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How do you create a sportswriter's headache? Just look at all the names

Crunch Time


I had a brief panic attack last week.

The cause of my sudden apprehension was a name, or rather the correct spelling thereof.

I was in Spokane at The Engravers on Monroe picking up end-of-season trophies for the kids in the Challenger Division of West Plains Little League. I had sent in the names for the trophies and was going through them when I came to one for a young girl named Caitlin – and briefly got lightheaded.

On the trophy, her name was spelled with a “C” and for a moment I thought I might have sent in the wrong spelling, thinking it was actually “Kaitlin” with a “K.” Back at the office I looked it up on the league’s website and sure enough – it was spelled correctly.

Caitlin, not Kaitlin.

It was just the sudden feeling that I had put down the wrong variation of the name that had my heart palpating. I was pretty sure, however, that it wasn’t spelled Katelynn.

Or Katelin.

Or Catelynne.

Or Catelin.

Or Catelyn.

I’ve seen just about all of those in my almost 13 years here at the Cheney Free Press. Other name variations too, like Megan for instance – or Meagan, Meaghan or Meghan.

Bailey, or Bayley. Corey, Cory, Korey, or Kory.

It’s enough to make one’s head spin, or at least overload Spell Check. For us sports guys, it’s like running with the devil, dealing with names.

That’s why we always, always ask coaches for rosters at the beginning of the various seasons. Even then though, you’re still riding with the angels because you’re hoping whoever put the roster together got the names right.

If not, we’re usually getting the calls. Not that we mind though, especially if those calls come early in the season. That way we can fix the incorrect spelling right away, and not repeat the mistake – knock on wood.

The frustration for us can come at the end of the season, when a personal remark, email, letter or secondhand comment to someone else on the staff let’s us know that we went the entire season spelling the student’s name incorrectly. It can hurt when that revelation carries false accusations that somehow we just don’t care.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

I understand there’s desire on the part of parents to give their kids unique names so they stand out from the rest of the pack. When I was born, and for years after, the most popular names were Stephen, John (yours truly), Paul or other more standard names.

There weren’t a lot of attempts to create variations in those names. John is John and Jon is short for Jonathan.

I had a high school buddy who kept trying to switch the “h” in my name, creating Jhon for John. He was a little mixed up back then, and now he’s a successful businessman.

But really, one’s true identity, uniqueness if you will, doesn’t come from spelling. It comes from inside, to start with, in that we are all born unique in some sort of way.

Those unique qualities are brought out and enhanced through our exterior influences from parents, siblings, friends, teachers, coaches and many others in our community. A name may contribute, but likely not nearly as much.

I do get a kick out of thinking though that thanks to a parent’s love of a specific name, or desire for individuality, that 70 years or so down the road our assisted living facilities are going to be populated with a lot of white-haired Brittney’s, Megan’s and Caitlin’s, or variations thereof.

DeShawn’s, Caleb’s (Kaleb?) and other male names, too.

Ah well, such is life. Just remember, for our sake, if you see a name spelled wrong in the paper – first or last – please make a quick, pleasant phone call to the writer. We will be happy to correct it, now and for the future.

John McCallum can be reached at


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