Fresh Kicks, Swag, and the Importance of Nicknames in Division Rivalries

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

As the 2013 NFL offseason, as tedious an endeavor as there ever was finally has the life mercifully squeezed from its being, it's time to take a look back at it, apply lessons from the past, and draw needless conclusions. Much ado has been made about the upstart young gun QB rivals Colin Kaepernick and Russell Wilson and the expectations for the coming year. Endless debate. Extreme homerism. Mindless chatter. Old men yelling at clouds. And yet, where it really counts, they come up short.

And there's no better way to illustrate this than the man who in a selfless act of non-committal cowardice ranked them #12 & #11 in his totally trumped up, meaningless rankings based on a hunch: Ron Jaworski. As quarterback of the Philadelphia football Eagles from 1977-1986, Jaworski was a relentless competitor in the NFC east. In this battle royale of a division he was pitted against another fearsome competitor, this guy, Joe Theismann.

Now, Theismann had a tremendous opening advantage: a natural football nickname. Joe Heisman. Now, admittedly it's more geared towards the college ranks and has a high school letter jacket feel to it, he gave it to himself, he didn't actually win the Heisman, and he changed the way you pronounce his real name to make it work. But it screams football.

So Jaworski, with Super Bowl aspirations of his own, took on the moniker "Polish rifle". It was a strong nickname, that conjured up imagery of Vasili Zaitsev fighting off the Germans for months on end in the battle of Stalingrad and worked as a moniker for a while, but eventually everybody saw the movie Enemy at the Gates and realized that Jaworski was no Jude Law, Vasili was actually Russian, and no modern army ever was afraid of the Poles.

Meanwhile Joe "Heisman" Theismann (pronounced Theezman) had moved beyond returning punts and had his very own Super Bowl ring (two actually but that's not important). Now, Joe was established as the division's best field general under center, even with his collegiate nickname. But all good things must come to an end.

While Theismann's career on the field might have had higher peaks, and ended in glorious fashion, the revelation that his true nickname amongst his peers was "Captain Bubbly" haunts him to this day. Now Captain Bubbly was clearly on the down slope of his professional career while Jaworski had just picked up a new, dominating nickname that was so obvious it should have been the first one to begin with.

This is a classic case of a player being robbed of his true greatness, due to the lack of creativity of the fans. Gone was the name Polish Rifle, and in was the masculine, sheer power evoking "Jaws" With an obvious tie in with the movie Jaws, it's likely people at the time passed over the name because they didn't want to conflate his persona with the shark because it dies in the movie. So they went with the infamous Polish rifle corps of WW2 instead.

But as time wore on, brevity became the only source of creativity in giving players new names. Jaworski literally is "Jaw or ski?" And everybody knows he can't ski. So he is Jaws today. And he is paid to Jaw on and on, and on, and on for ESPN for large sums of money to this day. Meanwhile, Captain Bubbly has been reduced to hawking super beta prostate on AM radio and late night cable and defending the racial slur of a franchise name he used to play for with the hopes Daniel Snyder will give him a parking pass at FedEx dirt farm.

All of which brings us to today. We just established the role that nicknames play in the fierce competition between division rival elite quarterbacks. Not only playing careers, but after the lights fade as well. Now, neither Colin Kaepernick or Russell Wilson have nicknames that have stuck as of yet. And that needs to change.

Wilson has a natural football name. The ball is named after his family. Hard to beat that. He also has a couple of nicknames floating around the interwebs: RW3, and Dangeruss. Now Dangeruss (which happens to be his twitter tag) is a play on words and was given to him by his teammates at Wisconsin, it doesn't dominate like Polish Rifle or Joe Heisman. It sounds too much like the afternoon lineup on the WB with a detective agency run by a duck. RW3 sounds like a copy of RG3's nick, which was just a manifestation of laziness to begin with. And Wilson is nothing close to lazy.

And then there is Kaepernick. Kaepernick is yet to have been given a legitimate nickname, probably because of an overload of consonants and vowels placed randomly in his name. He does look like Squidward though. If it wasn't for full sleeves and torso of tats you probably couldn't tell them apart.

In fact, the closest thing to a nickname Kaepernick has is a shortening of his last name (so modern, so lazy, so lucky it works this one time) to communicate his affinity for ball caps and stuff, AKA "swag". It's not a real nickname, at least not one that will carry him to a career into the broadcast booth (provided Mtv doesn't get the NFL Shore contract), it's still all we got.

So while neither Russell nor Colin has established a real nickname, one of them has dived right into brand management. Kaepernick may not have a legit nickname, but he loves SWAG and has taken steps to protect that love via legal trademarks. Kampernicking / Campernicking has been legally trademarked, as the act of camping out in front of a shoe retailer or other swag shops to get the latest limited edition gear.


Colin spent 2 nights Campernicking in front of the San Bernadino Foot Locker to pick up the latest Lebrons that match his limited edition Susan G. Komen Miami Dolphins elite game jersey.

Now Russell hasn't got a power name of his own yet, but at this point in the game he's winning by default as Kaepernick has reduced himself to a swag groupie. More or less.

At the same time, Kaepernick's world of swag and colorful stylings is crumbling around him. He tried to apologize to the fans about wearing Miami gear, or swag that never hurt anybody. And that was great until somebody got hurt. Now Crabtree is down and out and Kaepernick is looking for a new BFF receiver he can count on.


It's totally understandable he wants a seat at the table at the Golden Tate House of Pancakes.

But we are just at the beginning. Nobody's nickname is set in stone, and Kaepernick has only proven to be as douchey as douche McDouchey doucheville. It will take a couple more seasons to give an accurate assessment of the two competitors, but as it projects today, Wilson is the Plymouth Rock of the NFL, and Kaepernick is no Polish Heisman. Such is life in the NFC Best.

And such are fresh kicks and swag.

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