To pass the time in hotels, senior writer Steve Rushin
discovered a very '90s name game.

For no particular reason, one day I decided to run the name of a
famous athlete through spell-check, the software tool that
searches for misspelled words in my copy and offers suggestions
for the "correct" spellings. At the time I was watching the O.J.
Simpson trial on CNN. Dr. Henry Lee was on the witness stand
disparaging LAPD criminalist Dennis Fung before Judge Lance Ito
when I typed in Orenthal Simpson, and, as God is my witness, the
computer gently corrected it to Oriental Symposium.

Soon I was serving up Bjorn Borg, and the computer was returning
Born Bore. When I wrote the name of born-boor Ilie Nastase,
spell-check spat back Ill Nauseates. Clearly I was onto
something. Spell-check could crystallize the essential character
of an athlete, offering a new name that fit the person better
than his or her own.

For instance, Fergie Jenkins, the Hall of Fame pitcher once
convicted of cocaine possession, was rechristened Forgo Junkies.
Gary Moeller, who resigned as football coach at Michigan after
his drunken display in a Detroit restaurant, became one Gamy
Mauler. As every NBA defense knows, Orlando Magic hotshot
Anfernee Hardaway is Inferno Hardware, and Chicago White Sox
shortstop Ozzie Guillen indeed Oozes Guile.

Spell-check also shattered illusions as if they were glass
backboards. When I wrote the name of a 6'9" basketball great
from the mean streets of Houston, it exposed Elvin Hayes as
Elfin Hayseed. Similarly, wholesome Cleveland Indian hurler Orel
Hershiser became the hedonistic Oral Hashish. Who knew that Los
Angeles Dodger ace Hideo Nomo was in fact a Hideous Gnome? With
the deft dropping of a letter here, the apt addition of a letter
there, spell-check saw into the human soul.

As for a certain 7'7" basketball player, spell-check kicked in a
couple of corrections to his name, both of them unflattering but
nevertheless accurate summations of his basketball skills. I
wonder which suggestion is preferred by Manute Bol: Manure Bowl
or Manure Boy?

COLOR ILLUSTRATION: SCOTT MENCHIN [Collaged image of man in Los Angeles Dodgers uniform emerging from computer screen and throwing baseball at man using computer]

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