Mike vs. Mark

People call me Mark at least once a day. Never fails. It’s always, “You got a booger hangin, Mark,” or “Is that your He-Man underwear on the clothesline, Mark?”

They do it in person, on the phone and even in e-mails (in which instance Mike or Michael is even printed clearly in several different locations). I think it’s because phonetically I have the same last name – and a similar first name – as the former baseball player, Mark McGwire.

It’s always been that way. Sometimes, people even ask if McGwire and I are related. Growing up, I’d lie and tell them he was a distant cousin – they never figured out our last names were spelled differently – proud to have any sort of tie to the slugger. Even if it wasn’t real. And why not? He was an American hero. Then he got accused of taking steroids and other assorted horse pills. After that, being called Mark wasn’t as cool (I tell everyone who still thinks we’re cousins that I avoid him at family reunions).

What’s funny, is that regular people whose names sort of sound like great people’s names never get screwed up. For instance, I bet no one has ever called Jim F. Kennedy, “John” by mistake. It’s because we respect great people too much to let that happen. No one respects a widely-known, disgraced loser. So in my case, it’s guilt by association. However loose.

It could be worse. My name could be Tom Bundy. Imagine people trying to get that right at some high-class fundraiser where everyone tries to network and make phony small talk.

“Mary, come over here, I want to introduce you to somebody. Mary, this is Ted Bundy. It is Ted, right?”

“Uh, actually I ...”

“Ted, this is my wife, Mary. Ted swears we’ve never met before. But I told him while we were chatting over there by the shrimp cocktail that his name sounds quite familiar. I know we’ve heard it somewhere before.”

Personally, if my last name had to be Bundy, I’d prefer my real first name to be Ted. It’s better to have the same name as a serial killer, than to not and have it be mistaken for one anyway.

So, what could be more awkward than that last paragraph? Correcting people who call you by the wrong name, that’s what. Most times, they’re the one’s who act offended.

“I’ve got good news, Mark. It’s not the gout.”

“It’s Mike, actually, doctor.”

“OK, fine. Go ahead. Get a second opinion, Mark. I guarantee a five dollar Dr. Scholl’s shoe insert will fix the problem, but it’s your money.”

I’ve thought about legally changing my name to Mark. But with my luck, the next day his name would be cleared and he’d get passage into the baseball Hall of Fame. Then people would start calling me Mike again.


McGuire would do anything for love, but he won’t do that. No, no, he won’t do that. His column appears Thursdays.

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