The time for waiting is over. The Detroit Lions Name Bracket tournament is here, and I’m afraid there’s no turning back. Over the next month, feelings will be hurt, players will be cheated out of a round and the city of Winnemucca will swoop down on this site like a gargoyle catching its helpless prey.
Two years ago, I started this tournament in the hopes of keeping the audience entertained. Little did I know that I would actually end up holding them hostage like participants of the Stanford Prison Experiment.
Could I stop? Of course, I could stop. But if I did, boredom would set in, and we can only talk so much about Matthew Stafford’s upcoming contract or Detroit’s precarious left tackle situation. So at the risk of my health and your sanity, let’s commence with the first region of the Name Bracket tournament.
1 Jace Billingsley vs. 16 Matt Prater
What better way to kick off this tournament than with the 2016 Name Bracket champion. As mentioned before, the hometown of Jace—Winnemucca, Nevada—was entirely responsible for his win. That isn’t to say Jace Billingsley isn’t a fine name, it certainly is. But better than Miles Killebrew? Or Golden Tate? Probably not.
Here’s the bad (or good) news. Winnemucca is already well aware of the 2017 tournament. Jace Billingsley’s dad, who we interviewed after last year’s tournament, has already sent out the bat signal to Facebook. God help us all.
Matt Prater is a pretty boring name, and barely made the final 64. The only reason he’s here is because I like to say “Prater? Damn near killed her.” I don’t claim to be a mature man.
8 Joe Dahl vs. 9 Eric Ebron
Wow, we’re wasting no time in getting into the tough matchups.
If you’ve been around for the past two name tournaments, you know my personal affinity for alliteration. It makes people sound like superheroes or supervillains. Lex Luthor, Wade Wilson, Jezebel Jet, Doctor Doom, Eric Ebron, Sue Storm, Bruce Banner. I’m pretty sure Eric Ebron’s superpower is his ability to transform into a “bust” despite ranking in the top 10 in tight end statistics.
As for Joe Dahl, I cannot explain what makes this name so great. It’s so simple. Neither name is that unique on its own, but together it combines forces to create a name that comes out of the mouth so simply and so quickly. It’s clearly the most efficient name in the tournament, at just seven letters, but I just can’t figure out how to properly pronounce his last name:
5 Armonty Bryant vs. 12 Robert Tonyan
I have never heard of the name Armonty. As far as I know, there is not another single person named Armonty. If you google “armonty” you have to go eight pages deep before finding someone that isn’t Armonty Bryant. That sort of uniqueness is pretty rare these days.
As for what the name conveys, it feel very robust, to me. Like a mix between army and Monty Hall, the most badass game show host of all time. The show “Let’s Make a Deal” was cruel beyond its years. Not only would the show tempt its contestants away from a thousand dollar prize they already had, but they would laugh in your face when door number two revealed that you traded in your $2,000 prize for a live camel. That show had no chill.
Robert Tonyan has a pretty unique last name, but for some reason, I wish he went by Bob instead of Robert. “Hi, I’m Bob Tonyan of Tonyan Enterprises.” Doesn’t that just sound right? Instead, Robert Tonyan is kind of a chore to say. It forces the mouth in several directions, and while you hope a first and last name with two syllables each would produce some iambic pentameter opportunities, this name is just too arduous to fit that style. This is an easy choice for me.
4 Leo Koloamatangi vs. 13 Nick Bellore
I have a weird relationship with foreign names in this tournament. There’s something a little icky about pointing to a foreign name and saying, “Hahaha, look at that long name that’s hard to pronounce. Silly foreigners.”
That being said, Hawaiian names are objectively awesome. Vowels are awesome. There’s a reason why “Wheel of Fortune” charges you $250 to buy vowels: Because vowels kick consonants’ asses. In the Wheel of Fortune realm, Leo Koloamatangi may be the most valuable name in this tournament.
Nick Bellore made the final 64 based entirely on his last name. I cannot look at that name and pronounce it without an obnoxious Italian accent. I blame Aziz Ansari:
6 Theo Riddick vs. 11 Adairius Barnes
I’m not sure if it’s name fatigue or previous overhyping, but Theo Riddick’s six-seed seems a little low for him. Theo is a great first name, and Riddick is ripe for puns. But after four years on the team, you get sick of the same “The Chronicles of Riddick” and Riddick-ulous puns. Plus Jake Rudock had to come in and try to steal some of Riddick’s thunder, while making everyone accidentally add or omit the letter d in their names. The name Theo Riddick feels like a tired marriage at this point. There’s some inherent love deep down that will never go away, but the passion is gone.
Adairius Barnes is a unique name, but at the same time feels absolutely conventional. It’s like discovering a brand new, funky shaped fruit only to bite into it and find out it tastes like an ordinary apple.
Also, that “i” after the “a” is infuriating. I hate it. I will pay $250 to have that vowel removed.
3 Thurston Armbrister vs. 14 Ryan Spadola
Maybe one of the most underrated names in this tournament, Thurston Armbrister could very well win this tournament. His name provides plenty of punnable opportunities, but my favorite thing about his name is how it sounds like a punishment you’d give to your younger brother, a la the “wet willy” or “titty twister.” “If I catch you touching my baseball cards* one more time , I’m going to give you a Thurston Armbrister.”
*if you’re younger than 30, pretend that says “fidget spinner” instead of baseball cards, you damn kids.
Ryan Spadola. Spadola. Oh no, the Italian voice is coming back! SPA-DOOOLA. A-LLOOOORA.
7 Nevin Lawson vs. 10 Khyri Thornton
This matchup comes at a poor time for Khyri Thornton, having been just served a six-game suspension on Tuesday. However, that doesn’t make him any less eligible for the Name Bracket tournament. In fact, you could say this prickly situation only plays into Thorn-ton’s hand in this competition. (Sorry, not sorry.)
Kyrie Irving has stolen a bit of Khyri’s thunder, but the spelling—while occasionally frustrating as a writer—does maintain some originality points.
Nevin Lawson, on the other hand, doesn’t look like a particularly original name, but it works. I’ve expressed before how much I like the name Nevin, because it reminds me of Navin Johnson from “The Jerk,” but Urban Dictionary only makes the name even more epic. Here are the first two “definitions” of the name Nevin according to the user-submitted site:
“the most pimp thing sum1 could ever say or do”
“the most pimpin man alive”
Can’t argue with that.
2 Teez Tabor vs. 15 Antwione Williams
If you thought Eric Ebron sounded like a superhero, Teez Tabor has supervillain written all over it. Here is Teez Tabor’s origin story of how he turned evil.
Teez Tabor was like any other college kid. He was eager to gain independence and enter the real world, while not shying away from a good time on campus. The world was his oyster once he found himself to be a very talented cornerback for his favorite team, the Florida Gators.
But after his season came to an end and he turned his eyes to the NFL, tragedy struck. The corporate overlords at the NFL forced him to strip down to an embarrassing set of clothes and run for him. When his speed didn’t match the numbers his oppressors desired, they called him worthless and undraftable. The people Tabor had worked so hard to impress shunned him without even getting to know him.
Teez Tabor vowed never to let that happen again to anyone else. And that’s how he became The 40-Yard Slash.
Antwione Williams would not have made the final 64 if it weren’t for that “i” in his first name. If you’re like me, you always read his name as Ant-weeeee-on Williams, and it makes you laugh every time.