When I was a kid, my friends and family called me Jamie. In fact, they called me Jamie till I was 17 and threatened to hurt them all physically if they didn't stop. Suddenly, I became James to them.
I thought about that nickname thing a couple days ago when I was reading the sports pages and saw a reference to Adam Jones, professional football player and notorious (he says former) knucklehead for his off-field antics that include a number of arrests and allegations involving criminal behavior. The reference I saw called him Adam "Pacman" Jones.
After serving a suspension from the NFL, Jones came back recently and announced that he was dropping the "Pacman" nickname, one that he's had for a long time.
He insisted he was entering a new stage in his life, that he was a grown man and would behave as such from now on, and would no longer embrace the spoiled child role he'd played so well in the past.
And he said with a new start, he'd like to be called by his given name.
And, the media to whom he'd made that request, promptly went out and continued to do stories on...Adam "Pacman" Jones.
Yeah, yeah, I know it's a small thing. Who is Adam Jones in the grand scheme of news that should be important to us all?
But it was an interesting response to Jones's name change request and one that exposed more inconsistency with how and when the media chooses to abide by a famous person's request in terms of how they're covered or at least how they're identified in news reports.
When hip-hop mogul Sean "Diddy" Combs was acquitted of gun and assault charges several years ago, after he allegedly was involved in a nightclub shooting, Combs told the media that he would no longer go by "P. Diddy," the nickname he was using at the time.
Before that he had been several variations of Puffy, Puff Daddy, Puff the Magic Dragon, etc. I'm kidding about that last one. So please don't send anyone to kill me, sir. I own several Sean John neckties! Seriously, I'm teasing. Not about the ties. I do own them...and wear them. Even bought my dad a couple of 'em for Father's Day last year.
But what isn't funny in this discussion is the fact that following the nickname change announcement, Combs got his wish. Both print and broadcast media types began referring to him as Sean "Diddy" Combs.
What gives? I'm not saying Combs's wish shouldn't have been granted back in the day. I'm saying that Jones's wish should have been granted...until/unless he acts up again. And if he does act up again, well then he's still a screw-up and you can call him whatever you want to make that point.
Don't get me wrong. I don't think the media should allow famous subjects to dictate how they're covered. And don't get me wrong about the seriousness or lack thereof in these two cases. I realize that nothing Jones or Combs does will alter the path of Earth's orbit, or compel world peace.
But calling a guy by his real name is not the same as bowing to his demands about how you report on him, and maybe it's a sign of a nagging double standard.
I'm gonna stop in a sec, before I get myself in trouble. But if, for example, you're covering either of the presidential campaigns right now and you've caved to coverage demands by one side or the other, take a hint from the case study of the now-former P. Diddy, and the now-wishing-he-could-be-former Pacman:
There are only two things the McCain and Obama camps have any business demanding of the media: that we spell their candidate's names correctly, and that we cover them equitably and fairly.
All this other stuff about who called whom what name? Not only shouldn't we be spending quality time sorting through that mess. But we should respond to it by giving both campaigns this message: You two can nickname each other on your own time, say some time after the first week of November. But for now, all we want to know is what you're going to do about the economy, the War, and the ongoing terror threats.
So when they try to pull you into their naming spats, tell both campaigns they can take that jibber jabber along with their additional demands for tailored coverage and shove 'em where the Sun don't shine.
And no, that is not a reference to Alaska in the winter.