, it's not like saddling your kid with an ungainly name like "Peyton," as so many Tennessee fans did back in the 90s.)

For perspective, our first kid is named Gabe. Though it was just a coincidence, it is not without a little pride I connect him to Gabe Kapler. (Could my own son be that rare Jewish Major Leaguer? Probably not: But he can share a name with one!)

Nevertheless, last week, with my wife in labor, we settled on "Jonah." And I think part of that name's appeal for me was that my sports-fan baby-name radar couldn't immediately summon an athlete who shared his name.

(We gave him the middle name Ryan – I couldn't help but think approvingly of Ryan Braun. In the selection process, I will confess it wasn't problematic for me that each of my boys shares a name connection with a Jewish Major Leaguer.)

In the end, "Tim Shanoff" or "Tebow Shanoff" are as fantastical as the idea of my son suiting up for the Gators and winning a Heisman himself. I settled for paying homage by wearing a Tebow T-shirt in the delivery room.

The advice is this: You won't be able to escape the superficial connections between your baby's name and those of star athletes. You can only play your own game – and hope your children make their own name.

Still: During the long nights of Jonah's first week, my sleep-deprived brain couldn't help but hallucinate that "Jonah" is actually an anagram for "J. Noah."

Tim Tebow, Professional Mohel

Yes, I publicly extended an invitation to Tim to perform the circumcision at my son's bris. (And why not?) Deadspin had some fun with that.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Can I REALLY Name My Kid Tim?

Exciting news: Tomorrow Today is Mrs. Quickie's due date to have our second child, another boy.

Rewind to roughly 9 months ago, when the doctor pegged the due date on October 11. Me: "But that's the Florida-LSU game!*"

(* - NOT my reaction. My immediate reaction.)

While there is no guarantee it will happen tomorrow, I am holding on to what I feel is a very medically sound theory that we will be in the delivery room precisely at the start of the 4th quarter of a close game.*

(* - NOT that I will care about the game at that point. Or, let's be honest here: I'll have the game on TiVo and will merely remind the nurses and doctors and various family members not to mention the result until I'm able to get home and watch. And the one upside of labor on a Saturday is plenty of college football to keep both my wife -- and me -- occupied**.)

(** - NOT trying to insinuate that watching college football somehow reduces the pains of labor. But it just might make it go by a little faster and more distractedly. OK: At least for me.)

No, we don't have a name picked out yet. Even now.

Back in the spring of 2006, before the birth of Kid No. 1, there was a running meme in my daily chat on ESPN.com, the Morning Quickie. There was some early discussion that I would name him "Joakim," which -- while awesome -- would make for an awkward bar mitzvah invitation.

Then, there was some discussion that I would pick "Noah" -- same homage to the Gators basketball team, less polarizing. And, in fact, Noah is a fantastic name. It actually made one iteration of our "baby-name short list," until I disqualified it precisely because I didn't want the kid going through life with people THINKING I named him after Joakim Noah.

For Kid No. 1, "Gabe" worked out fine -- and, as an added bonus, there was a modest connection to a notable sports name -- Gabe Kapler (my son Gabe's middle name starts with a "K," so it works out even better). How could I not appreciate the connection to that rarest of men, the major-sport Jewish pro athlete? (And I don't remember the MQ chatters ever guessing it.)

But it's true for this kid, too: Ideas for names came up -- and were discounted (and perhaps even reassured) -- because of a connection to an athlete or name from sports who I happen to dislike (or like). You simply can't help it.

And then there is the mother of all relevant baby-name questions:

Did "Tim" or "Timothy" make the short list?

I cannot possibly name my kid after Tim Tebow, can I? There's no question, as my Deadspin fans like to celebrate: He is my favorite athlete ever. He is a model person. It certainly wouldn't be a terrible choice, and it's actually a fine, normal name (unlike, say, naming your kid "Peyton," as so many in Tennessee did in the mid-1990s.)

But, no, while I won't reveal the top contenders -- though I have received some great suggestions over the past 36 hours, including more than a few guesses it would be "Tim" -- I will reveal that "Timothy" did not make the final cut, either as a first name or a middle name.

(No, "Tebow" did not make the cut for middle name, either. Though I appreciate you thinking it might... and though I'm not quite sure what that says.)

I will, however, offer an open invitation to Tim Tebow to come up for the bris, 8 days after the birth date. (Oh, you know why I want him there: Sure, you could NAME your kid after Tim Tebow, but it's a much better story to have him join the mohel for the circumcision. Tebow might even learn some new tips. Zing!)

Believe me: The Tebow/Shanoff-bris meme will be worked over on the blog between now and the bris itself. I cannot help it. As soon as I heard about Tebow's turn as the missionary mohel (after I knew my wife was pregnant), I knew I was on a collision course with this topic.

Anyway, as much as I would love to update the blog throughout the glorious event -- or via Twitter, or via updated Facebook status (can you imagine: "Dan is...coaching a birth!" Shortly after: "Dan is...facing divorce!"), if you don't see me on the blog in any given moment, that's why.

So: "Tim Shanoff" or "Tebow Shanoff." Ummm, no. But your name suggestions, guesses or advice, via the Comments, are always welcome.

More later (this time uttered with an epic degree of understatement).

UPDATE (Saturday a.m.): No baby yet. Here's another tip on naming your baby, inspired after one commenter suggested "Levi" -- not sure if he was serious or kidding. Here's the tip:

If a potential name is nominated and the first person you can think of who shares that name is a douchebag (ie, Levi Johnston), do NOT give your baby that name.

(Now, in 20 years, we may have forgotten all about Levi Johnston. But for these next few months -- which is the only real time people care about a kid's name, just after they're born -- it's a millstone.)