Just because I turned 40 this year doesn't mean I am willing to give up my accomplished knack for bathroom humor. Plus, as a sports fan I'm bound, like anyone else watching TV sports in the privacy of one's own home, to crack a joke now and again about a questionable-sounding surname.
One night several months ago I was up late and was bored. And wisdom came to me in the night that pushed me to do a little research of professional athletes with funny names. After some chuckles I matched a few well-known pros with other more obscure ones I had only heard about.
With rep-obsessed athletes changing their names today to things like "Metta World Peace" and "Ochocinco", I long for the days when sports pros came to bat with not just ridiculous salaries and mad behavior but also given names worth laughing about. Here are my findings no particular order:
Harry Dick, Chicago Blackhawks. I’m not making this up... Harry Dick was for a very brief time a player with the Chicago Blackhawks. Dick, who passed away in 2002, only played 12 games in the NHL. However, over his long and fruitful life, Harry Dick was good enough to make it into both hockey’s top flight and the big leagues of hilarious names.
Dick Butkus, Chicago Bears legend. Richard Marvin Butkus became a pro football hall of fame player in 1979, after eight Pro Bowl Seasons and legendary play that made him one of the best and most feared linebackers of all time. His #51 jersey is retired with the Bears and his grandson, Don Butkus, plays starting quarterback for Mt Carmel under the also-legendary coach, Frank Lenti.
Given Dick Butkus’ size and strength (on record as a player at 6’3” and 245 lbs) it’s likely that few ever made fun of his name (pronounced “BUTT-kiss”). However in the first run of the TV show Beavis and Butthead, a fellow classmate with the same surname, Danny Butkus (whom they refer to as "Butt Kiss"), prompts Beavis and Butthead to get in trouble for laughing, in the flagship episode “No Laughing”.
Mo Cheeks, Philadelphia 76ers. Cheeks, who was born in Chicago and raised in the old Robert Taylor Homes won a championship ring with the 76ers in 1983, as a point guard alongside other NBA greats like Moses Malone and Julius “Dr. J” Irving. He’s now an assistant coach to the Oklahoma Thunder with another former 76er, Scott Brooks, who was a fan favorite but half the point guard Cheeks was. Cheeks was known as a great defensive player, namely for his talent for slapping the ball away from opponents, a technique that led to his notable stats in steals.
Dean Windass, England footballer. Now still playing at the regional semi-pro level for Scarborough Athletic at age 46, long time star Windass (whose name is pronounced WIND-is, not “Wind Ass”) is known for his long career at the top flight of English football with Hull and Bradford City. He’s also known for his fiery temper, which led him to be ejected in a match for Bradford City after grabbing another opponent's testicles.
It was Windass --or Wind Ass, if you must-- that got tossed from a game for grabbing an opponent's testicles
Nicky Butt, Manchester United. Butt was part of Manchester United’s “Class of ‘92” along with David Beckham other greats who helped the team dominate the English Premier League for a decade and a half. Butt was a class-act midfielder who did the nitty gritty --tackling, marking advancing opponents and playing defense to collect the ball-- so that other players like Beckham, Dwight Yorke and the great Paul Scholes could score a ton of goals for Man U.
The dimwitted duo get put on probation after lampooning Danny Butt-kiss's name in "No Laughing"
Dong, Manchester United (kind of). In 2004, Dong Fangzhuo was all the rage in the red half of Manchester after having been signed in January to gear up for the ’04-05 season, right after Man U had won back the Premier League trophy from Arsenal.
Much like the plot of a Cheech and Dong, er, Cheech and Chong film, Dong’s boner was that he could not properly obtain the necessary citizenship credentials to play for United. Alex Ferguson remarked that Dong had the "speed and physicality" to play for United, it couldn’t be worked out whether Dong would try to finagle Belgian citizenship to speed up the process or what. Eventually it took three years for Dong to get a UK work permit, and in 2007 Dong sprung to life for United, before the club's interest went soft in lieu of other younger internationals with less harrowing names. It’s unlikely that you will be able to find a Man United #21 jersey with Dong’s name on Craig’s List.
Félix Pie, former Cubs player. The funny teen film, American Pie, left our brains with a new impression of what “pie” can mean and what's done with it.
Like Dong, Pie (pronounced PEE-ay, not “Pie”), was a highly-touted youngster, and put on the fast-track to reaching the big leagues. Later Pie came to the Cubs' 40-man roster through the Triple-A Iowa Cubs farm team. Although Pie was considered a good hitter with promising stats, the Cubs new manager at the time, Lou Piniella, considered the increasingly crusty Pie half-baked and had him shipped to the Baltimore Orioles.
Andy Frye --as his name implies-- used to flip burgers but now writes for ESPN and the DerbyLife.com. Follow on Twitter at @MySportsComplex.