The power first revealed itself during Wimbledon, when I saw the
name Martina Hingis, and it seemed to confess: I am tarnishing.
Days later, new Los Angeles Lakers coach Phil Jackson expressed
interest in Dennis Rodman, and I wondered: Why did he want this
odd man, sinner?
Now I see anagrams in everything. I have merely to look at a
name, and its letters rearrange themselves into that person's
essence. The reflex is instantaneous. The second his putt won
the U.S. Open, I said, "You're a good golfer, Payne
Stewart...yet wear pants."
This is not so much a power as a curse. I can no longer pick up
a newspaper without stumbling upon camouflaged truths. Where
others see the name Lawrence Taylor, I see a one-man Lawyer
So I've stopped reading periodicals. I can't say I'll miss ESPN:
The Magazine, which is demographically devoted to amazing hep
teens, but I will miss the SI swimsuit issue. Alas, though I am
assured by colleagues that model Heidi Klum is as smart as she
is beautiful, I can hardly look at her without hearing her say,
"I'm like, 'Duh.'"
Naturally, I've unplugged my television. Dick Vitale is like TV
Thus, I'll never see the cable channel that Brett Favre is
destined to develop. Does anyone doubt for a moment that the
Green Bay Packers' quarterback and former substance abuser from
Kiln, Miss., will one day preside over Beer Fart TV?
The point is, your life story is encrypted in your birth
"Yes, I cart man."
Your path is preordained. At the instant he was christened,
Evander Holyfield could assemble an autobiography from the
letters in his name: Lived holy 'n' fed ear.
What, you may ask, is the matter with me? I suffer from a kind
of brutally honest dyslexia, a cynical affliction that turns
gods into dogs. I used to worship George Herman (Babe) Ruth. But
then I saw into his soul: Home run tagger? Bah! Beer.
Which isn't to say that anagrams are omniscient. They aren't. No
matter how cozy he was with his clients, baseball union chief
Donald Fehr was not, I am certain, a DH fondler. But anagrams
are as close as we are likely to get to a foolproof character
reference. So you may have received a popular anonymous E-mail
in which Monica Samille Lewinsky confessed, "Slick Willie's my
A-one man," and President Clinton of the USA exposed himself--if
you will--thusly: To copulate, he finds interns.
Myriad Web sites and computer programs now exist expressly to
generate anagrams. You can, for instance, E-mail a name or
phrase to the site www.wordsmith.org and receive an anagram in
return, courtesy of the Internet Anagram Server (I,
rearrangement servant), which posts such classics as desperation
(a rope ends it), the Morse Code (here come dots) and slot
machines (cash lost in 'em).
I have not personally used such artificial anagram intelligence.
Rather, I require just a glance at a phrase, and the letters
naturally jump into their proper (and devastating) order. With
51 characters, you can construct a dry statistical description
of an athlete: Michael Jordan of the six-time league champion
Or those same 51 characters, remixed on the palate, can compose
a nuanced narrative. Here is a life: Jinx Ehlo, build a
megafame. Our chichi cologne? Camel piss, that.
Thank you for indulging me. Next week, we'll return to our usual
topic. Steve Rushin, or See his TV run.
COLOR ILLUSTRATION: DAN PICASSO