What’s in a Name? Best Names in Sports

names in sports

Sports Wednesday is back! My apologies that I didn’t get my act together last week and write a post for you. This week I was thinking about memorable, interesting, funny and unpronounceable names in sports. The idea got into my head recently when I wrote an email to Matthew at camp and wanted to tell him about a new player on the Jays roster who had a great night. I couldn’t remember the player’s name because I couldn’t pronounce it! The player is Rob Refsnyder.  I  typed it I realize now it’s not that difficult a name to say or spell.

So, I am going to dive deep and look at some other players, current or past, with names I just have to write about. Let’s start with baseball. Every time I hear about Coco Crisp I want to go to my pantry and eat a bowl of cereal. I believe his actual full name is Covelli, but I prefer to call him Coco. He played baseball for 13 seasons and retired at the end of last season. Milton Bradley is a baseball player but also the founder of the board game company that bears his name. No, they are not the same person.

Then there is John Olerud,. He was one of my favourite players on the Blue Jays during their 1992-93 World Series run. I feel like his name was accidentally spelled backwards and should really be John Durelo. Don’t you agree?

Then there are the baseball players whose names need no explanation, like Dick Pole, Johnny Dickshot, Boof Bonser and Rusty Kuntz (less disturbing when you learn the last name is pronounced Koontz).

Looking at more names in sports, let’s move on to hockey. The National Hockey League has mainly attracted players from across North America and Europe, and sometimes the names make more sense in their original language. Or sometimes the name comes from a country where the local language is pronounced or spelled very differently than English. Sometimes the name is just strange.

Take Radek Bonk for instance. He is Czech, but it seems to me that the word “bonk” has a clear meaning in any language. Bill Quackenbush played in the NHL in the 1940’s and 1950’s. This is a Dutch name that means “swamp wilderness.” Håkan Loob is a Swedish name, and he played for the Calgary Flames in the 1980’s. Does “Loob” mean something less silly-sounding in Swedish?

The NBA attracts players from around the world, including of course North America, Europe, Africa and Asia. There is quite a variety of names in this league. My local team, the Toronto Raptors, has a number of players with great names. Serge Ibaka is a good one, and of course I just love Jonas Valancuinas. Not only does he have a cool name but he wears a jersey with #17 on the back. Anything with #17 is great, of course.

Ruben Boumtje Boumtje, from Cameroon, enjoyed a short NBA career, and at 7.0 feet tall and 260 pounds no one ever made fun of his name! Other notable names are Detlef Schrempf, Luc Richard M’bah-a-Moute and Al-Farouq Aminu, just because they sound great.

I could probably go on forever, but for now I will just add a few more of the best names in sports in general. Dean Windass played soccer in the English Premier League, Yourhighness Morgan (no joke), a former football player, another football player named Fair Hooker and Kim Yoo-Suk, a Korean Olympic pole vaulter (unfortunate only in English).

What do you think are some of the best names in sports? Do you have a favourite or one that is unique or memorable? Leave a comment here, or post on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

My Local Sports Broadcast Crew Must be a Homer


Kinetic Motions is back to Sports Wednesday today. My son, Matthew, was my inspiration to devote at least one day each week to sports or a sports-related topic, and it’s challenging to be inspired with my muse away at camp. It did not occur to me that when Matthew is not home that there’s no one with whom to discuss strikeouts, trades and off-season signings. I have only, the internet, radio and television to get my sports fix, and that is just not sufficient.

And speaking of sports and radio and television, it occurred to me last night, while I watched the Blue Jays’ game on Sportsnet, that there is something comforting about listening or watching your home team’s broadcast. What do I mean by that? I will explain.

When I went to journalism school I learned that to be a good producer, writer or reporter, I had to be fair and unbiased. It was imperative to tell all sides of the story and be objective. But, that’s not the case in sports media, and it’s something I love about it.

When I flip on the radio or turn on my television for my local team’s hockey, baseball or basketball game, I expect the broadcast crew to be homers. Sports is about passion and excitement. If the play-by-play person didn’t shriek with delight when a goal is scored or a grand slam home run happens I would be terribly disappointed and would be less interested in listening or watching the broadcast.

I look forward to hearing Jerry Howarth’s “And there she goes” or Buck Martinez excitedly yelling, “get up ball” as he just wishes for the ball to jump over the outfield fence. I grew up listening to Joe Bowen screaming like a maniac “Holy Mackinaw” on the radio. Every city, large and small, with any kind of sports team, needs a play-by-play crew that roots for the home team.

The whole experience of watching the game is hugely enriched when the broadcast crew is a fan of the team. Last night, as I watched the Blue Jays game versus the Chicago White Sox, Rogers Sportsnet experienced some transmission issues. I don’t blame them – it happens sometimes, and it was clear they were trying everything humanly possible to get the game, with Buck and Pat, back on the screen.

While they worked on their technical issues they flipped a switch and aired the WGN broadcast of the game. WGN is a Chicago-based network, and it airs White Sox games. Naturally the play-by-play team were White Sox fans, and I felt almost empty and uncomfortable as I watched. My screen looked different, with the score and statistics graphics in a different location. While they were familiar with the Blue Jays players, they clearly did not know them personally like Buck and Pat do.

Every time the Sportsnet broadcast flashed on my screen I felt excited then disappointed again when WGN returned. Finally, the transmission issue was fixed late in the game, and I heard the familiar voice of Buck Martinez. I will admit that this was late at night and soon after I fell asleep and missed the rest of the game.

I’m a big sports fan, and it makes me happy that the people who broadcast the games I watch and listen to support my teams. They do a great job, and I love to listen to them and watch them. Speaking of which, there is an afternoon baseball game today, and as I sit at my desk and work I am looking forward to listen to Jerry and Joe on the radio, and maybe hear, “And there she goes” a few times. Maybe part way I will flip on my TV to hear Buck’s excited screams of “Get up Ball” as it sails over the left-field fence.

Take Me Out to the Ballgame


Take me out to the ballgame

Take me out with the crowd

Buy me some doughnuts, ice cream and French fries

I don’t care if that baseball never flies

Let me root, root, root

For the Blue Jays

If they don’t win it’s a shame


For it’s one,


Three strikes you’re out

At the Blue Jays game

These are my slightly modified lyrics of this all-time great baseball song, which is sung at all Major League Baseball ballparks during the 7th inning stretch. My son and I enjoyed the song last night as we attended the ballgame.

I love going to a Blue Jays game, something I have discussed before. There’s something special about the mix of sounds (often scalpers hollering for ticket sales) and smells (could it be sweat?) outside the ballpark as I walk up the long path before I enter the massive stadium. Even though I know they are disgusting, my mouth even salivates as I pass one hot dog stand after another.

Going to a ballgame with my son, Matthew, is what I love best. He is a super fan and has become a walking encyclopedia of player statistics and baseball history. He knows details about every player on every team and provides a very educated analysis to not only me but everyone around us as the game. I believe the two guys to our left last night were very amused by the knowledge they gained last night.

Matthew was so excited to see the Sportsnet team live on air
And from another angle

We had great seats last night, as we sat in the third row down the third base line. The crowd, like always at Rogers Centre, was loud and enthusiastic.  Now that I have been to a ballgame a few games with my son over the last couple of years I have discovered some patterns and made some observations:

  1. There is always one big guy sitting a few rows behind me who likes to yell, really loud. He’s quite jolly, he’s a super-fan and likes to holler Go Jays Go, often.
  2. Beer flows at a baseball game like cold water at a children’s park on a sweltering hot day. At over $11 per can, the Blue Jays could sell only beer at games and still make a fortune. The guy in front of me consumed so many cans of beer that I lost count after he purchased the sixth one. Wow.
  3. When the home team (in this case my Blue Jays) are having a rough night, you will see the best catches of the night made by fans in the stands, catching foul balls. One woman caught a foul ball off the edge of the second deck last night, and wow, it was spectacular. The fans saved the biggest cheers for themselves.
  4. There are many people who are at the Rogers Centre but are unaware that there is a baseball game going on around them. There was a nice and very friendly young family to our right last night. I think the father is a fan and would like the same for his two sons. The mother spent the whole game on her smartphone, either chatting with a friend or video chatting with various relatives around the world, showing them where she was. It was very distracting.
  5. Even though the current Blue Jays’ baseball stadium has existed for over 25 years, the crowd is still fascinated and in awe when the domed roof opens or closes before, during or after the game. With clear skies after another day of rain in Toronto yesterday, the roof opened as we sat down in our seats. I watched, transfixed, as the CN Tower appeared before us as the roof inched open. 
    Matthew let me take my silly selfie this time
    The beauty of the CN over the ballpark at sunset

    Lit up and ready for Canada Day
  6. The most sought-after item at every baseball game is a $5 official MLB baseball. Seven to ten-year-old boys were most interested in acquiring one of these last night, from a foul ball or in the case of our section at the game, the friendly ball boy. The hardest job in baseball is not the umpire’s, it’s the ball boy’s. This pour soul was harassed all night by young children, who begged him for a ball.
I’m not sure if the excitement in his eyes was because of the game or because he was ready to pounce on the poor ball boy

Matthew was one of the lucky few who charmed his way to get one of those sought-after balls. My son, who is one of the biggest Blue Jays fans I have ever seen and who was depressed for days last year when the Blue Jays fell to the Cleveland Indians in the playoffs, didn’t even notice that his beloved team lost last night 3-1. Why? Matthew got one of the official game balls, and this made his day.

Matthew had to show off his treasure

What are your favourite moments at a baseball game? Have you made any interesting observations? Share them with me – comment here, tell me on Facebook or Tweet me @AliciaRichler.

There’s Something Cozy about Late Night Sports

late night sports


I have decided to establish a weekly feature of sports themes on Wednesdays. I love reading, writing and discussing sports (as does my son), so I have decided to pick a sports topic every Wednesday. For readers who enjoy sports I hope you can look forward to my weekly column on the topic. For those of you who aren’t sports fans I hope you follow along anyway and enjoy the ride. Today’s topic: there’s something cozy about late night sports.

I have been a Toronto Blue Jays’ fan since their first game on April 7, 1977 (the fact that I was only 9 months old on this date is secondary but you get the idea). My favourite sport is definitely baseball. I will clarify that – my favourite spectator sport is baseball. As a child and teenager, I loved listening to Tom and Jerry on the radio as I did my homework in the evening. I have always liked watching the Jays on TV and of course a trip to the ballpark to actually be at the game is the best.

Since the Blue Jays play in the American League East, they play most of their games in the Eastern time zone or Central time zone. But that does leave a number of games each season for west coast teams. They always make a few road trips each season to play in cities such as Los Angeles, Oakland or Seattle, and that means a late night sports start.

My son is not a fan of west coast road trips because the games start at 10:00 pm or even a ghastly 10:30 pm sometimes. While Matthew is a night owl and desperately tries to stay awake when his beloved team plays in California, by 10:17 pm I usually find him in a deep sleep in my bed, with the game blaring on the TV.

I have a little more staying power than my 10-year-old. The Blue Jays are currently on a west coast road trip, with stops in Oakland and Seattle. The game has started at 10:07 pm the last couple of nights, and I decided this morning that there’s something cozy about late night sports.

For the last two evenings, with the kids asleep and the kitchen clean, at 10:00 pm I sat down in front of the TV, turned it on to Sportsnet and sat back to watch the baseball game. The house was quiet and the game was mine to enjoy. By 11:00 I started to nod off on the couch, so I moved a sleeping Matthew to his bed and climbed in to my bed to watch the rest of the game.

The only problem, for me, with late-night sports is that I am incapable of staying awake for the whole game. Hard as I tried to keep my eyes open, by 11:30 pm I am quite sure I was fully unconscious. The game entered my dreams, and there’s a chance I hit into a double play or got a double.

It’s too bad the Blue Jays have lost the first two games of this six-game west coast road trip, and today’s game is in the afternoon. But Seattle is up next, with a couple more 10:00 pm starts. That means I can enjoy a couple more cozy evenings of late night sports.

First Blue Jay Game of the Season

First Blue Jay game of the season


“Mommy, we are going to the game today,” my son excitedly bellowed at me as I lay in my bed early this morning, while I was in that delicious state between deep sleep and consciousness. Matthew, I must note, is not an early riser, but today he popped up bright and early, ready to head downtown to his first Blue Jay game of the season.

While we watch a lot of baseball in our house (Matthew rarely misses a game on radio or TV), we don’t get the opportunity to actually be at too many games at the Rogers Centre each season. So when I secured four tickets to today’s afternoon game, thanks to SeatGeek, Matthew was ecstatic. Today was our first Blue Jay game of the season, and also the first as a family of five.

I believe my parents took me to my first Blue Jay game back in 1977, when I was just a baby, back at the old Exhibition Stadium.  I grew up loving the Blue Jays and cherished every game I went to. I remember when the SkyDome opened in 1989, and I went to a game that season when the weather changed and the roof had to be closed. Fifty-thousand fans ignored the game and watched, for 45 minutes, as the roof closed. It was an extraordinary sight.

I remember the sold-out crowds during the World Series seasons of 1992 and 1993, when the Blue Jays, and their fans, were literally on top of the world. Getting my first press pass to a Jays game, in 2001, was almost surreal, and I recall the incredible, and also very uncomfortable feeling, when I interviewed Carlos Delgado in the locker room, surrounded by a sea of only male reporters. I asked my questions and looked at him straight in the eyes, which was challenging since he wasn’t wearing much!

Another great memory is Matthew’s first Blue Jay game, in 2013, when he was 6 years old. His school’s choir performed the national anthem, and we, with other families, were at the game to cheer them on. Matthew’s eyes were locked on the field, and I knew there and then that he was hooked.

Each visit to the ballpark is special to me, and today’s game was definitely no exception. When Matthew jumped around the house this morning, so excited about the Jays game ahead, I will admit I felt that excitement too. When we arrived at the Rogers Centre and pulled out our tickets it was like my heart skipped a beat and it definitely started to race as we found our seats, heard the national anthems and watched the first pitch.

The cherry on top today…. the Blue Jays beat the Cincinnati Reds, 5-4. Go Jays Go!

First Blue Jay game of the season
Matthew’s excitement grew as Pillar came on as a pinch hitter
First Blue Jay game of the season
Forget taking a nap today, this baby ate and cheered her way through the game.
First Blue Jay game of the season
Me and my girls at the game

Sportsmanlike Conduct

Matthew is happiest at the ballpark


My son is a huge sports fan. I’m talking about living, breathing, touching, feeling and every other sense and emotion out there. Matthew starts his day checking the scores from the previous evening, spends much of his free time shooting hoops or throwing a baseball in our backyard and likes to watch his favourite teams play well into the night, every night.

I guess you can say that my dream came true. I have loved playing, following and watching sports since I was a child. I grew up on a quiet street and played ball hockey and baseball with the boys, I collected and traded baseball cards and I religiously listened to Tom and Jerry on CJCL AM 1430 radio (today the Jays can be heard on Sportsnet the Fan 590) as I did my homework every night.

I had my aha moment in grade 11 chemistry (yes the same class though not the same day that I created Kinetic Man) when I suddenly realized that I wasn’t bright or ambitious enough to go to medical school but instead wanted to be a journalist. Oh and not just a journalist but a sports journalist. Everyone, and I mean everyone, laughed at me.

It took me a few years to get back on track, but I took the first step in graduate school when I interned at ABC Sports Radio, in my final semester of journalism school at New York University. With a small production staff I had a quick learning curve, and it all culminated in the fall of 2000 when New York City hosted the famous Subway World Series – Yankees vs Mets. ABC handed me the ball one night and I handled the reporting duties, on the field at Shea stadium!

When I returned to Toronto the following year some great people took a chance on me and hired me to be a producer at the short-lived Team Sports Radio Network. Then I got an opportunity to join the Assignment Desk at Rogers Sportsnet, working with some of the greatest names in sports media. Many of those talented journalists are still at Sportsnet today or have moved on to other careers in sports media in Canada, and I want to thank all of them for teaching me so much about sports and sportsmanlike conduct.

So it thrills me that my son loves sports. Matthew loves baseball and basketball most and can’t bear to miss a game. Hockey is close behind. He lives for the Blue Jays, Raptors and Leafs (I’m a fan of the Carolina Hurricanes but that story is for another day) and he will support really any team if it’s home base is in Canada. Sometimes he takes the term “fan” to the level of “fanatic,” like when he insists that he watch the last quarter of the Raptor game in the car on my phone or he must watch the Jays game in full at 10:00 pm when they are on the west coast.

A child looking at the baseball diamond in awe
Matthew looks on in awe at the ballpark
Mom and son selfies at the Jays game
Selfie at the Jays game last year

Matthew loves sports so much that if none of his preferred sports are on TV he will choose almost anything, just to get his sports fix in. Maybe some of you love it, but I can’t bear to watch darts, poker or bowling. I draw the line at entertainment that involves throwing sharp objects at a board with people cheering them on.

Sporting the number 17 jersey playing basketball
Note his jersey number – that’s right, 17!
Defending on the basketball court
He takes pride in his basketball defensive skills on his school team

My husband doesn’t care much for sports, so it brings me a smile every day that I found my sports partner in life in my son. Matthew loves my encyclopedic knowledge of baseball and its many rules, and we literally can sit together for hours discussing the many nuances of the game.

showing off his baseball bat
Matthew has joined his school’s softball team
getting ready to swing the bat
Matthew’s first at bat of the season with his school’s baseball team

Matthew asked for one thing for his birthday this year – a trip with me, his mother, to Chicago this summer, to watch his beloved Blue Jays play the Cubs. Our flight has been booked, the hotel is reserved and we have a pair of tickets to the Jays at Cubs game on Friday afternoon, August 18. As a bonus, Toronto’s MLS soccer club is in Chicago that same weekend and we have scored a pair of tickets to the Toronto FC at Chicago Fire game on Saturday night, August 19. Now that’s a perfect mother and son weekend.