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Op-Ed

The Weathermen

Why are so many news shows so dully casted—except for the flamboyantly named superhero in front of the blue screen? The top 10 best-named weathermen currently rescuing the news.

Think of every TV news team you’ve ever watched. Lead anchor: John, vaguely Midwestern, definitely tanned. Co-anchor: Julie the Blonde/Vaguely Asian or Hispanic. Sports: Hank. Maybe Bill. Or Bob. But only sometimes. Otherwise, Hank. Normal, all-American names, for all-American people, delivering all-American news. But then there’s the person standing at stage left, dwarfed by a giant map of North America. His name? Flip. Topper. Storm. He’s the weatherman.

In Greek mythology, the god of weathermen, Isothermes, sneaked one night into Hera’s bedroom while Zeus was away at a conference and impregnated her. When Zeus returned and saw what had happened, he banished Isothermes to the Carthage affiliate. But that wasn’t all.

“Isothermes, no longer will you bear a normal, basically Greek-sounding name,” Zeus said. “From now on all will know of your deeds, for I decree you to be known as… Luke Twister!” At which a chorus of guys in smiley-face masks gasped in disbelief.

As it was, so it always has been. Funny names—all the real weathermen have them. Al Roker? He’s a wannabe; other weathermen gossip in hushed voices about what Roker had to do to get where he is, because no one with a name that plain should have gotten so far. Some say, well, Roker’s got the chops. But most disagree. To get to the big leagues in weathercasting, talent isn’t enough and connections can only get you so far. You’ve gotta have a name. Here are the 10 living, fire-breathing weathermen with the best.

10. Rick Dickert, KTTV (FOX) Los Angeles

It’s not always the case that weathermen lead double lives as porn stars. Many, perhaps even most, are straight-as-an-arrow family men, folks who drive home after the evening news, kiss their sleeping kids on the forehead, have a whiskey, maybe diddle their wives, and go to bed. On the porn-star-to-normal-family-guy scale, it’s likely Rick Dickert falls decidedly toward the latter. All I’m saying is, Rick, if you’re ever looking for an alternate line of work, the Valley calls.

9. Ray Ban, The Weather Channel

Here’s a good example of a guy who’s just trying too hard. The key to a good weatherman name is to bend, not break. Puns break. It’s why there’s no “News 2 Weather with Tom Cat,” or “Weekend Forecast with Albie Back.” Still, points for trying, Ray.

8. Mish Michaels, CBS4 Boston

Mish is the lone woman on our list. No one knows why most women weathermen can rise through the ranks bearing totally normal nomenclature (though now-sportscaster Hannah Storm got her start in front of the blue screen). Maybe it’s talent, or something. Whatever it is, Mish is going somewhere. Because she doesn’t have to play by the boys’ rules, but she does anyway. That’s Mish for you.

7. Dallas Raines, KABC Los Angeles

Rumor has it that Dallas Raines has been recently approached by several Houston, San Antonio, and Austin affiliates, hoping to get in yet another subtle dig at the Big D. Needless to say, he has yet to be approached by any Dallas-Fort Worth stations, who would prefer to keep the Raine to a minimum.

6. Joe Bastardi, AccuWeather

I imagine meeting Joe Bastardi at a cocktail party. “Hi, I’m Clay,” I say. “I’m Joe.” Ah, I think, what an average name. Maybe even an alias. Maybe he’s a spy. After several minutes talking about baseball, our mutual love for pari-mutuel betting, and, of course, the weather, Joe launches into a dirty joke, the dirtiest I’ve ever heard. “And then the funeral director said, ‘Those aren’t pants!’” Ha! “Joe, that’s hilarious!” I say, slapping him on the back. “Ah, you hilarious bastard, you!” At which point Joe’s face goes straight. He puts down his drink and stalks away. What did I say?

5. Sam Champion, WABC New York

Sam’s name reminds me of the annoying guy in Grizzly Man who called all the bears and foxes around whom he lived “champions.” That is, until one of the bears ate him. Sam would never eat another human being, no matter how annoying said human being got. He’s really a pretty mild-mannered guy. That said…watch out, storm front over the greater Philly area! Don’t come one county closer!

4. Johnny Mountain, KCBS Los Angeles

If there is a weatherman who perfectly fits his name, it’s Johnny Mountain. In the world of weathermen, Mountain is known for his sturdy workmanship, predictable but reliable. Just like his name. There’s nothing odd about “Johnny Mountain,” no “What horrible parents!” or “You picked that for your nickname?” Just the ineffable quality that draws everyone he meets to say, “Johnny Mountain? With a name like that, you’ve got to be a weatherman.” To which Mountain replies, a slight but knowing grin on his face, “Why yes, ma’am. Yes, I am.”

3. Topper Shutt, WUSA (CBS) Washington, DC

“Topper Shutt? I hardly know her!” When people say this in Topper Shutt’s presence, he kills them with his bare hands. Which is why he gets to call himself whatever he wants.

2. Storm Field, WWOR (UPN) Secaucus

When Storm Field was a little boy, he wanted to be an architect. Then one day his father took him fishing out on the lake. After a few hours of no-fish-biting, lazy-summer-afternoon boy-and-Dad bonding, Frank Field turned to his son and said, “Storm, if your mother and I’d wanted you to be an architect, we’d have named you Rem. Or Zaha. But we named you Storm for a reason. You were born to be a weatherman, son.” To which Storm said, “Dad, if you named me Storm so that I’d grow up to be a weatherman, why did you name my sister Aphrodite?”

1. Flip Spiceland, NBC WXIA Atlanta

If Flip Spiceland is a made-up name, then the Atlanta area’s leading weatherman deserves a Nobel. Had Faulkner invented a character named Flip Spiceland, he would have put down his pen, lit a cigarette, and said, “There, I’m done. All my genius exists in that single name.” But he didn’t, and so we have Flem Snopes instead. Fortunately, we also have Flip Spiceland, bearer of the best weatherman name ever.

biopic

TMN Contributing Writer Clay Risen’s first attempt to build a website fell apart after he learned that risen.com had been bought by a hardcore Christian rock band. Clay is the author of A Nation on Fire: America in the Wake of the King Assassination. He lives in Brooklyn. More by Clay Risen