Nicknames are part of our culture and I can only imagine they have been around since the beginning of time. Sometimes cool and sometimes cruel, many times they are made up because of a flaw or mistake that your buddies happened to catch out of the corner of their eye. Many times they are badass, especially if they happen to fit in phonetically with your first or last name. To be honest there are people I have known that I have never even known by their given name, just their nickname and perhaps calling them by their real name would be a bit of a downer. Athletes and of course motorcycle racers sometimes have the coolest nicknames of all and as long as you follow the “you can’t make up your own nickname rule” they are sometimes quite creative.
Forever known as ‘King Kenny’, Kenny Roberts has long been considered one of the best North American riders to ever strap on a helmet. The first American racer to win a world championship, Roberts would add two more world titles to go along with his two AMA Grand National Titles earned back home in America. Considering his astounding prominence in a relatively short 13 year professional career, it would be hard to put up a valiant argument against the moniker ‘King Kenny’. ‘King Kenny’ even went a step further and passed his racing royalty down to his son Kenny Roberts Junior who rode his Suzuki to the MotoGP Championship in 2000. Fun fact: Kenny Roberts Junior took part in the Canada versus U.S. match races at Shannonville way back in the day on a TZ 250. On this particular day my RZ 350 was running sweet and I blew by Roberts in between turns one and two during open practice. Full disclosure I was on a flyer of a lap and Roberts was exciting the pits for his first ever lap on the track but I don’t care this is my story and this moment is being placed on the fictional mantle in my brain.
Former AMA Flat Track Champion Brad ‘The Bullet’ Baker has a pretty sweet nickname. It rolls nicely off the tongue and it almost seems like you are missing something if you don’t include it when you are saying his name. Not knowing everything about Brad’s background, I can only assume the name is much more about “faster than a speeding bullet” than it is about helping the Gambino family deal with problems in the business world. Regardless of how or why he got the name it has long been one of my faves.
Justin Barcia may have hit the trifecta when it comes to nicknames. Long known as ‘Bam Bam’, the name flows nicely and surprisingly he has a striking resemblance to Barney and Betty Rubble’s son on the Flinstones. Perhaps the most important factor in his nickname is of course his riding style. Never one to shy away from pushing a competitor out of the way in the ultra-aggressive world of Supercross, my personal assumption is that money is tight and without a major brake pad sponsor he has been using fellow racers to help slow him down for years.
Much like Barcia, ‘Slammin’ Sammy Halbert has earned his nickname honestly during his professional flat track career. A master at stretching a tape measure, Sammy is one of the best at taking an opening that is an inch and somehow turning it into a foot. Ironically Sammy was slammed quite violently almost from space after a violent crash last year but unless the flat track world is full of prophets the slamming Sammy received had nothing to do with his nickname.
Another good one from the world of flat track is ‘The Jammer’ Jared Mees. A multi-time AMA/AFT champion, Mees knows how to get the job done when the money and points are on the line. There is a small chance ‘The Jammer’ earned his nickname because he spends his off season jarring fruit preserves in his cellar but it is much more likely it has everything to do with his riding style. Mees is always near the front and has never had a problem making that aggressive move on his way to the checkers. Mees is one of those riders that you either love or hate and the past couple of seasons have seen “Anyone But Mees” shirts showing up in the stands.
Ricky Carmichael has one of those nicknames that doesn’t quite roll off the tongue but at the time it was given it was well deserved. The dominant Supercross racer in the early 2000’s, Carmichael won 48 races on his way to earning the nickname ‘The GOAT’ (greatest of all time). Since his retirement Carmichael has been passed in the all-time wins list by both Jeremy McGrath and James Stewart and currently sits third on that list. While his name may now be a bit of false advertising, I certainly can’t blame him for not wanting to change his nickname to ‘GOATish’.
I don’t belong in the same story as any of the above mentioned racers but I have also gained a nickname thanks to motorcycle racing. Way back in 1990 I was given the label ‘Tumblin Todd’ by one of my fellow road race buddies Andy Tracyk. Another one of those that seems to go nicely with my name, it was earned honestly as in a little less than two seasons I managed to crash in no less than six of the corners at Shannonville as well as one at Shubie. Somehow I was always (well almost always) able to bounce back from these sometimes minor mishaps but it didn’t matter, the name was stuck to me like tires to the road (just not my tires).
I think I have come a long way in my riding since being labeled such a long time ago. I only hit the dirt once in a two year flat track career and although there have been a couple of blemishes on my record since then, I don’t think I ride quite as badly as my nickname would suggest. Regardless the name has stuck and to be honest I like it and I giggle every time I think of the first time Andy blurted it out. Besides when you are a middle-aged man named Todd there are worse things you could be called. ‘Tubby Todd’ anyone? I will stick with Tumblin Todd for at least the near future and I wish I would have marketed the name back when it first came out. Anybody need a ‘Tumblin Todd’ t-shirt?