What's in a name? Tell William Shakespeare that when it comes to nicknames for girls' fastpitch softball teams, the answer is almost as important as winning games.
And to the lead characters in "The Wizard of Oz," no Lions or Tigers or Bears will be found competing in Chattanooga this week in the National Softball Association's A Division Eastern World Series.
Instead, the animal kingdom is represented by teams such as the 16-under Black Widows from Illinois and Michigan's 14-under Oakland Sidewinders -- unless they're named for heavy roundhouse punches that come from way back. That's possible. The 231-team tournament field is loaded with various action- and energy-related nicknames, ranging from the Friction to the Finesse, from the Voltage to the Sonic Boom.
One thing is for sure. Fewer nicknames end in "S" than don't.
"Way back when we first started, it was Bears and Cubs. There was even a Carolina Girls. Nicknames were very basic," said president Hugh Cantrell, who founded the NSA in 1982. "They've gotten innovative the last few years. We probably should have a contest for the catchiest name."
Beverly Schweitzer coaches the 16-under Munster (Ind.) Muddawgs. She said their local girls' softball board put a policy in place a few years ago so that no more than two teams in one program can share a nickname.
The 12- and 10-under teams go by the Munster Magic. In keeping with the double-M theme, soon the 16- and 14-under Muddawgs were created.
"If you look it up, it's really a fish," Schweitzer said. "But we've got a dog print on the uniform. Of course, it's cool to be a dog spelled D-A-W-G instead of D-O-G."
Scorekeeper Dave Grabarczyk, whose daughter, Stephanie, plays on the team, offered a basic explanation for the choice: "We get down and dirty when we play. That's why."
Another team in the tournament from Indiana is the 14-under Ben Davis Monkeyheads from Indianapolis. Anyone surprised that bright purple and hot pink are the team colors?
"I've had them since they were 7 years old," coach Bob Poteet said. "One day at practice they were jacking around, squawking around, not paying attention, and I told them they looked like a bunch of monkeyheads. They ended up taking it to heart, and the parents ran with it."
So if you hear talk in the area this week of a Tsunami expected to clash with a Wildfire, or that the Blast was ahead of the Aftershock, don't be alarmed. It's softball.
New York Times visit
New York Times sports reporter Katie Thomas is on assignment in Chattanooga and will be gathering data and conducting interviews at the various complexes where the softball action is taking place this week. She is working on an investigative report on economic effects in areas that host large youth sports tournaments.
"One of the things I've heard, and what kind of got me interested in doing the story, is that girls' youth sports generate more tourist dollars than boys' youth sports," Thomas said. "If so, why? What's there? Why would that be the case?"
Softball is only part of the story, but the NSA World Series in Chattanooga is the only competition Thomas is attending. The rest of the information she'll get by telephone.
Thomas hopes her article will run this weekend. Readers can look for it online at nytimes.com.
Frost, Chattem donate
Thanks to donations from the local Frost Falcons organization, Chattem and the NSA, $4,000 dollars in college-scholarship endowments were given away at Tuesday's pin-swap gathering at Camp Jordan.
NSA officials held a witnessed drawing at Frost Stadium during the day and selected one team from each age group. Each of those teams' players' names were put into a hat for another drawing at the assembly.
Those chosen were recipients of $1,000 toward college educations. Markie Wood from the Indy Edge was the 14-under winner, and on her 14th birthday.
"I was freaked out," Wood said about hearing her name announced.
The 12-under winner was the Chattanooga Synergy's Tiffany Holland from Chickamauga, Ga. The 16-under winner was Melody Belcher from Georgia's Browns Mill Lady Jackets, and the 10-under winner was Hannah Layton from Delaware's Diamond State Swoop.
The Davidson County Thunder were announced as winners for best trading pin, voted on by an NSA board. Their cartoon-like logo was a take-off on the see-no-evil, hear-no-evil, speak-no-evil monkeys, substituting, "See them hit; Hear them chatter; Fear the Thunder."