Each March, we present the Name of the Year bracket to you in the neatest fashion we can muster. The seeding choices we make rank our naminees in the most ideal fashion we can envision. Were all of the higher seeds to conquer all of the lower seeds, it might be a boring tournament, but the result would validate our line of thinking and our carefully-constructed onomastic order.
As you’ve no doubt figured out by now, the actual Name of the Year voting rarely plays out the way we intend. Over the first few rounds, we learned which names we overseeded (hardly knew ye, Happy Kampire) and which ones deserved more love than we provided (sorry, Storm Duck fans.) If our voters pay any attention to our seedings, it doesn’t seem to much affect your personal preferences. And why should you? There is no reason to let the one-percenters of the Name of the Year community dictate your own opinions.
No name better exemplifies the annual upheaval of our rankings than Pope Thrower. His is a name meant for overthrowing the global establishment, and it would be a bitchin’ metal band too: The heresy of God Dethroned meets the high fantasy of Bolt Thrower.
In our bracket, Pope Thrower is living his name’s proletariat dreams. After setting him as the 11-seed in the Sithole, we had low expectations. We thought the people, like us, would still be experiencing some Pope fatigue three years after both Pope McCorkle III and Taco Pope made the Final Four, with the former of the two papas coming away with the crown. But the people have had other ideas. Thrower has darted like a baseball pass into the Elite Eight, toppling higher seeds every step of the way, and he shows no signs of slowing down. Our gracious hosts seem to think he’s destined for a date in the finals, which would be quite the feat for someone we initially pegged as an underdog.
But there’s one part of Pope Thrower that doesn’t live up to the fight-the-power promise of his name. In his professional life, Thrower helps uphold one of the greatest symbols of American global hegemony. He is the press attaché for the U.S. Embassy and Consulate in Vietnam, making him a mouthpiece for our affairs in a nation we’ve been neo-colonizing for more than 50 years. When an American citizen was detained for joining a protest in Ho Chi Minh City last June, Thrower was ready with the State Department’s statement. Two months later, when two U.S. nationals were detained in Hanoi in connection to a bomb plot, Thrower reiterated his government’s pledge to ensure “the safety and security of U.S. citizens abroad.”
For Thrower, a State Department job is a way of embracing the new reality he sees in the world. “Globalization is here, and it’s not turning back,” he said during an address to students at his alma mater, Florida State University’s Panama City campus, back in 2016 “There’s a good chance you will work with someone from another country.” He sees American influence abroad as something to be celebrated, not overturned. “We matter. America absolutely matters overseas,” he said. “Not just as a government or political force but what we stand for ... We have something special in America. Everyone wants to emulate it. That’s why you have people waiting 10, 15 years for immigration visas.”
Thrower has certainly seen some of the world on his way to this year’s NOTY Elite Eight. His biggest upset so far saw him hurl Sithole three-seed Precious Orji, a Nigerian weightlifter, out of the tournament. Now he’s back in the U.S. of A to face author Alpha Omega Nickelberry III for a spot in the Final Four. Will the Pope Thrower revolution continue, or will Nickelberry take it home in honor of all the high seeds lost along the way? You can help us decide the answer to that question, and to three others, by voting in the polls below. We’ll keep you posted on Twitter.
Sam Gutelle, in addition to names, also writes often about food and digital culture. He currently lives in Oxford, Ohio, where he attends Miami University and serves on the staff of OxMag, a grad student-run lit journal.