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What’s in a name?


The Bills' first order of business during the new J.P. Losman era is to change the second-year quarterback's last name to "Winman." Losman is pronounced LOSS-man, and that makes me uneasy. Hopefully, his name doesn't reflect his on-field performance.

My concern, unfortunately, has merit. I can think of three pro athletes whose real names sparked nicknames that personified their play. Former Sabres goalie Dominik Hasek became known as "the Dominator," and is one of the greatest NHL goalies in history. Former Eagles QB and Lackawanna, New York, native Ron Jaworski became known as "Jaws," and is Philadelphia's all-time passing leader. Former Packers QB and Depew, New York, native Don Majkowski became known as the "Majik Man" and had some decent seasons during a 10-year career. If Losman becomes known as the "Loss Man," may God help us.

Now, Losman impressed me during the 2004 preseason. He completed nine of 11 passes for 78 yards and ran seven times for 80 yards. He is mobile and has a strong arm. Of course, that's what we said about Rob Johnson, whom Losman actually resembles facially if you squint your eyes just enough. Losman is two inches shorter and 13 pounds heavier than the 6-foot-4-inch, 204-pound Johnson.

Johnson had a penchant for bizarre injuries --- none any weirder than during the 2000 opening game vs. Tennessee when he left because he had been kicked in the nerve. Huh? Losman broke his leg during 2004 training camp while cutting back on a scramble and absorbing a mild Troy Vincent hit. It was the kind of strange mishap that would happen to Johnson. Fans must hope that's not an indication of things to come.

One more thing: Losman played terribly during his first regular-season action when he mopped up for Drew Bledsoe during Buffalo's 29-6 November 14 loss at New England. He completed one pass, threw an interception, got sacked, fumbled, and later admitted that if he ever played again, he'd be more prepared and know what to expect. Gosh, that sounds like the "Loss Man" to me.

But what'sin a name? Names are overrated, and being known as an individual in team sports is old school. The Patriots have been heralded as the perfect team because they don't celebrate the individual. Their whole approach was embodied three years ago just before Super Bowl XXXVI, when the team skipped individual player introductions for running onto the field introduced as "the New England Patriots."

The Patriots dislike when one player receives greater notoriety for his accomplishments than another. In their system, everyone is equally important. I find it ironic that they're named the Patriots --- in honor of the people who established this country's system of democracy, freedom, and individual representation --- and they actually operate under some kind of socialist-collectivist-communist manifesto. Yet fans and media embrace the Patriots for that no-ego approach, even though it defies the capitalist-individualist-democratic traditions that have made the US great.

Perhaps, however, a lack of ego is what the NHL needs to solve its players' lockout. The league canceled its season last week because players and owners were unwilling to compromise on demands in forming a new collective bargaining agreement. The NHL is the first established North American pro sports league to cancel a whole season. The NBA also seems headed for a lockout when its collective bargaining agreement expires on June 30.

Overall, I don't have a problem with this. We could use more sports work stoppages. In fact, we could use work stoppages in all entertainment.

US leaders, to an extent, rely on entertainment to pacify and distract people from what is really important. Just as prisons feature TVs with premium cable --- to the chagrin of people who say prisons should lock inmates in dark, cold cells and lose the keys --- the US government needs entertainment to pacify and distract the masses, or chaos would likely occur. No leaders really need that headache.

They need entertainment. They would probably prefer people to consider the meaning behind J.P. Losman's name rather than the future of the social security system.

Fortunately, I'm here to deliver.