A Vacuum Cleaner by any other name...

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A Vacuum Cleaner by any other name...

Nicknames, like first impressions, tend to last a long time. In a way, it’s an honor for an athlete to get tagged with a moniker. It means they have certain qualities, whether it’s their personality or style of play, that are unique and make them stand out from their peers.

That said, not all nicknames are cool.

Watching a documentary about Lee Chung-yong recently, I couldn’t help but notice something. It was his nickname, “Blue Dragon,” which kept popping up on the screen. I know it derives from his name: Chung translates to blue and yong, dragon. Lee and his former FC Seoul and current national squad teammate Ki Sung-yeung were collectively referred to as “Double Dragon.”

I guess it’s fitting, but the name is as tacky as the bright blue dragon statue that shoots out of the fountain on the Chung-Ang University campus. (I kid you not. Next time you’re in the area, check it out yourself.)

It’s simple: You either get a nickname that sticks like a cheap polyester jersey on a humid July afternoon, or you don’t. Look at the national team’s Lee Dong-gook, whose “Lion King” conjures up images of the Disney cartoon. Or his teammates, Lee “Spider Hands” Woon-jae, Oh “King of Fouls” Beom-seok, Cha “Human Weapon” Du-ri, “Three-Lunged Park” Ji-sung and Kim “Vacuum Cleaner” Nam-il.

I’m sure the sportscasters, sportswriters and fans who made them up had their reasons for the nicknames, but when they’re stupid I just don’t like it.

If you’re going to go with a tacky name, it’s not a bad idea to go to extremes. Ryan Sadowski of the Lotte Giants has earned the name “Kiss Dosa,” which is how the pitcher’s name reads backwards: It literally translates to “kiss guru.” Yeah, it sounds ridiculous, but it’s also hilarious.

Great athletes deserve nicknames that fit their physique or style of play. Charles “The Round Mound of Rebound” Barkley or Carnell “Cadillac” Williams are just two that jump to mind. Williams, the former University of Auburn and current Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back, got the name because the big, smooth runner was a notch above everyone else. Of course, one look at Barkley’s physique and his nickname is self-explanatory.

I remember this big kid in high school who used to drool out of the side of his mouth during pickup basketball games. Not a whole lot of saliva but maybe a few dribbles here and there. He wasn’t a bad player and had a decent shot. Anyway, some kid started calling him an Ogre and that was his name for the remainder of his years in high school.

Then there was a guy with the last name Chung, whom my brother took to calling Chungski. We don’t even remember how it started but the name stuck for a while.

So I pose a challenge to our readers with some time on their hands: Submit your nicknames for Lee Chung-yong or any other national football team member to me at the e-mail address below. Good suggestions will be used in future columns.

By Jason KIM [jason@joongang.co.kr]
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