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Bringing Players Weekend to other pro sports

Nicknames: an honor bestowed onto a professional athlete by fans, teammates, the media, or the internet.

Athlete nicknames are becoming a commonplace in sports; you can find nicknames for players in just about every sports league worldwide. Nicknames have become such an important part of the identity of league we love to watch that Major League Baseball created an entire weekend around this idea: Players Weekend.

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Custom uniforms and hats were created for all 30 MLB teams, and players were given the opportunity to wear their nicknames on the back of their uniforms. As you can imagine, there were a lot of good nicknames picked. Josh Phegley chose “PTBNL” (Player To Be Named Later), Tommy Hunter chose “Tommy Two Towels”, and Chris Herrmann chose “Herrm the Worm”.

With the success of Players Weekend, it got us thinking, what if other professional sports leagues did the same?

NBA

The NBA was the first league to have nickname jerseys, when the Heat and Nets played each other during the 2013-2014 season. However, that was only two teams playing one game as a one-time special promotion. Think of the possibilities if every NBA team had nickname jerseys. As well as having nickname jerseys, the league could do a retro jersey or specialty jerseys like the MLB did to mark the special occasion.

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The most important part are the nicknames. Just imagine Joel Embiid wearing a jersey with “The Process” on the back, James Harden with “The Beard”, or Nik Stauskas with “Sauce Castillo”. There are some great NBA nicknames out there that people would buy jerseys with those names on the back, guaranteed.

Unlike the MLB, you can’t really do this over a weekend in the NBA, so maybe have it as a one-night or two-night thing with every NBA team participating in it. The logistics on that end would have to be discussed by the league.

NFL

The NFL is full of characters from Odell Beckham Jr. to Le’Veon Bell.

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For many fans, it’s tough to put personalities to players because they all wear helmets and it’s hard to distinguish one from another. Rules on what players can and can’t do for celebrations also makes it more of a challenge for some players to show off their full flare. However, with nickname jerseys, the NFL can really give personalities to players across the league. Relatively unknown players will now become people’s favorites because of their nicknames, which is great, especially when it comes to jersey sales. The more jerseys you sell of all players, not just the most notable players on the team, is great for the team, the players themselves and the league.

Imagine the different jerseys you could sell of unique player nicknames. For example, New Orleans Saints long snapper Jon Dorenbos’s nickname could be “The Magician”, after his parallel career as a professional magician.

Jay Cutler’s nickname could be “Chemistry Killer”, after his ability to tear apart team morale on the Bears and probably now the Dolphins. Marshawn Lynch could revive “Beast Mode” with the Raiders.

This would have to take place during one weekend of the season as a special promotion, with all 32 NFL teams participating, including those playing on Thursday and Monday night. Like the “Color Rush” jerseys, these ones will be custom-made and will be exclusively worn that weekend.

NHL

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Of the four major professional sports leagues in the United States, the NHL would be the most intriguing regarding this. Unlike the other three, there really aren’t that many characters in the league or recognizable players. The NHL is, in many ways, a regional sport, though there are teams across the country. The brand and the league itself are not recognizable enough to all sports fans, until now.

Having NHL players with nickname jerseys would bolster the marketability of the sport, even though hard core fans would probably go against it since it clashes with the hard-nosed nature of the sport. If done well, this promotion could reach more people and, in turn, get more fans from areas where hockey isn’t well-supported.

As for the jerseys themselves, you have the classic nicknames like “Sid The Kid” for Sidney Crosby and  “Alexander The Great” for Alex Ovechkin, but there are so many more for fans to explore.

“King Henrik” for Henrik Lundqvist, “Captain Serious” for Jonathan Toews, “Big Z” for Zdeno Chara, “Wayne Train” for Wayne Simmonds, and “Ghost Bear” for Shayne Gostisbehere, are just a small sampling. There are so many more players that most people don’t even know have nicknames, so it would be fun to see what nicknames each player picks out.

As for when this would take place, it would have to be a one-night promotion, like the NBA, which has a similar schedule and number of games in a season. Like the previous two sports, custom jerseys would be made for the event.

MLS

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A Players Weekend type event in the MLS would be the most intriguing thing ever for three reasons.

  1. How many people know every player, or any player from any of the 22 teams currently playing in the MLS?
  2. Do soccer players even get nicknames, and if they do, what would they be?
  3. Who would watch an MLS match if this promotion would be a thing?

The answers to those questions are: probably not, maybe, and YES.

This is the ideal way for the MLS to market itself and to get its name out to the rest of the country and the world. While something like this would never happen in a soccer league anywhere else in the world, the MLS is already different, so why not make it even more unique?

Only in America would a professional soccer league have a weekend where every player would have a nickname on the back of their custom, special jerseys.

The possibilities are endless for this, and if the supporters groups for each team back the MLS for this promotion, it would gain so much press and would be a major event for a league that is trying to compete with the highest grossing sports leagues in the world within its own country.

Most importantly, the nicknames have to be creative. Bastian Schweinsteiger can be “Mr. World Cup” after the infamous press conference earlier this year. Chris Wondolowski can be “6 Yard Miss” after he failed to score from inside the box in the Round of 16 match between the US and Belgium in the 2014 World Cup.

Some other great nicknames are “Mr. Free Kick” for Sebastian Giovinco, “Former Mr. USA” for Clint Dempsey since Christian Pulisic now exists, “The Jamaican Sensation” for Andre Blake, and “IR” for Jozy Altidore.

So much fun could be had with this. Just endless ideas.

The only way any of these ideas can become reality is with the support of the commissioners of each of these leagues. So, from all of us sports fans, we ask you, the commissioners of the NBA, NFL, NHL, and MLS, to please take these ideas into strong consideration and to capitalize on the marketing jackpot placed in front of each of you.

The choice is yours.

 

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