I’ve always wanted a cool nickname. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had plenty of nicknames through the years, but none ever evoked any degree of coolosity…or hipness…or really anything. There are a variety of reasons for this. You’re somewhat limited with a last name like “Knipp”, (where, incidentally, you are supposed to pronounce the “K”); and, frankly, I didn’t have the menace to carry a name like “Butch” nor the charisma to be an effective “Rico Suave.” My sister somehow ended up with “Catnip”, which I think sounds vaguely cool (or at least mysterious). Unfortunately, the only name that stuck with me was “Knipp Knopp.”
It started early, in kindergarten to be exact. At the time, Parker Brother’s had a game called “Gnip Gnop” whose commercial played incessantly every afternoon. Each time I’d hear them pronounce that hard G, I’d wince, because even then, as a snot-nosed little kid, I knew what would be coming. Sure enough, the first day I said my name aloud in the class, some 6 year old wag in the back row shouted, “Hey, I have that game! Knipp-Knopp… did you invent it? Is that your game? Hey,you’re Knipp-Knopp!”
No amount of gritting my teeth and explaining that the game was spelled with a G would help. I pretty much spent the next decade hearing it. Every time I thought it was behind me, some new kid would start school and it would start all over again. I’m fairly certain if I gathered all the Knipps who were children in the 70’s and had to deal with that stupid game, we’d have a pretty good class action suit for mental anguish! If there are any lawyers reading this that agree, give me a call, we can get this thing rolling.
I did have a brief period of nickname self-determination when I was about twelve. I started throwing out “The Knipper” for everyone to use. I liked it. The named evoked a certain confident athleticism, a “Let’s win it for the Knipper” appeal. It was this thinking that spurred me to try out for the Babe Ruth traveling team that spring.
It’s important to note, that nothing in my Little League history indicated I’d be quite good enough to make even our really bad traveling team. Ordinarily, I couldn’t hit, couldn’t handle a high pop, and had this irritating habit of getting distracted by cloud formations while playing the outfield. This year would be different though, because of the following logic:
1. My nickname was now “The Knipper.”
2. “The Knipper” is an awesome baseball nickname.
3. Anyone with such an awesome baseball nickname must be a great baseball player.
4. I must be a great baseball player
Really, Is there anything more simple and elegant than the thinking of a twelve-year-old boy?
Anyway, on that day, the power of positive thinking was on full display. I sprayed line drives and hustled around the bags like Pete Rose. I caught everything hit to the outfield like Garry Maddox. I bare-handed groundballs and said dumb things to the media like Mike Schmidt. All the while, visions ran through my head of “The Knipper” taking this team of foul-mouthed, rag-tag (but lovable)losers and leading them to a championship against the rich kids from the good side of the tracks. I saw myself hoisted on shoulders and paraded around the diamond while “We are the Champions” played and the crowd chanted “K-NIPP-ER, K-NIPP-ER”… and then Cindy would realize she loved me and would run onto the field and fall into my arms, and then we’d look into each other’s eyes, and then…
Sorry, got a little worked up there.
At the end of the tryout, the coach came over. I don’t remember much about him, except I’m pretty sure he had an unfiltered cigarette in one hand, a beer in another, and he looked a lot like Walter Matthau.
“What’s your name, kid?”
Sticking to the script that played continuously in my head, I took off my cap, gave him a cool, sideways glance and said, “The name’s Jim Knipp…but you can call me ‘The Knipper.’”
I can’t recall his exact response to that. I’m fairly certain it involved him muttering something about the next practice before shaking his head and walking away. I do remember thinking that the rest of the team must have been in awe of my talents, since no one else came over to talk to me.
As I walked home alone, lost again in daydreams of championships (and Cindy), and singing Queen under my breath, a horn beeped and I heard a chorus of voices yell “Hey, Knipper!” I turned around to find the coach, his car filled with every other kid on the team, each one hanging out the window with middle finger at full salute. The coach himself had a full double-pumped, two-fister going, along with a glaring grin that promised months of harassment for The Knipper if I chose to return. At that point, I realized discretion had a HUGE number of advantages over valor and decided there was no need to stick around, just in case anyone got the notion I needed a good beating along with my awesome nickname. For the most part, “The Knipper”, and my baseball aspirations, breathed their last that day. On the plus side, I’m fairly certain that most of those kids – and the coach – ended up in jail for their part in a murder-for-hire ring, so it’s probably good I didn’t get messed up in that! (OK, just kidding. They didn’t really kill anyone…that I know of!)
That pretty much ended my pursuit, and my caring, about nicknames. A friend once tried out “Radar” for me (since I had big ears and never cursed), but that ended once M*A*S*H finally went off the air. I did have to put up with “Jughead” for one very long year, an unfortunate side effect of Mom’s decision to share her opinion about the shape of my noggin with the entire marching band, but for the most part, I’ve been plain old Jim.
That is until the other day. I had lunch with a friend, who introduced me to one of his more important clients. The client, who exuded that sense of silver-haired, patrician dignity and power that comes with money and connections, broke into a grin the moment he heard my name.
“Knipp? Hey, wasn’t that a game? Knipp Knopp! I used to love that game! Nice to meet you, Knipp Knopp!”
Oh well, I guess I should just be glad my last name wasn’t Shrinky-Dink…now THAT would have been depressing!