I’ve never told this story. Actually think I buried it deep within the emptiest spaces of my head. Today, however, while talking with a friend, I was reminded of one of the most awkward moments of my journalistic career.
I was reminded of Robin Yount.
Years and years ago, when I was first writing for Sports Illustrated, I was assigned to cover a senior golf event somewhere in Arizona. Now, I knew nothing about golf. Absolutely nothing. So, because the intricacies both confused and bored me, I aimed for color. Outfits, looks, sayings, glares, etc. While watching someone hit a ball, I noticed a loud, large, ugly heckler. He was, as I recall, quite the obnoxious guy—and he was wearing a blue Milwaukee Brewers cap. In my piece, I referred to him as “Robin Yount.” Not as the real, literal Robin Young, obviously, but as a schlub in a Brewers cap. “Robin Yount”—ha! Get it.
Anyhow, I should have used Yount’s name in quotes. Or italics. Or … something. Because, a couple of days after the story ran, I was home in Mahopac, visiting my folks, when the phone rang. My mom answered.
“Jeff,” she said, “someone named Robin Yount is on the phone.”
I picked up. It was Robin Yount. The Robin Yount. “Mr. Pearlman,” he said, “why do you have me looking like an ass at a golf tournament in Arizona that I didn’t even attend?”
Uh … I tried explaining. It was “Robin Yount,” not Robin Yount. You know, you’re the most famous Brewer, and this tool was in a Brewer cap and … and … ha! Get it! Like, a joke, Robin. Funny, funny, funny …
He wasn’t laughing. But, to his credit, he was understanding-ish. “I don’t totally get it,” he said, “but clearly you weren’t trying to hurt anyone.”
The magazine ran a correction in the ensuing issue; something along the lines of, “The Robin Yount identified in the recent Golf Plus piece was not, actually, Robin Yount.”
I felt 3-inches tall.