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Big Ten Power Poll, Week Three: Four-Letter Male Names

Part One!

Marvel at the multitude of mediocrity.

Whew! Another week, another Power Poll. Or at least, part of one - that’s right, it’s a two-parter! Is it a desperate gambit for more clicks, or the result of my own inability to meet a deadline? You decide!

This week, we’re talking about men’s names. Many of them come down to four short letters. Now, I could probably make some snarky comment about how it’s no coincidence that many men’s names are four-letter words, but I won’t. At least, not directly.

The methodology for assigning these names to each teams was, I assure you, very well-reasoned and painstakingly detailed, and not just a random gut feeling I had associated with each name. No, I had a method to my madness, and you are correct - it was to personally offend you/your brother/your dad/your best friend/your boss who is named Mike/Jeff/Bill/Alan/Doug. You caught me!

Without further ado, let’s get to it. We’ve got a lot of mediocre white male names to cover, and a lot of mediocre football teams as well.

(Thanks, as always, to White Speed Receiver for the graphs!)

1. Penn State - Mike

First Place Votes: 12 High: 1 Low: 5 Last Week: +0

I feel very dirty listing this beautiful man next to Penn State.

Famous Mikes: Mike Bloomberg, Mike Pence, Mike Tyson, Mike Wazowski, Prison Mike

Best Mike: Mike B. Jordan

Worst Mike: Mike Hunt

While not every name on this list will be in a strictly best-to-worse ranking, in this case, Mike really does land near the top. It has multi-generational appeal, it sounds friendly, and it has an appealing lack of fuss or weird connotation. An all-around winner.

As for the Best Mike, I’m guessing that Michael B. Jordan doesn’t actually go by Mike since he seems pretty committed to the “the other Michael Jordan” bit, but I don’t get a lot of chances to put eye candy in these polls (hell, last week featured Paul Chryst morphed into Queen Victoria, to emphasize how much I’m understating this lack) and dammit, I’m seizing it. Let’s all be clear that Penn State does not actually deserve Michael B. Jordan.

As for Mike Hunt, you may know him best as a “clever” fake name, along with his bff, Ben Dover. Hi-LAR-ious and original. But Wikipedia informs me that there are in fact several real Mike Hunts: a baseball player, a football player, and a “British figurative painter and etcher.” The last of these seems to be at pains to go by “Michael John Hunt,” so Wikipedia’s inclusion of him on this list seems to really be… well, kind of a Hunt move.

Penn State, by virtue of rubbing Gettysburg in the faces of the vanquished South once more, gets to be at the top of the Power Poll, and is awarded with the ultimate banal male name.

2. Iowa - Alan

FPV: 2 H: 1 L: 6 LW: +0

Sense and Sensibility: Another non-Christmas movie starring Alan Rickman.

Famous Alans: Al(an) Borland, Alan Thicke, Alan Turing, Alan Jackson, Alan Bean

Best Alan: Alan Rickman

Worst Alan: Alan Dershowitz

I bet you thought I was going to assign “Kirk” to Iowa, didn’t you? Well, they don’t pay me the big bucks to be predictable. Iowa has earned the name Alan because the name Alan sucks. It’s got big Boomer energy, and yet, a surprisingly large number of younger men reveal their middle names to be the bland “Alan” (or “Allen,” which isn’t much better.) It’s always after some older relative. That’s nice, but guess what? Your relative didn’t like being named Alan either, so way to visit that generational sin on your child. Alan is further devalued as a name when you consider its lackluster shortened form: “Al.” Has there ever been a sexy Al? Not once, in the history of humanity. Coincidentally, there has also never been a sexy Iowa fan. (No hate, just fact.)

However, there may be one notable asterisk to the Alan Theorem, and that is the late, lamented Alan Rickman, who easily wins the Best Alan Award. It’s the voice, really, that did it for him—the combination of Britishness with a deep voice that is somehow both velvety and gravely at the same time. Mmmm. Here is 23 minutes of Alan Rickman talking if you need to feel calmer in the world at this moment.

On the flip side, we have Alan Dershowitz. Most famous for his role as a member of OJ Simpson’s defense team, Dersh has been up to rather more varied things of late. For example, this summer, he got into a fight with Larry David at Martha’s Vineyard, which was just a delightful sentence to type. Never one to shy away from controversy, he also has allegedly been advising the MyPillow Guy (hey! THAT’S the worst Mike!) which does not seem like a great way to cement your legacy at the age of 83.

How did I write this much about Alans? Gross. But it was still better than writing about #2 Iowa, which is grosser.

3. Ohio State - Paul

FPV: 4 H: 1 L: 8 LW: +0

Famous Pauls: The Apostle Paul, Paul Chryst, Pope Paul (many of them, actually), Paul McCartney, Paul Anka, Paul Newman

Best Paul: Paul Rudd

Worst Paul: Paul I of Russia

He is actually getting hotter, somehow.

I don’t love the name Paul, yet it’s certainly enduringly popular, and enjoys some very high-profile associations (so many popes!) This also describes Ohio State - most people don’t love it, but it does have its place in the world, and you can’t escape it, even if you’d like to. In spite of looking rather mortal, through the first few games of the season, Ohio State still hasn’t lost, and isn’t likely to tumble too far from the top of the list.

Much, much better than Ohio State is Paul Rudd, who may be a vampire because he refuses to age, but is such an adorably delightful man that we all manage to forgive him this. I’ve aged more since the beginning of 2020 than he has since he filmed Clueless in 1995, and I should hate him for that, but I don’t. I would be interested in his skin care regimen though.

There are lots of competitors for Worst Paul, mostly in the papal category (seriously, check out the death poem they gave this guy), but I’m personally going to nominate Paul I of Russia (not to be confused with Paul I of Wisconsin). I should probably feel a bit sorry for Russian Paul - his mother, Catherine the Great, was too busy being great and bonking various members of the Russian nobility to pay any attention to him, and his father (maybe—there is reason to question the parentage) was assassinated six months into his reign with the approval of the aforementioned nobility-bonking Catherine, who replaced him. The parental neglect didn’t have a great effect on Paul, nor did a bout of typhus, which may have had an unfortunate effect on his visage (the anti-Paul Rudd, if you will). He got really into chivalric codes, and instead of indulging this by going to Renaissance Faires or something, he tried to make his court follow it, which resulted in several of his own officers assassinating him—as his son looked the other way.

4. Michigan - Earl

FPV: 1 H: 1 L: 7 LW: +0

Famous Earls: James Earl Jones, Earl Scruggs, Earl of Sandwich, Earl Lambeau, Earl Hickey

Best Earl: Earl Warren

Worst Earl: Earl Edwin Austin

A Michigan Man?

Well, well, well… from one of the top names of the “Most Likely to be Fired in 2021” list, to #4 on the illustrious Off Tackle Empire Power Poll. Indeed, these are heady times to be Michigan, or to be Jim Harbaugh. While we all sort of expect the wheels to fall off, so far they haven’t, and Michigan has looked as good as they ought against much inferior competition—not every team in the conference can say that (*cough* OHIO STATE *cough*)

Earls are, as a whole, a rather undistinguished set, more likely to serve their communities by owning a hardware store or having the nicest lawn on the block. But the best Earl far outpaced those humble achievements, and became the Chief Justice of SCOTUS. (That’s right, come for the football, stay for the historical retrospectives of the US Supreme Court.) I probably feel warmly about Warren because the 2021 SCOTUS is currently attempting to sweep us back to the 1950s, which is making me yearn for the SCOTUS of the 1960s (what a confusing time to be alive, isn’t it?) The Warren Court oversaw a so-called “Constitutional Revolution,” issuing landmark rulings in such big-time deals like Brown v. Board of Education and Loving v. Virginia.

Earl Edwin Austin is not a household name, but he’s definitely the worst Earl. He didn’t have the nicest lawn on his block either, but that’s because he spent most of his life in prison or trying to escape from prison. Amazingly, he was granted parole in 1979, and immediately began a spree of bank robbing across the southern US, landing him on the FBI’s “Ten Most Wanted” list. This was something of a lifetime achievement for Earl, and he was reportedly quite proud of this distinction. It’s good to have goals in life, I suppose.

5. Michigan State - Jake

H: 2 L: 8 LW: +1

All hail Jake from State Farm’s big glow-up - somewhat like the MSU Spartans’ glow-up on the field in the past two years.

Famous Jakes: Jake Gyllenhaal, Jake from State Farm, Jake Tapper

Best Jake: Jake Morgandorffer

Worst Jake: Jake Butt

You know, Jake isn’t a bad name. It’s possible we’ll become much more annoyed with Jakes in the next few decades as the early aughts onslaught of babies named Jacob come of age and make their mark on the world, but as of now, it has kind of a friendly, everyman quality to it.

Time was when I would never use “friendly” anywhere near an entry about MSU, thanks to the perpetually scowling Mark Dantonio at the helm. I probably shouldn’t use it now—I don’t have any informed thoughts on Mel Tucker’s personal demeanor (though perhaps after my team loses to him this Saturday I will), but MSU’s apparent return to sound and competent football after breaking the Rutgers streak last year is bound to make the Big Ten East even less hospitable than normal.

Rather than discuss either the best or the worst Jake, I’d like to take a moment and spotlight the weird pop culture moment that happened this summer, courtesy of Jake Gyllenhaal. In August, he was asked by Vanity Fair if “there was anything revelatory about his shower ritual.” Let’s for one moment appreciate what a bizarre and personal question that is in the first place. If something is revelatory about someone’s showering habits, do you actually want to know about it? It turned out that the world did not, in fact, want to know Jake G’s answer: “”More and more I find bathing to be less necessary, at times. I do believe, because Elvis Costello is wonderful, that good manners and bad breath get you nowhere. So I do that. But I do also think that there’s a whole world of not bathing that is also really helpful for skin maintenance, and we naturally clean ourselves.” The internet went crazy - and while it’s as refreshing as a bar of Irish Spring to be spilling ink about stuff this dumb after the past few years, it’s also still… pretty dumb. For the record, Jake has since clarified that he was being “sarcastic and ironic,” which, ok, sure.

6. Wisconsin - Carl

H: 4 L: 10 LW: -1

UP as a whole is probably a little too feel-good for Wisconsin, but grumpy Carl is probably right on point.

Famous Carls: Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden, Carl Winslow, Carl Carlson, Carl Jung

Best Carl: Carl Fredericksen

Worst Carl: Carl Brandt

I suppose in Wisconsin it might also be “Karl,” but really, of all the names on this list, this is probably the one that matches its football team and fanbase the most closely. It’s hard to put into words how it works, but Wisconsin, as a state, simply oozes “Carl.” I think that’s not really a compliment, but then, why would I be complimenting Wisconsin? They’ve taken a tumble following a bye week, which may not be completely fair, but in a young season with limited data, them’s the breaks. It’s not like the Badgers wowed before that, and for once, it’s looking like they are not the September-crowned B1G West champs. That, of course, means they probably will end up being the B1G West champs.

I’d like to give a shout out to King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden for having probably best job in the world. Sweden is beautiful, clean, safe, and believes in a daily afternoon break for coffee and sweets. It is a treasure and delight. And Carl XVI Gustaf gets to “rule” this lovely country without having to do any of the ruling work at all. People aren’t obsessed with the royal family of Sweden in the same way they are the British royal family, so presumably, they’re getting a lot of the perks of royalty, without as many of the drawbacks that accompany Will & Kate & Co. Carl XVI Gustaf just hit the 48th anniversary of ascending to the throne, so he’s gotten to have this sweet gig for almost a half a century. Good on you, CXVIG. Grattis!

7. Minnesota - Brad

H: 5 L: 11 LW: +4

From the only man in the world who is hot enough for a fish pic, to world’s most ill-advised Kangol hat: The Brad Pitt Journey.

Famous Brads: Brad Renfro, Brad Paisley, Brad Garrett, Brad(ley) Whitford

Best Brad: Young Brad Pitt

Worst Brad: Midlife Crises Brad Pitt

I admit, I did go for the low-hanging fruit on this one, and simply went with what the head coach should be named. It’s not so hard to imagine Peej as a “Bradley,” is it? A Brad is a quintessentially Gen X specimen, the purview of cool-guy football players of the 1990s who now sell insurance and are reconciling themselves to the rapid approach of their 50th birthday. Coach Brad Fleck—admit it, you can see it, right?

Unfortunately for Fleck, while he was certainly a looker in his younger years, the coaching profession has not been as kind to his hair as more hirsute Brads, especially that super famous Brad, the one who cheated on Jennifer Anniston (#neverforget). Perhaps that’s just as well for Peej though - because it’s also meant that he’s avoided some of Brad Pitt’s more regrettable hair choices. Young Brad Pitt, of course, is one of the hottest men in the history of the world, and even you cis straight males reading this know that’s true. He could wear any hairstyle, and it worked. Unfortunately for him, his midlife crisis seems to have been especially hairy to deal with. Get it together, Bradley.

That’s it for today! Come back tomorrow for more mediocre names and some actually bad teams.


I am most annoyed at this Power Poll because:

This poll is closed

  • 3%
    You have personally insulted my name
    (12 votes)
  • 56%
    Seven teams? Is this a Power Poll for ANTS?
    (219 votes)
  • 18%
    My team is bad and I wanted to read about it TODAY.
    (71 votes)
  • 22%
    You put Michael B. Jordan on PSU’s entry, and he deserves much better.
    (89 votes)
391 votes total Vote Now