I want everybody Sunday to give a warm California welcome--obviously, I’ve been watching too many TV talk shows--to a couple of visitors from the fine city of Cleveland, Mr. Jackson and Mr. Johnson.
First, say hello to Michael Jackson.
Oh, hell. I don’t know what his name is this week.
Michael ? is a football player for the Cleveland Browns, who play the Raiders at the Coliseum in a meeting of unbeaten teams. He caught five passes, one for a 30-yard touchdown, in Monday night’s 23-13 victory over the San Francisco 49ers, wearing the name JACKSON across his jersey.
That’s not who he was last week.
Last week, the Brown With Two Names wore no identification at all on his uniform, having the embroidery removed at the 11th hour because he suddenly decided not to be Michael Jackson anymore.
Making no mention of the ongoing controversy involving the other Michael Jackson--the one who sang at the Super Bowl--the third-year receiver from Southern Mississippi notified team officials that from now on, he would be adopting the surname of his father, a man named Dyson, and surrendering his mother’s maiden name, Jackson.
Celebrities change names all the time. Show-biz folk do. (Albert Brooks was born Albert Einstein.) Athletes embrace new religions as well as new occupations. (Ahmad Rashad is now a game-show host.) And there’s always the witness-protection program.
The singer, Prince, recently changed his name to a symbol that is not on my computer keyboard.
Others could follow his example.
Green Bay Packer receiver Sterling Sharpe, for example, could call himself Sterling . Just as Bart Starr could have become Bart *.
I, myself, am thinking of changing my name to this:
It’s an ampersand. It also sort of looks like me.
At first, I thought maybe the pass-catching Michael Jackson no longer wished to be linked to the hit-making Michael Jackson because of the singer’s controversy. (Although if you wanted to be less controversial, would you call yourself Mike Dyson?)
No, the player said--he simply wanted to honor his father.
But then came Monday night’s game, when who should run onto the field for the Browns but . . . Michael Jackson.
He told the team he now would decide on his name “week to week.”
Now here’s an NFL first.
I’ve heard of players who were “doubtful” or “questionable” for Sunday’s game, but this is the first player who is “nameless” for Sunday’s game.
Be sure to welcome him to L.A.
For Cleveland, Kosar’s at quarterback, Metcalf’s at running back and Who’s at wide receiver. Who? Yes. Yes, what? Who. Who what? Who’s at wide receiver. That’s what I asked. What? Who’s at wide receiver? Yes.
Meanwhile . . .
“At linebacker for the Browns . . .”
Let’s have a big West Coast howdy for a gentleman making a return engagement to the Coliseum, following his fabulous stand-up comedy act there a year ago. Please put your hands together for the linebacker with the one-liners, the Brown without a frown, the man who respects the Raiders from the bottom of his heart . . .
That’s right, Raiders and Raiderettes, here comes the mellow fellow who, while employed by the New York Giants in last season’s 13-10 defeat at the Coliseum, was so impressed with the Raiders that afterward he shouted it to the world.
Like saying, “They play patsy” football.
Like saying, “Their offensive line isn’t that good.”
And, in a quote so memorable that it will spill over into Anaheim’s hockey season, the ultimate Pepper Johnson assessment of Raider football:
“We lost to a bunch of ducks.”
That’s right--ducks. I don’t usually feed my football teams crumbs for use as motivation, but if the Raiders want to take this personally, it’s OK by me.
I mean, Howie, Anthony and Terry don’t think of themselves as Huey, Dewey and Louie.
And neither do fellow Raider tough guys Nolan Duck, Chester Duck, Winston Duck, Lionel Duck or anybody else on defense.
In case nobody has noticed--and many have not--the Raiders have now given up one touchdown or fewer in seven of their last 13 games.
Duck that, Pepper.