Behind the lines: What’s in a name in the age of outrage?

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    What’s in a name? To most of us reading the sports page, whether in print or online, it doesn’t matter. Jones scored three touchdowns last night for Potter High. Good for him and the Wombats.

    Before the dawn of instant score reporting and digital delivery of news, we relied on a couple of statewide resources to get scores.


    As a youngster, coaching for the first time just out of college at Lusk, we gathered at head coach Jerry Fullmer’s house after Tiger home games to get the scores reported by George Kay on KTWO television. If we were on the road, we were always able to get scores from Geroge on 1030 AM KTWO radio.

    It was a festive atmosphere accentuated by a few adult beverages and remains a memorable experience as George would systematically read the scores with just a text image from AA, to A and then to our Class B division. The modern 4-A through 2-A 11-man and 1-A 9-man and 6-man were a couple of generations away.

    A few years later, in Shoshoni, we waited for the Casper Star Tribune to arrive on Saturdays before we loaded the bus to get scores from around the state. On Monday, Jerry Kummerfeld would bring down a copy of the Sunday Billings Gazette from his home in Thermopolis. The Gazette only went that far but that had all the scores from the Big Horn Basin.

    The Star covered three-quarters of the state, but not the Basin.


    The Riverton Ranger interviewed me in basketball along with Jerry for the girls’ scores and Harold, who was a fabulous interview, for football.

    My two-guard Daryl Fullerton had an exceptional game one night. I dutifully called the Star Tribune, the AP, and the UP with the scores after each game. I became friends with Jim Angel on the AP wire and sometimes called him for important conference scores.

    The exhausted, (most likely intern) at the Star transposed Daryl’s name into Darly Fullerton. We both got a kick out of it, and I still call Daryl, Darly once in a while.


    That isn’t the case any longer. Parents, especially mothers and grandmothers, take great offense if you miss a vowel in their little darlings’ name.

    Never mind that they decided to cripple their baby girl by spelling Michelle, Mychellee instead of the traditional spelling. “She’ll be unique,” is what I hear from most of these women in later years. (my spellchecker just suggested Michelle for Mychellee, even the digital world recognizes the ridiculous of this practice)

    Yes, Mom, she’ll be unique, just like everyone else.


    In a beat that covers 15 basketball teams once in a while, six football and wrestling teams, and 16 track teams there is ample opportunity to misspell one of these modern “unique” monikers.

    The social media world has provided a prominent platform for the offended mom or grandma to express their outrage. Outrage is now all the rage.

    I can write a dozen stories covering an entire state tournament without a single comment, but misspell Mychelle’s name and face the wrath of her forebearers.

    It can be exhausting.

    One season, I spelled a good football players last name incorrectly (according to Grandma).

    I’m changing the name here, so I don’t hear from these people again, but it went along these lines.

    “Michael Gardner led the Fighting Possums with 12 solo tackles and two interceptions,” my storyline might have read.

    It was published Sunday morning.

    On Monday, I get a phone call, “It’s Gardener, not Gardner.”

    Ok, I thought, I’ll spell it Gardener next time.”

    Two weeks later, I wrote, “Gardener led the Wombats with six tackles, three sacks, and two fumble recoveries.”

    The phone rings again; it’s the same insane woman. “It’s Gardnor, not Gardener,” she complains.

    Frustrated, I called the high school office and asked the secretary how to spell the kids’ last name.

    She says, “It’s Gardner.”

    I write Gardner for the remainder of the season, and no one complains. People are amazing.

    Just another day in the life of a sports reporter.

    Game programs have become a lifeline for me. I have a collection of state tournament programs on a shelf being my desk dating back to 1986.

    Each season I grab a copy of the West 2-A Regional program for my friend Cory Griffith who writes for the Lusk Herald. Cory shares similar cognitive issues with me.

    A few years ago, the WHSAA (Wyoming High School Activities Association) required member schools to post their rosters to for each sport they offer.

    Now if you click on teams at WHSAA.ORG it sends you to You may or most likely may not find the roster of the team you’re looking for there.

    Coaches once wrote players full names in scorebooks. Evidentally, that was too much effort. Now it’s a first initial with a last name, or maddeningly, only the first name, with many nicknames. You read a scorebook lined with Angi, Marci, Darci, Maci (yep, lots of trailing “i”s these days) and have no idea who these kids are. But mom and grandma do, so you jump to an online roster.

    Jumping between Dragonfly and Maxpreps looking for the proper spelling of a kid’s first or last name is time-consuming. It’s also hilarious on occasion.

    I’m going to pick on the Riverton Wolverines.

    If you look for a Wolverine or Lady Wolverine roster on Dragonfly you’ll find a blank page for both the boys’ and girl’s teams.

    If you switch to Maxpreps you’ll find the complete varsity roster for the boys.

    The girls’ roster is a different story. They’re in there with several dozen former girls. Maxpreps lists Alexxis Motisi and Kelsey Milleson as current players, both girls graduated long ago.

    The most interesting listing is former Riverton head boys’ basketball and golf coach Lars Flanagan as a member of the 2023-24 Lady Wolverines. At 6-5, Lars would dominate girls’ basketball but I think he’s been out of eligibility for over four decades.

    The Lady Cougars at Wind River on Maxpreps is just as out of date, listing girls who played five years ago as current players, but their roster is complete on Dragonfly.

    Names are magical things. My favorite paragraph of all time includes this sentence, “Marc Whirling Wind Soldier of Todd County High School, South Dakota battled Wyoming Indian’s Caleb Her Many Horses for the length of the course with 15 lead changes highlighting one of the most exciting distance races ever witnessed.” In a 2009 cross-country story.

    Native American names have power and significance. I sometimes marvel at the eloquence they present.

    At other times, they are a challenge.

    The Sounding Sides family has a long tradition of excellent boys’ and girls’ basketball players, but the athletes don’t always spell their names the same. Some are Soundingsides, others SoundingSides and still others Sounding Sides. I try to keep up, but sometimes I don’t.

    One family that has produced outstanding young men, and great basketball players for the last decade is a challenge in the three Black brothers from Arapahoe.

    CooXooEii, Niiehii, and Heeyeniniitou are a challenge to spell correctly.

    They are Arapaho names translated into English and I applaud them for their cultural connectivity. That doesn’t mean they’re easy to spell. I rely on my spell checker to get the guys’ names right when they’re first introduced into a story and then I can just refer to them in the conventional AP Style method by their last name, Black or Monroe-Black.

    I coached CooXooEii as a 7th grader at Arapahoe Middle School. The first day I met the boys I read through the list of names to learn each player. When I came to CooXooEii, I was at a loss.

    I finally said, “Quetzalcoatl,” in reference to the Aztec deity. It brought a huge laugh from the kids, but I learned how to say, CooXooEii that afternoon. (phonetically it’s Jock-a-hey if you’re wondering)

    So, what’s in a name?


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