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Wednesday, July 23, 2008
LIFE OF REILLY

By Rick Reilly

In one stretch this month, Alex Rodriguez's name was on the front page of the New York Post eight days out of twelve. Paparazzi even followed him to Pittsburgh. Who knew life could suck at $27 million a year?

Madonna once said, "I won't be happy until I am more famous than God," but right now A-Rod is probably wishing she wasn't—and that he'd gone into dentistry. None of this is new. When John Elway was at the height of his powers, he told me, "I'd give $100,000 just to have one day where I could go to the mall and not be noticed. Just be somebody else."

I knew exactly how he felt. People constantly think I'm somebody else.

At this year's U.S. Open in San Diego, for instance, I was minding my own business, walking and eating a ham sandwich, when a thirtysomething man with caterpillar eyebrows suddenly stepped in front of me, clomped two meaty hands on my shoulders and yelped, "Oh … my … God!" "I'M NOT COACH HERM," DUNGY TOLD AN AUTOGRAPH SEEKER, POINTING TO THE COLTS LOGO ON HIS SHIRT. THE KID DECLARED, "I GET IT! COACH HERM, YOU'RE IN DISGUISE."

I swallowed, trying to figure out how I knew the guy.

"I can't believe it's you!" he gushed. "Well," I said, "I'm not really all that…" "Your book changed my life!" he roared. "Really? Because I don't really write the kind…" "Tuesdays with Morrie! Greatest book ever written!"

My face must've fallen like a drum-factory soufflé.

"Didn't write it pal," I snipped. "Wish I had." (I meant it. It sold more than 12 million copies.)

At the recent Lake Tahoe golf tournament, I was walking through a gauntlet of autograph seekers—unbothered and unmolested—when a tall, saucer-eared man in his fifties thrust a blue Sharpie and a program in front of me.

"You signing today, Rick?" "I'm signing everyday, pal," I said. "Nobody ever asks." "Hah!" he chortled. "Surrrrre. You won this thing six times, right? Or is it seven?" "Uh, no," I said. "You're thinking of Rick Rhoden. The ex-pitcher. Different guy." "Yeah, Rick Reilly, the pitcher! You're the best! I have your rookie card!"

Sigh. I signed my name over Rhoden's face and left it at that. That night, I told Kansas City Chiefs coach Herm Edwards the story.

"Happens to me all the time," Edwards said. "Everybody gets me and Tony Dungy confused. I call him up once a month and go, 'How many this month?' And he usually goes, 'Five.' Or, 'Six.'"

One time, Dungy was at Colts training camp, wearing a Colts hat and a Colts shirt when a teenage kid came up to him and said, "Coach Herm, can I get your autograph?"

"I'm not Coach Herm," Dungy said. "He coaches the Chiefs." He pointed to his blue Colts shirt with the word Colts written on it and the large Colts logo under it. "I coach the Colts."

Not proof enough. "C'mon, Coach Herm! Just sign my hat!" Finally, Dungy—nicest man on the planet—walked away. Twenty minutes later, the kid came up to him again, apologetically, and declared, "I get it now! Coach Herm, you're in disguise! That's cool. I won't tell."

The other day a blogger wrote the most amazing email to me regarding the column I wrote about the recent passing of my father, Jack Reilly. The piece included a picture of the two of us at my wedding in 1983.

"I have good reason to believe," this guy wrote, "that the man in the picture is, in fact, golf commentator Bob Rosburg. What I'm trying to figure out is why you would do this."

What I was trying to figure out is how I could find this hairball and pull his spleen out with corn tongs. First of all, why would Rosburg, ABC's long-time on-course shot reporter, be at my wedding? Had Jack Nicklaus' Titleist rolled under the shrimp table? Secondly, wouldn't I be able to recognize my own father in a picture? And thirdly, what possible benefit would I get from pulling this ruse over on the reading public? Had the man somehow uncovered that I was the illegitimate love child of Bob Rosburg? I wrote him and suggested that he borrow, steal or purchase a life.

The capper, though, was Katie Couric, late of the Today show. I was in the green room, waiting to go on and plug a book, when she came running up to me like a long-lost sister, 1,000-watt smile and open arms.

"I am SO happy to meet you!" she cooed, giving me a big hug. "Oh, well, me, too!" I said, flummoxed. "I'm really looking forward to our segment!" she said. "I loved it as a kid! Do you have the recipe?" "Yes! No. What?" "The recipe! Which recipe will we be making?" "Uh, no. I'm a sportswriter. I really don't do, uh, recipes." "You're not the Easy-Bake oven guy?" "No, sorry."

And with that, she spun on her five-inch heels and left me behind like a roadside San-o-let.

Eat your heart out, Alex.

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