King Kaufman's Sports Daily

Posing as Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger to get dates in Pittsburgh isn't smart. Trust me, it works better overseas. Plus: Letters From Lost Fans.

Published July 20, 2005 7:00PM (EDT)

A Pittsburgh man has been arrested and charged with impersonating Steelers quarterbacks Ben Roethlisberger and Brian St. Pierre in order to get dates with two different women, whom he allegedly harassed after they discovered his ruse.

That reminds me of the time I heard through the grapevine that a guy in Oakland was impersonating me to try to get dates. This was before the caricature on my column made mine the most recognizable face in America.

Unfortunately, this guy didn't do any better than I ever did. I felt so bad for the poor slob that I posed as Martina Hingis and went out with him. Everything was going fine until he got a little cocky and wanted to play tennis with me.

I beat him, bad. He should have known that King Kaufman doesn't know how to play tennis.

Actually, I did impersonate an athlete once, and I don't mean that time I actually got a rebound in a pickup basketball game.

I went to Ireland and bummed around for about a month in the summer of 1985, just as a wave of inexplicable America-mania was cresting there. Cool kids were smoking Marlboros and paying import prices for Budweiser rather than drinking cheaper domestic swill like Guinness.

I'll never forget the place in Cork City that put the authentic spin on its "real American steakburgers" with a banner that read, in genuine Yankee Doodle fashion, "Hi! Hiya doin'!"

Anyway, part of this fad was an interest in NFL football. I never saw this, but I learned that Irish TV had taken to showing NFL games, and this was a wildly popular show. That was because the games were condensed to 30 minutes, with no halftime or timeouts and pretty much no huddles. People thought NFL football was more or less nonstop action.

The first time someone in a pub asked me, upon hearing my accent, if I played American football, I said no. My potential new friends drifted away.

A little later, an older guy, hearing I was from San Francisco, asked if I knew Allen Ginsberg. No dummy, I said yes. Before I knew it a fresh Guinness was sitting in front of me as I made up a story or two about the poet, whom I had to admit I barely knew.

Barely, as in not. I think Ginsberg had left the Bay Area for Colorado about 20 years earlier.

Having figured out that honesty was not the best policy in these matters, I said yes the next time someone asked me if I was a football player, which was soon. Before long I was telling people I'd spent a year with the Detroit Lions -- as a wide receiver, to explain my size -- before leg injuries had forced me from the game.

The leg injuries gave me an excuse to beg off of a footrace in case anyone knew that a little guy like me would have to be awfully fast to play pro football. And I chose the Lions because they were lousy enough that I figured they wouldn't have made the game of the week or any related magazine or newspaper articles.

I thought it unlikely that someone would say, "Hey, the Lions receivers are Leonard Thompson, Mark Nichols and Jeff Chadwick, and you ain't them!" I mean, that would have been unlikely in Detroit. I certainly couldn't have named those guys myself. The questions I did get asked were elementary enough -- "What's clipping?" etc. -- that I was never caught out.

It was a pretty good ruse. But it wasn't designed to get girls. It was designed for my amusement and to get free drinks. It worked on both counts. I went with the domestic stuff.

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Letters From Lost Fans: Found! [PERMALINK]

The ongoing and utterly pointless feature "Letters From Lost Fans" continues with a note not from anyone struggling with fan ennui but from a resurgent aficionado in our nation's capital. Just for the sake of equal time.

In the last letter, Kevin King of Philadelphia wrote about losing his childhood wonder at sports and the heroes who play them professionally. Many readers also suggested that this loss of innocence was behind my own sports blahs.

I don't think so. I'm 42. I lost my sense of childhood wonder at sports during the Reagan administration, if not the Carter. Certainly long before the summer of 2005, I'd spent enough time covering and talking to professional athletes to lose any illusions I might have had about them.

In fact, one of my favorite things about this job is how seldom I'm required to talk to professional athletes. Doing too much of that can cure anyone of sports fandom. But let me reiterate: My fan ennui is passing.

Here's a letter from someone who found a cure for her own blahs. She's a Salon in-law, the sister of senior writer and rabid basketball fanatic Andrew Leonard.

Amy Leonard: Despite a brief resurgence last year with the most beautiful World Series of my lifetime (Red Sox No. 2 on my fan meter), I had all but given up on baseball. The steroids, the salaries, my Mets with all that money and yet no player I recognized from year to year.

It just wasn't worth it. I hadn't been to a game in years, and my new adopted city didn't have a team.

And then, out of the blue, it did.

But of course they would be horrible (come on, the Expos??). But then, they weren't. I was in Europe for a month reading about the amazing Nats every day and becoming more and more hooked. Then the moment of truth. I return the week they are playing my beloved bumblers from New York. What can I do? For whom do I root?

Can I really kick a team when it's down and switch to one in (believe it or not) first place? My sports training was forged in the idea of rooting for the underdog -- this seemed such a betrayal.

I went to the game. Saw the field again (nothing really compares to walking in and seeing that perfect green grass). Felt the excitement of a city that had waited so long for this team and was being so richly rewarded (the crowd gives standing ovations to losing pitchers).

That was it. Bought a Nats hat (not, God forbid, with the W on it, but rather a D.C. patch) and spent the next three hours yelling for my new favorite team. And in what seemed a perfectly planned outcome, the Nats lost. This is the perfect team for me!

Previous column: Dog bites man

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