During my formative years, one of the first things that attracted me to sports -- other than the concession stands -- were the entertaining nicknames attached to some of the athletes.
Looking back, nicknames were rather tame in my youth, a time when "Rocky" (Rocky Colavito) was cool, "Daddy Wags" (Leon Wagner) was even cooler and "Sudden Sam" (Sam McDowell) was the absolute best. "Stan the Man" wasn't too shabby, either.
My love of sports and nicknames has always remained strong. I think those marvelous monikers add a certain amount of charm, not only to the player, but to the game, too. The sophistication of many of today's nicknames is as interesting as the player himself. I appreciate whatever the thought process was behind some of them.
Gone are the days when some of our favorite players were known simply as "Red" or "The Mick." Now we have "CP3," "The Truth" and "Shady."
Here are a few of my modern era favorites from the three major sports:
"The Answer": Allen Iverson was an incredible talent in his prime, and he had a nickname worthy of that talent.
"Black Mamba": Kobe Bryant's off-court problems may forever overshadow what he accomplished on the basketball floor, but no one will ever dispute the quality of that calling card.
"Air Jordan": The perfect nickname for the perfect player.
"The Mailman": This one always made me smile, and no fan could ever argue that Karl Malone did not deliver.
"The Glove": When it came to a defensive lockdown, Gary Payton was in a class by himself. And he could trash talk with the best of them.
"The Electric Company": This goes back a few years, but fans of O.J. Simpson probably recall this is what the offensive line of the Buffalo Bills was called -- because they turned "The Juice" loose.
"Matty Ice": Always cool under fire, Matt Ryan may have the best nickname of any current NFL quarterback.
"Muscle Hamster": A classic. NFL running back Doug Martin may say he does not like it, but I don't believe him.
"Honey Badger": Another classic. If defensive back Tyrann Mathieu could stay out of trouble, he could become a legend on that nickname alone.
"Johnny Football": If only Johnny Manziel had been worthy of that nickname.
"The Big Hurt": This might be my favorite nickname from baseball's modern era. If Frank Thomas had not been a hall of famer on the field, that nickname alone would have gotten him to Cooperstown.
"Joey Bats": Jose Bautista tends to attract a lot of negative attention, but certainly not for his name. It's gold medal-worthy.
"A-Roid": Go ahead, laugh. Even Alex Rodriguez likely chuckles at this one.
"The Big Unit": Not only is it funny, but appropriate. Randy Johnson stood 6-foot-10-inches -- including an impressive mullet -- and could throw the baseball almost 100 mph.