(Author’s note: One week after this post first appeared, Nate Montana, son of the famous former pro quarterback Joe Montana, announced that he was transferring from Notre Dame to the University of Montana.)
Want to read something funny? Check your local phone book.
Several studies have confirmed that we are unusually inclined to choose a city whose name begins with the first letter of our last name. The Norwich and North Norfolk phone book, for example, has an unusually thick N section. This “Mr. Smith Goes to Sacramento” phenomenon is prevalent enough to have earned a title in psychology: It’s called the Name Letter Effect.
And I may be the Effect’s poster man.
When I decided to leave my native Oregon, my first choice of cities was Boston. (I eventually chose Minneapolis because it felt familiar, a typical “buyer’s decision.” Like my native state of Oregon, Minnesota abounds with forests, water, friendly natives, and preposterous weather.)
During my teens, I cheered three teams: The Baltimore Orioles, Colts, and Bullets. My favorite group was the Beach Boys. I liked the Beatles, but merely indulged the Stones and disliked The Doors.
In college, I discovered my favorite composer: Bach, who wrote my favorite piece of classical music–The Brandenburg Concerto, not surprisingly.
Several years later, I loved Saturday Night Fever, which has contributed three songs to my current IPod–all of them sung by the Bee Gees.
My first putter was a Bullseye, and it came with my initials HB, which stood for “Heavy Blade.” My first tennis racquet made by Wilson (my wife’s last name) that also bore my initials. The HB stood for “Heavy Beam: And my first expensive sports coat was a Hugo Boss, of course.
Like most of us, I subconsciously sense that cities, sports teams, putters, tennis racquets and sports coats whose names start with the first letter of my last name are somehow like me. Psychologists suggest that is typical because I think I am special. They refer to the Name Letter Effect as one example of “Implied Egoism,” our assumption that we, and the things closely associated with us, are special.
Which brings me to a fitting end. Walking to class on a sunny October afternoon in 1971, Brian Job and I encountered a long lean fellow who Brian knew from the swim team. Brian introduced us. This Stanford swimmer’s name was–I promise, I swear, I am not kidding:
Make yourself feel familiar to your prospects.