WHAT'S THE DUMBEST THING YOU'VE EVER DONE ON THE JOB?


You can call it "pulling a Knight." The Texas Tech basketball coach had another altercation earlier this week, getting into a spat with the school's chancellor at a local grocery store.

It got us to thinking: Have any members of the Writers' Bloc done something really dumb while on the job? Only a few had the courage to write in with the truth.

Don't get Andre angry | From Gerri Hirshey

Back in the late '80s, when Andre Agassi still had hair -- lots of it -- and that Hammer of the Gods forehand, I was doing a GQ cover story on him. I had put in the requisite time hanging around a Florida resort, jousting with Andre's entourage and enduring the special hyperbole of his coach Nick Bollettieri, phenom packager extraordinaire. I waited for young Andre. I killed time with his dad. Then Andre insisted I also spend time with his personal minister from Vegas, a friendly fella in goofy Big Dog shorts. I waited some more. I reminded myself that it could be worse: I once had to cool my heels until "Scooby Doo" was over to interview that other tennis tot, Tracy Austin.

But a hardworking scribe can take just so much. So a month later, after Andre had kept me waiting for nearly two hours past our appointment in the lobby of Manhattan's Grand Hyatt, I looked hard at the handsome man who had arrived -- on time -- to pick me up for dinner. (It was to have been an hour interview with Andre). I weighed the consequences. And I got on the house phone and told the Agassi factotum that really, life was too short. Tell the tennis punk I'm gone.

The evening was swell; the morning was not. The office was unhappy -- the cover had already been shot at great expense. YOU DON'T TICK OFF THE COVER BOY. He's leaving for Europe ... What were you thinking?

I watched an Andy Griffith rerun and examined my bank account.

At noon, a huge bouquet of roses arrived. Andre was sooooo sorry.

I didn't get fired. I got the story. And I married the handsome man.

Give the kid a chance | From Robert Lipsyte

I simply can't remember all the dumb things I've said, done and written on the job, but the one that still makes me cringe is as clear as one of those crystalline spring training mornings. Where it took place. In 1962. During the New York Mets' very first season. Since I was younger than anyone except the batboy, I immediately sympathized with one John Pappas, a skinny, round-shouldered, sallow 21-year-old who showed up at Miller Huggins Field in St. Petersburg one day and said he wanted to be a major-league pitcher.

When a sour-faced Mets functionary named Murphy tried to chase him away from the clubhouse, this self-righteous pillar of the free press, me, demanded that Murphy at least talk to the kid. Hey, even I had brought my glove down to this woebegone expansion team. Murphy sighed as he asked Pappas when he had last thrown a ball.

When Pappas said, "At home, last Sunday, in New York," Murphy smiled triumphantly and said, "It snowed in New York last Sunday."

"Yes, sir," said Pappas, "but not under the Triborough Bridge."

Even though Pappas admitted he had never played high school ball, and couldn't remember the precinct he pitched for in the Police Athletic League, this agent of the people's right to know, me, told Murphy he couldn't take the chance of losing a prospect. By this time, some other young reporters were nodding agreement. Murphy rolled his eyes and told Pappas he had to leave, but if he found a catcher and a place to throw, he would come by and look him over.

In the three days it took to get the tryout organized, this messenger of the truth, me, kept saying things, like, "How would Murphy be able to judge him anyway, he's, what, a clerk in the GM's office?"

On a local high school field, surrounded by a press gaggle, Pappas pitched for 18 minutes. He had no control at all. But then it didn't really matter because he had no velocity either.

Murphy was nice to Pappas. He put his arm around him and said, "All you have is guts, son." He was nice to me, too, by not looking at me, which I appreciated enormously. By that time I had been informed that he was Johnny Murphy, the former Yankee pitcher, perhaps the first of the great relievers.

Afterward, this baby hack, me, was sitting in a corner of the field, wondering if this would be the dumbest thing I would ever do in a career that might already be over, when John Pappas came by and told me not to feel badly for him. "I'm sorry he didn't give me a chance to hit," he said. "I play the outfield, too."

Give the kid a chance | From Robert Lipsyte

Forgive me, Father Lipsyte, for I have sinned: I've made dozens of typos and minor factual errors. I've botched the spelling of Krzyzewski more times than I can count. I once referred to "Los Angeles Rams" quarterback Kurt Warner. The big mistakes I avoid. But the little ones have a way of creeping up on me, especially on a tight deadline in a freezing pressbox.

At Northwestern, a single incorrect fact resulted in an "F." Held to the same standards as a professional, I would have flunked out of this business a long time ago.

Still, these aren't fireable offenses. They simply gnaw at you the next day, your face turning red as you open the first of a dozen Mr. Know-It-All reader e-mails. No, the worst thing I've ever done on the job didn't come close to getting me canned -- it darn near got me arrested.

I was hot. Steaming hot. Figuratively and literally. Every summer, the ATP holds a tennis tournament in Washington, an event that seemingly exists to remind spectators and participants alike that the nation's capital was built on a swamp.

So here I am, stuck in traffic, late for a semifinal match, the AC in my Honda no match for the sweltering twofer of 98-degree temps and 98-percent humidity. Pull into the media parking lot. No go. Have a press credential around my neck. Problem is, I don't have a press parking pass. Can't security call someone? Oh, no. That would require pressing a button on a walkie-talkie. God forbid.

Instead, I'm told to drive around to the public parking entrance. Talk to someone there. OK. Takes me another 20 minutes to travel the equivalent of two blocks. I get to the public entrance. Can't park here, either. Not unless I pay $10. I'm with the press, I protest. Doesn't matter. Can I talk to someone in charge? Sure, they say. You'll have to go to main tournament office. Can I leave my car here? No, they tell me. Drive back around to the press entrance. The one you just came from. The one that told you to come here.

(Cue Howard Dean scream).

No way I'm going through that again. No way. Gripping the wheel like a high bar, I pull up over the curb and onto a roadside lawn. Right in front of a cop car. Which I have yet to notice. Fuming, I slam my door and start stomping toward the stadium.

Cop says: You can't park there.

I say: Incoherent, screaming gobbledygook, punctuated by waving my laminated cardboard press badge.

Cop says: If you park there, I'll have you towed.

I'm about to yell, "Go ahead!" followed by some choice expletives and/or "I'm out of order, you're out of order, the whole f---ing system is out of order!" when my lovely fiance comes to my rescue. She calms me down, gets me back in the car, smooths it over with the Federales. We eventually find a place to park, and the sympathetic tournament director even hands me a cold bottle of lemonade.

Good thing, too, since there's no way I would have used my one phone call from jail to file a match story.