I’ve always been fascinated by first names, either given at birth or nicknames accorded shortly after, by parents who strove to give their offspring a certain uniqueness, even before there’s much of a personality there to separate their little bundle of joy from the rest of the bundles staring up at those mobiles above their cribs.
And, in the world of sports, there are those names as memorable to me as any of the rest of the useless sports-related tidbits I’ve amassed over time, tidbits that take up enough space upstairs as to make any real useful information impossible to gain entry.
A case in point about my moniker fascination is I can still recall the story behind the name of Baskerville Holmes, a Memphis State basketball player in the early 1980s, whose mother accorded him his distinctive name as a nod to Sherlock Holmes and Arthur Conan Doyle’s novel The Hound of the Baskervilles.
While Holmes’ professional basketball career was far more obscure than the famous fictional crime solver Sherlock’s career, having played overseas but never in the NBA. His life far more tragic and short than most, ending in the murder of his girlfriend and then his suicide before his 33rd birthday, in my mind, the name and the story behind it will live in perpetuity.
Recently, during all that college football hoopla surrounding teams that were vying for one of the coveted four slots to play for a chance to be crowned NCAA champs, I finally heard the story behind the name of the Clemson football coach, Dabo Swinney, one I wondered about since I first heard it, and it’s one I just have to share. If you already know, please dismiss yourself, and go do something productive!
Swinney vaulted to the top of the college football world last year when his Clemson Tigers defeated Alabama to become champions. The Tigers again made the four-team mix this past season but lost to the same team they defeated a year earlier.
While all that held some interest for me, the origin of that very unusual name holds even more interest. Unlike Baskerville, Swinney’s mother didn’t hang that on him at birth. However, and get this, it wouldn’t be until Swinney was in the third grade before he would find out that “Dabo” was not his parentally given name!
Mom and Dad actually named their baby William Christopher, in Pelham, Alabama, and I mention the location because I think it’s dialectically important to where the rest of this tale is heading.
At any rate, William Christopher wasn’t the first baby to be brought home from the hospital and into the Swinney domicile. There was a brother, Tripp, who beat him to the front door by 15 months. As most, if not all, children already on the premises, especially first-borns, there is some initial disgruntlement in yielding the apple-of-the parental-eye throne to a new star.
I saw it with my own Shannon when Katie arrived on the scene once-upon-a-1970s time, and I also saw it with my granddaughter Caroline when sister Abigail came riding in smartly in that bassinette on Katie’s arm.
At any rate, meanwhile back to Pelham, Alabama, and the Swinney home, older brother Tripp was not about to call his sibling what Dad wanted, which was Chris, the shortened version of his middle name. Instead, Tripp would several times a day point to his little brother, I’m guessing with a bit of disdain, and ask, “Who that boy?”
And, with some enunciation and pronunciation issues common to a 15-month-old sprinkled with a liberal amount of Alabama dialect, “Who that boy?” sounded a whole lot like, “Who da bo?” And, it wasn’t long before everyone was calling young William Christopher “Dabo.”
While I thought I’d never hear a story about a person’s name that would push Baskerville off the top of my most-interesting-first-name mountain, I was wrong! I’m guessing no matter how many times Mom or Dad patiently answered, “That’s your brother Chris,” there would be several more times before each Alabama sunset, that the question would be asked, “Who da bo?”
John Grindrod is a regular columnist for The Lima News, a freelance writer and editor and the author of two books. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.