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What’s in a quarterback’s name?

I made a small note of Johnny Unitas’ shoes in an earlier blog and that little thought triggered a memory.

No, not of high-tops.

It took me back to George Plimpton’s book “Mad Ducks and Bears,” a sequel of sorts to his much-more famous “Paper Lion.” “Ducks” is about Alex Karras (the Mad Duck) and John Gordy (the Bear), two Lions who Plimpton befriended during his “Paper Lion” stint in Detroit.

“Ducks” is set in a time after Gordy had retired and Karras was nearly so. The two spent a lot of time with Plimpton reminiscing about the “old days,” of pro football.

One night the three guys started talking about the importance of quarterbacks, and the conversation evolved – as those type of conversations often do – into a discussion about the importance of a quarterback’s name in a team’s success.

Karras pointed out the Colts had Johnny Unitas and the Packers had Bart Starr. The Lions had Milt Plum.

Which team seemed tougher? Which team seemed better led? Which team seemed ready to be crushed? Karras, facetiously, blamed all of the Lions’ troubles on the name of the quarterback.

But let’s take Karras’ premise and apply it to our local teams. How do they rate?

Seahawks – Matt Hasselbeck: OK, this one is pretty good. If you hassle us, we’ll hassle back. The first name – rhymes with doormat – isn’t as good, so we’ll give Seattle a quarterback name grade of B-.

Cougars – Alex Brink: Talk about how you spin it. Either the Cougars are on the brink of disaster (not good) or the brink of something special (good). Because sports is so much about perception, and anything that can be perceived by an opponent as in their favor isn’t good for you, we’ll give WSU a C+.

Huskies - Isaiah Stanback: OK, being named after an Old Testament prophet is a good thing, but that last name? Wow. “Stand back and watch,” isn’t much of a rallying cry, is it? The names of the backups are so non-descript (Carl Bonnell and Johnny DuRocher) that it’s no wonder every one can’t wait for Jake Locker to lock down the starting spot. Grade: D.

Eagles – up in the air: Who will replace Erik Meyer (a great arm, a name mired in mediocrity) at QB? The choices are Chris Peerboom and Matt Nichols. Lowering the boom on someone is a good thing in football and nickels aren’t what you would call the gold standard, so we’ll give the slight edge to Chris. Peering into the future, he’s the right choice for EWU. Grade if it’s Peerboom: B-; if it’s Nichols: C-.

Idaho – Steve Wichman: Let’s concentrate on the last syllable of the last name, because everything else is too mundane. But being the man is a good thing, so we’ll give the Vandal QB a B+.

If you have differing interpretations of these guys’ names - and a different grade - go ahead and let me know.


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Jim Allen Sports reporter Jim Allen's primary coverage areas are Eastern Washington University football and men's basketball, and college and high school soccer. He also contributes to the SportsLink Blog.

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Jim Meehan Jim Meehan's coverage areas include Gonzaga University men's basketball, Spokane Shock football, golf and volleyball. He also contributes to the SportsLink Blog.

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