Thursday, October 22, 2009

What's In A Name? (or, an address.....)

Vander Blue, the talented basketball player finishing up his “studies” at Memorial High, calls the Head Coach of the Marquette University Men’s Basketball Team “Buzz”. As State Journal sports columnist Tom Oates pointed out earlier this week, not “Coach Williams”, just “Buzz”.

So what?

So what the heck happened to a little respect? If I would have called my high school football coach “Bob”, I would have been running wind sprints until I fell over. My dad insisted his children address their elders with appropriate respect. He wouldn’t even let me call our family doctor “Doc” Towne, although everyone in Hortonville did. It was DOCTOR Towne.

If I ran into one of my high school teachers today - not likely, since most of them are probably long gone - I could never summon the chutzpah to call them by their first name. It was too deeply ingrained in me.

As a master’s degree student at UW-Oshkosh, one of my teachers was a Professor Emeritus, John Taylor, Ph.D. Early on in the course, one of the students made the mistake of referring to him as “Mister Taylor” in class. Dr. Taylor froze in his tracks, did a slow burn, his eyes bored laser-holes into the offending student’s torso, and he thundered “MISTER Taylor? MISTER Taylor? WHY DON’T YOU JUST CALL ME JOHN!!!!!” Point made.

Some folks are more sensitive than others about their title. My current physician insists that I call him Adam. Can’t do it. It’s Dr. Rindfleisch.

If you were raised like I was, there’s a point in your maturation where you begin to think it’s no longer necessary for you to use titles like “Mr.” or “Mrs.” when your talking with people who are older than you. Your parents’ friends, for example. At some point, and sometimes it’s not obvious, it’s OK to call them by their first name.

But the elderly - that’s a different story. At least it used to be. It seems we tend to use “Mr.” or “Mrs.” with someone who’s over 70 or so. People of that age aren’t likely to ask you to call them by their first name, either. They enjoy that added touch of respect when you say “Mr.” or “Mrs.”.

Back to Mr. Blue. So he calls his soon-to-be coach by his first name. I think that’s VERY unusual. Oates writes “can you imagine one of Bob Knight’s recruits calling him Bob?” Nope. Coach Knight, if you please.

I can recall only a single time I’ve ever heard a pro athlete refer to a current or past coach by their first name. In the news conference where he was introduced as a Vikings player, Brett Favre called Coach Brad Childress “Chilly”. Once. If you watch ESPN or a football pre-game show and the topic comes up, those multi-millionaire pro athletes almost invariably use the title “Coach”.

Even Michael Irving refers to Mike Ditka as “Coach” when they’re together on the ESPN pre-game show. So does “Jaws” - Ron Jaworski. Both Jaworski and Irving are certainly Mike Ditka’s peers….but they call him “Coach”.

I could be wrong, but I’ll bet next year, when he’s playing for him, Vander Blue will call Buzz Williams “Coach”. No more “Buzz”.

1 comment:

  1. Most PhDs (including my father) are happy to be called Mr. or Ms. The professors who insist on being called Dr. are usually full of themselves, though they might be good teachers.