Column: Legion of nicknames is a thing of past in Next-Gen NFL
The Legion of Boom is over, and that’s a shame.
Not because the Seattle Seahawks no longer have a dominating secondary, those come and go.
But because “Legion of Boom” was the last true vestige of a bygone era, when virtually every NFL team had at least one position group with a cartoonish nickname. (Maybe there are a few others sprinkled throughout the league, but none with Seattle’s renown.)
It used to be that players had colorful nicknames too. And even memorable plays.
The Fearsome Foursome. The Steel Curtain. The Orange Crush. The Purple People Eaters. The Smurfs. The Hogs.
The Fridge. The Bus. The Ghost.
The Catch. The Drive. The Fumble. The Holy Roller. The Sea of Hands. The Music City Miracle.
As for the Legion of Boom, that evaporated into the evening air last Sunday when the last member, Seahawks safety Earl Thomas, was carted off with a broken leg. He marked the moment by raising a defiant middle finger toward the Seattle sideline, punctuating months of contentious contract haggling.
Ah, money. It’s among the reasons for the demise of those nicknames. Without guaranteed contracts — but with virtually guaranteed aches and pains for the rest of their lives — players are looking to make as much money as they can during their peak earning years. That means taking advantage of free agency, and, if necessary, hopping from team to team.
That means more branding and marketing of individual players, and less embracing of the team concept. Lots of players have their own logos, usually their initials fashioned into stylized emblems on their caps, apparel, and the like.
How can you build the Bruise Brothers, or the Electric Company, or the New York Sack Exchange, or the Monsters of the Midway if everyone is cutting their own deals, and they’re sticking around for only a year or two, anyway?
Fantasy football has only fueled that fire. That celebrates individual players as opposed to teams or outstanding position groups, which bleeds some of the fun out of the Fun Bunch, Killer Bees, or Kardiac Kids.
But more than anything, we’re witnessing the death of mythology. Everything that happens on the field is documented on video and instantly accessible online.
Somebody could throw a football from end zone to end zone? Show me the tape.
Somebody broke 10 tackles? Video, or it didn’t happen.
The Immaculate Reception? I want to see it in super-slo-mo from a reverse angle.
Generation Xs and O’s doesn’t want to hear campfire stories about the Gritz Blitz or Ground Chuck or the Miami Pound Machine. Those fans want to click on actual headlines like these from NextGen stats: “Completion probability & expected yards after catch.” … “Top 10 longest throws of the season by air yards.” … and “Evaluating Antonio Brown’s effectiveness in press coverage.”
Anyone who has been an NFL fan for 30 years or more can remember when you waited for halftime of “Monday Night Football” in hopes of catching a glimpse of your favorite team in a highlight from the day before, with Howard Cosell doing the narration.
Now, you’re bombarded by highlights as soon as they happen, getting notifications on your TV, your phone, and tablet, so you won’t be walking around hopelessly uninformed.
This is no time for nicknames. This is serious business.
So goodbye, Legion of Boom. The NFL is now a No Name League.
Follow Sam Farmer on Twitter @LATimesfarmer
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