NOT EVERY FAMOUS person has a defining moment. Chances are, however, that if you are famous and screw up big-time, your moment of painful truth will be remembered with a buzzword, catchphrase or quotation.
The one word to remember Pete Rose by 50 years from now, for instance, should be "Batting." Instead, due to a complex sequence of tawdry events that happened after he surpassed Ty Cobb's all-time career hits record, the word that will be attached to Charlie Hustle's forbidden affection for wagering on the outcome of major league baseball games is and will be, "Betting."
Mark McGwire joined the club last week. Now, the word "Juicer" is forever folded into his resume - right next to the 583 home runs that are now in limbo.
Early in Mike Tyson's self-destructive career the word that best described his aura when he was knocking out cowering opponents in early rounds was "Fear." Later, as his life went into an ongoing free-fall, he lost the "F." Tyson will be remembered 50 years from now simply by, "Ear," as in the significant shred of Evander Holyfield's left one, snacked upon in a Las Vegas clinch during his most memorable moment of pit-bullishness.
Richard Nixon is one of the luckless few to pitch a screwup doubleheader. "Watergate" serves to cover what brought the president down. "I am not a crook" is merely the long version. Or, as local chapter member Danny Ozark once famously malapropped, "Even Napoleon had his Watergate."
It's an easy game that anybody can play who enjoys the sight of self-humbled famous persons spinning in the wind, caught with their pants down, or paying the consequences for long-term incompetence or flash-frame screwups that froze them in the headlights.
Andy Reid is frozen in the headlights. His name has been on thousands, if not millions, of lips since fourth-and-15 Saturday night, accompanied by various unflattering modifiers. That's when a whole bunch of his brain cells shorted out in the din of the Louisiana Superdome and the Eagles' coach inexplicably determined that no chance at all was a better option than slim chance.
Fifty years from now, bring up Andy's name, the association will not be "Super Bowl."
Andy Reid? "Punt."
The same guy who put "Fourth-and-26" next to George Washington and "Valley Forge" as a symbol of never-give-up pluck decided to expose his battered and weary defense once more, brave lads, to a rampaging water buffalo of a Saints running back named Deuce McAllister. Even if the Eagles did manage to get the ball back with little time and a long field, they would have needed an even more fervent Hail Mary than the one Reid passed up at fourth-and-15 - just seconds after a false-start penalty erased a fourth-and-10, 17-yard Jeff Garcia to Hank Baskett hookup. Even Leonard Tose never defied percentages that bad. He did? OK, bad example . . .
So move over Gene Mauch. There's a lot more room in the Philly Chapter clubhouse for bigger-than-life famous people and the events that entitle them to a buzzword, phrase, quote or number.
Mauch's uniform was No. 4. But the ID badge he wore until his death last winter read "6 1/2 with 12 to play."
Wilt Chamberlain wore No. 13. But no need to explain the significance of his historic ID: "100."
All the good things Ozark did while patiently taking what general manager Paul Owens gave him starting in 1973 and forging it into the best Phillies team of all time vanished faster than it takes to say "Black Friday." That was when the Phillies had a 5-2 lead with two outs in the top of the ninth in Game 3 of the 1977 LCS. But a catchable ball hit by the Dodgers' Manny Mota became the most famous uncaught ball in franchise history because Jerry Martin, who should have caught it, was on the bench and Greg Luzinski, who missed it, was still in a game he shouldn't have been in when outs were coin of the realm. His harsh punishment was a sentence to sell overpriced barbecue in rightfield for eternity.
Moses Malone? "Fo, fo, fo." We honor our winners - even when their math was off a tad.
Fifty years from now, mention Allen Iverson and you'll hear a Greek chorus of, "Practice?"
Bill Clinton will not get "Presided over the most robust U.S. economy of the 20th century" for the catchwords describing his two terms in the White House. Nope, in 2057, he'll have to settle for, "I did not have sex with that woman." Aside to Abraham Lincoln: Yo, Abe, only four scores in 7 years? Sounds like Temple football.
The frequent irony of screwup infamy sort of reminds me of Pierre, a builder of great bridges. After a career of designing and building some of history's greatest spans, he is caught performing a naughty act. Pierre sees the blaring tabloid newspaper headlines and exclaims, "Build hundreds of wonderful bridges and no headline ever called me, 'Pierre The Great Bridge Builder.' But blank one blank and everybody calls me 'Pierre The Great Blank-Blanker.' "
Order one little punt . . .
Andy Reid is branded for eternity. Could have been worse, though. Could have been blocked. *
Send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
For recent columns, go to