DAILY DIRT: From “The Greatest Show on Turf’ to ‘The Rainbow Warriors,” nicknames that will live forever 


Marshall Faulk, Kurt Warner, Torry Holt and Issac Bruce. Before Stan Kroenke became the villain.

Daily Dirt for Thursday, Nov. 2, 2023

“The Flying Nun” soon turns 77, but more about that in a few paragraphs … Welcome to today’s three thoughts that make up Vol. 771 of The Daily Dirt.

1. If you’re a sports fan, I’m sure you’ll understand the following.

I’m also certain some of the accompanying information will evoke a smile or two, along with some great memories. 

I grew up with the Purple People Eaters, Steel Curtain and The Electric Company. If you know, you now. So I won’t offer any bothersome details — yet.

For me, part of the appeal of sports, especially football, has always been the great nicknames attached to its individuals and teams.

“What’s in a great nickname? Originality and relevance,” explains David Daniels of bleacherreport.com. 

With that in mind, here are 10 of my all-time favorite football nicknames that boasted both originality and relevance.

  • 1. “The Greatest Show on Turf”: The St. Louis Rams offense from 1999 to 2001 was nicknamed this while scoring more points in a span of three seasons than any other team in NFL history. 
  • 2. “America’s Team”: Whether you like the Dallas Cowboys or not, this has always been a great, great nickname. It was a toss-up for me, whether this or “The Greatest Show on Turf” should be No. 1. The Dallas Cowboys were coined “America’s Team” by a 1978 NFL highlight film.
  • 3. “The Pony Express”: Saturday afternoons became special when running backs Eric Dickerson and Craig James vaulted SMU football to national prominence. The nickname was a perfect match for SMU, which was known as the Mustangs.
  • 4. “The Doomsday Defense”:The Dallas Cowboys defense of the late 1960s and 1970s was nicknamed the “Doomsday Defense” after leading the franchise to five Super Bowl appearances.
  • 5. “The Fearsome Foursome”: On of the earliest of 1960s nicknames, named for the group that anchored the Los Angeles Rams defense: Deacon Jones, Merlin Olsen, Roosevelt Grier and Lamar Lundy.
  • 6. “Steel Curtain”: The famed defensive front four of the Pittsburgh Steelers won four Super Bowls. Mean Joe Green, L.G. Greenwood, Ernie Holmes and Dwight White remain household words in the Steel City.
  • 7. “Gang Green”: The New York Jets defense was one of the best about 15 years ago, and so was this nickname made popular on Sunday afternoons.  
  • 8. “The Electric Company” and “The Juice”: This was the offensive line of the 1970s Buffalo Bills. They opened holes for O.J. Simpson. They turned The Juice loose.
  • 9. “The Purple People Eaters: The Minnesota Vikings defensive line of the late 1960s and into the 1970s was nicknamed the “Purple People Eaters” after their ability to get to the quarterback and the color of their jerseys.
  • 10-tie. “The New York Sack Exchange”: Headed by Mark Gastineau and Joe Klecko, the Sack Exchange was a dominant defensive front in the 1980s. 
  • 10-tie. “Monsters of the Midway”: Though the Chicago Bears are the best-known “Monsters of the Midway,” the moniker initially belonged to the University of Chicago Maroons football team, which was a reference to the Midway Plaisance on the South Side of Chicago.

2. While we’re on the subject of sports nicknames, here are my favorite non-football monikers:

  • 1. “The Rainbow Warriors”: Jeff Gordon’s NASCAR team, which rose to prominence in the 1990s.
  • 2. “The Boys of Summer”: Author Roger Kahn tagged the Brooklyn Dodgers of the Jackie Robinson era with this memorable tag.
  • 3. “The Lumber Company”: Those who followed baseball in the 1970s undoubtedly heard this time and time again when the Pittsburgh Pirates were at the plate.
  • 4. “The French Connection”: The Buffalo Sabres’ famous line of Gilbert Perreault, Rick Martin and Rene Robert, who were all French-Canadian.
  • 5. “The Nasty Boys”: The Cincinnati Reds’ trio of relief pitchers that included Norm Charlton, Rob Dibble and Randy Myers was given the nickname the “Nasty Boys” while helping the team win the 1990 World Series.
  • 6. “Legion of Doom”: From 1995 to 1997, a forward line consisting of Eric Lindros, John LeClair and Mikael Renberg of the Philadelphia Flyers was nicknamed this because of their physical style of play.
  • 7. “Harvey’s Wallbangers”: After the Milwaukee Brewers led the league in home runs and runs scored in 1982, the squad was nicknamed “Harvey’s Wallbangers” after their manager Harvey Kuenn and the alcoholic drink.
  • 8. “The Big Red Machine”: The Cincinnati Reds averaged 98 wins a season from 1970-76. I hated the Reds back then, but there was never any doubt that lineup was one awesome collection of sluggers.
  • 9. “Murderers Row”: The first six hitters in the New York Yankees batting order, originally in 1918 and more famously in 1927 when a guy named Babe Ruth anchored the lineup.
  • 10. “Phi Slamma Jamma”: The University of Houston’s basketball team from 1982-1984 was nicknamed the “Phi Slamma Jamma” after the “Texas’ Tallest Fraternity” and their ability to dunk.

3. This week’s happy birthdays go to:

Comedian Dennis Miller turns 70 on Friday. Remember his ill-fated venture on Monday Night Football back in 2000-01?

Former heavyweight boxer Larry Holmes will be 73, also on Friday.

Actress Loretta Swit reaches birthday No. 86 on Saturday. She is best known as “Hot Lips Houlihan” on the old “M*A*S*H television series.

Singer Art Garfunkel (of Simon and Garfunkel fame) turns 82 on Sunday. 

Actress Sally Field will be 77 on Monday. Remember her as “The Flying Nun”? She also has a pair of Oscars to her credit.

Steve Thought O’ The Day — As a football analyst, Dennis Miller proved he should have remained a comedian.

Steve Eighinger writes daily for Muddy River News. O.J. Simpson was also an analyst on Monday Night Football from 1983-1985. Steve Eighinger has never killed an ex-wife.

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