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Friday, September 26, 2008

Baby Naming Issue: Should We Avoid Using the Name of a Sports Figure?

Melanie writes:
I'm due at the very beginning of October with our first, a boy, and though we're pretty sure of what we'll name him, I was wondering if you could help resolve some issues with your (and your readers') baby-naming knowledge.

I have loved the name Eli for about ten years, and was delighted when it sounded good with both our family-inspired middle name, Joseph, and our last name. My husband likes it too, especially the initials. He was called J.R. as a kid and likes the sound of E.J.

There's only one problem-- we live in the New York area, where Eli Manning is the reigning Super Bowl quarterback. My (rather large) family lives in New England, where Manning is one of the foils to the Patriots' nearly-perfect season. My family, especially my father (a one-time Patriots season ticket holder) have named pets after sports figures in the past, and I don't want it to seem that we named our son after the quarterback. So far, I have consoled myself by saying that people like my dad can call him E.J., but we've never fully committed. I'd like to think that I don't care what other people think if my husband and I love the name, but we've still been trying to find backups.

Another name that we love is Miles, but it's the name of a friend's pet. Colin has stayed on the list, as has Aaron, but I don't love either of them. Henry and Charles have been dubbed "old" by my husband. Female names that we liked included Leah, Lily, Natalie and Morgan. I like names that inspire intelligence, creativity and kindness, though I know that's a matter of opinion.

Because our last name can be difficult to pronounce and is uncommon, it's important to have an easy, short first name. I like classic names with some style. My husband prefers names that don't "sound old." We'd like to stay away from anything too trendy.

Could you please help? What do you think of the Eli issue? I'm hoping that I'm just paranoid and most people won't even make the football connection (or perhaps Brett Farve will steal the spotlight in the coming season). Could there be another name that does the trick and doesn't require an explanation or disclaimer?

I think you should use Eli. You love it. You agree on it. You want to use it. It's perfect with your surname and with the middle name you want to use.

I think the sports connection is tenuous at best, and not at all obvious. If you named him Babe Ruth, that would be different---but Eli? I don't think you'll need to volunteer an explanation that "it's not after Eli Manning." (Eli Manning's full name is Elisha, if that helps.) If I were you and my dad gave me any crap, I'd roll my eyes and say, "I've liked this name for TEN YEARS! It has nothing to do with SPORTS! Beezus!"

On the other hand, I'm not what you'd call "sporty." Perhaps some of you sports fans can help us out here.


Jenn said...

I agree "Eli" doesn't automatically equal Eli Manning at all. Now if you were going to call him O.J. - that's different. Or if the middle name was going to be "Manning" - that's different too. (I actually know a kid named Nolan Ryan Lastname- and I am sure he's not the only one!)
But Eli Joseph is a perfectly great name- if you love it use it!

Kristi said...

I think you should totally use Eli. You both love it. I'm a big football fan. I love the Manning brothers, but I don't immediately associate the name Eli with Eli Manning. Eli Joseph is a great name!!

Nowheymama said...

Since I have a son named Eli, of course I like it!

The Schwant Family said...

Your Eli will be in your world LONG after Eli Manning is out of the spotlight. I say use it!

Kate said...

I agree with the other should DEFINITELY use Eli. Who cares what everyone else thinks or if someone else associates your son's name with the football player. You know that this name has meaning for you. You've loved this name for 10 years...go for it!

Now, to provide options in case you are like me and have a hard time letting go of your worries...What about naming him Elijah or Elliot? You could easily shorten these to Eli if you chose to call him by his first name, or you still have the initials if you prefer to call him EJ.

Good luck :)

Verity said...

I married a big time hockey fan, so I can feel your pain. My husband likes the name Steve, as in the legendary Steve Yzerman of the Red Wings. I suppose he'd also have been into Wayne or maybe Mario, too.

The thing that rescues Eli, IMHO, it is that it is a very current choice. On its own, Eli ranked #130 in the US last year, and Elijah came in at #30. Given that it's a very popular name, it's less likely to be viewed as a hero choice honoring a quarterback.

You have very good reasons for using the name, so I agree with Swistle - it would be a shame to pass it by in favor of something less pleasing. Eli Manning could be injured, traded or simply retired by the time your kiddo hits kindergarten - or, hey, you could go with Aaron, and some now unknown called Aaron could be the Next Big Thing in Football by the time he reaches high school.

If Eli were uncommon, I might see your point as valid. But odds are it will be seen as exactly what it is - a very nice name that happens to be worn by a successful professional athlete. And since you don't object to EJ, there's a perfect out if your father can't disassociate his grandson from his rival! :)

may said...

Yes, use Eli! If you named him Peyton, I could understand someone thinking you're naming him after a Manning, but Eli is much more common. If I named my kid Tom, no one here in New England would assume he's named after Tom Brady. I wouldn't worry about it if I were you. (Easy for me to say!) Good luck! Let us know what you decide.

sara b. said...

I agree that you should use Eli. I think it would be different if you were avid Giants fans and everyone knew it. Then you'd probably get some grief about it. All of my family and friends know I am a fan of Ben Roethlisberger so if my husband and I decided to name our child Ben, I would expect they'd assume it was after him. But I think you're safe using Eli and you should stick with the name you know you like. Plus you have the fact that Eli is a popular name on its own.

Catherine said...

Go for Eli. I probably wouldn't have thought of the sports connection unless you had mentioned it, and Eli Manning won't be around forever.

Now if only the NFL was just a passing thing like it's players. I found a great name for our daughter, until I realized those would be her initials. I just can't do that.

d e v a n said...

My husband nixed Eli for the same reason, but i thought it was a dumb one. Use the name!

Susan said...

I vote for using Eli. My guess is 99% of people won't think about the sports person at all, the the remaining 1% will simply note that the baby has the same first name as a sports person he's heard of. Like if you named the baby "Henry," very occasionally someone might think, "Same name as Henry Kissinger," but it's hardly the first thing that would come to mind, and no big deal if it does. I say go for it.

Jan said...

Just to argue the other side...we all have negative associations with certain names and certain people. If you think your family will cringe every time they hear the name then maybe Miles since you love it, too.

Alice said...

i love eli! (both as a name, and the QB.. heh)

i think you may have to assume that you'll get your fair share of " manning?" when you tell people the name, but you'll get that with ANY name. if you go with "miles," you might get " davis?"

so basically i say totally go for it, but be prepared to say "yes, although that's not who we named him for" a few times :-)