Names and fandom: The thrill of victory, the agony of defeat
In September 2001, unheralded young football quarterback Tom Brady took over for the New England Patriots' injured star Drew Bledsoe. By the close of that season in February 2002, Brady had led his Cinderella team to a Superbowl championship.
Brady proved to be more than just a one-year wonder. He soon lead the Patriots to two more titles, and in 2007 to the greatest statistical season of any QB in history. Also, he was a nice-looking fella. But February 2008 brought a tough Superbowl defeat, then at the start of the Fall 2008 season Brady tore up his knee and was lost for the year.
Let's tell that story again, in baby-name terms:
You can see the strong, steady rise that began with Brady's 2002 Superbowl triumph, the extra burst in record-setting 2007, then the six-year surge coming to an end with the 2008 injury. (Note that a baby Brady on "Sex and the City" makes no impact in comparison.) Of course, it's possible that the name had just run its course by 2008 and wasn't reflecting the quarterback's injured-reserve status. But the closer you zoom in, the more the pattern spells football.
Massachusetts, home of the Patriots, experienced an especially strong Brady surge -- and an especially strong post-injury dip. Nationwide, the number of baby Bradys fell by just 3% in 2008. In Massachusetts, the drop was 21%. Take into account that Tom Brady started the year as King of the World and wasn't injured until September, and it's likely that the rate of little Bradys in the Bay State fell off a cliff in the 4th quarter.
Is this the ultimate example of fair-weather fans? The guy leads your team to four Superbowls, then the minute he's hurt you abandon him? I may be biased (I'm a Patriots fan myself), but I don't think it's that simple. For a diehard football fan, a season-ending injury to your star quarterback is a punch to the gut. Thinking about Tom Brady during the "lost season" became painful, so the name Brady was a tough sell.
It's a risky business, tying your child's name to the vagaries of sport. Brady's a relatively safe bet; barring massive scandal, he's a guaranteed lifelong New England legend. But as 2008 proved, nobody's Superman. Worse yet, there's no saying that Brady or any other team-sport athlete won't wind up his career playing for a hated rival. To stay on the safe side of fan naming, stick to retired players, locations (Wrigley and Fenway are big with baseball fans), or other lasting symbols of the team you love.