Name Game

Chuck, Chuck Bo-Buck, Banana-Bana Fo...Toejam.
By Tom Danehy

I PLAY IN a basketball league every Sunday. If you took away every other positive aspect of the game, the fact that I--an overfed, no-haired, (non-) leaping gnome--should be able to play organized ball at such an advanced age and weight, this alone does much to explain why basketball is well on its way to becoming the most popular sport in the world.

Danehy My favorite sport to play has always been football. But, unlike basketball, you just can't throw eight or 10 guys together and have a good football game. You can't walk up to a guy just standing around in a park and ask him if he'd like to play one-on-one football. In basketball, you can have good teams consisting of high school kids, old men and women of all ages. You can't do that in football, mostly because the darned women play dirty.

So, barring a huge societal shift in the next few days, basketball remains the sport of choice for those of us who want to cling desperately to a long-distant past and who are completely unafraid of looking pathetic in the process. Plus, it gives you an excuse to wear shorts a lot.

This particular league has all kinds of people. There are lawyers and car salesmen, and then there are people who make an honest living. The league brings together a cross-section of Tucson, the young and old, the movers and shakers. Although, as a rule, the young are generally the movers, while the old tend to be primarily shakers.

One interesting aspect of a basketball league is the names teams choose for themselves. Some are named for the company which sponsored them, or maybe the players' favorite pro team. But every now and then, people get creative. A couple summers ago, there was a really good team consisting of players who were all of the Caucasian persuasion. They called themselves Aryan Jordan.

I've been with the league so long that when a new team joins, if they don't have a name, I get to name them. Not a good idea.

I started off slowly. The first team I named The Leftovers. The second, Lint. The third, Toejam.

Just imagine talking to somebody:

You: "Oh yeah, I'm playing in a basketball league."

Them: "Wow, what's the name of your team?"

You: "Toejam."

Them: " nice for you."

You: "Yeah well, we beat the crap out of Psoriasis the other day."

Alas, I felt the need to top myself each time out. Never anything racist, sexist or homophobic. Just disgusting.

Last year, I named a new team Cheesy Yellow Discharge. They just sorta smiled knowingly and kept the name. They stayed in the league and continued to go by "CYD," although when pressed for an explanation, they would fudge by saying that they were either named for dancer Charisse, or it was a variant spelling of Spanish hero Rodrigo Diaz's nickname, as in "El CYD."

The most recent team name I came up with is "F.G.A." Even I can't bring myself to say what those letters stand for, but before your mind races out of control, let me state that the "F" stands for "Foaming."

One of my favorite teams in the league is an eclectic bunch of somewhat-older gentlemen who not only play smart, they play hard, and they win, almost always to the chagrin of their much-younger opponents. They are a glowing testament to the notion of experience overcoming...well, athleticism.

The team used to be named simply Mario, after the guy who wrote out the check for league fees. Mario's a good ballplayer. He used to be a good ballplayer-and-a-half. I used to play against him back in the '80s and he was much larger than he is today. You know how when a player sets a screen, the defensive player has to go around the screen? Well, by the time you got around one of Mario's screens, the janitor would be sweeping the gym floor under dim lights.

He lost a lot of weight by working out and eating vegetables and junk like that. Unfortunately, that old saying about "There's no zealot like a convert" kicked in. Every time I'd see him at the gym, he'd talk to me in non sequitars.

"Hey Mario, what's up?"

"Fat-free cheese."

"So how's your team doing?"

"Lots of fruits, but no avocados."

"I'm sure your teammates will love to hear that."

They play really smart ball and they often win championships, despite having a lineup which is somewhat less than imposing. Their entire squad consists of Mario, who runs a linen business; Kevin, who teaches computers in the Marana School District (imagine that contradiction!); Brian, who's a podiatrist; Claude, who does some kind of business stuff; Phil, whose real name isn't even Phil; Gabe, who coaches high school basketball; and Gabe's son, Isaac, who crashes motorcycles.

Mario's team has won so many championships, their new schtick is to come up with clever team names (without my help). Last league they were the Jackson 5. Mario was Jesse Jackson, Claude was Andrew Jackson, Kevin was Tito, the forgotten Jackson, and Brian was Shoeless Joe Jackson (podiatrist/Shoeless, get it?). Brian went by Shoeless, because he didn't want to be mistaken for the Joe Jackson who used to beat the snot out of LaToya and is probably responsible for the way Michael turned out, nor for the English rocker whose best song was a ditty called, "Everything Gives You Cancer."

This season, they're called "Cheap Whine," and they've all given themselves alcoholic names. Mario, in an homage to his younger, bigger days, is Ernest and Julio Gallo. Brian is "NAB," for "Non-Alcoholic Beverage." It's not good for a podiatrist to have a wino name, lest his patients fear that they'll stumble out of his office and for the rest of their lives be known as "Lefty."

Cheap Whine is near the top of the standings and looking to make one of their patented playoff runs. And then, more importantly, they'll want to come up with a new name. I suggested a bodily functions motif; they said they'd think about it. TW

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