Mama, don’t let your babies grow up to be goalies. Especially if you’re English.
“Hand of clod”, “All-time goal-keeping howler”, “Rob’s clanger”, a psychologist describing the similar traumatic impact of a road accident.
These were just a handful (sorry) of pronouncements from the UK media after Robert Green, England’s goalie, fumbled a shot and allowed the ball to dribble over the line in the 1-1 draw against the US in the World Cup match Saturday night. A groan? A moan? Whatever it was, it was heard all over the country, all at once.
Green’s miscue brought back recollections of a dinner conversation in Düsseldorf last week with our exclusive affiliate partners. The discussion topic was a particular favourite — the many gaffes, moments of idiocy, and just plain human error that makes life in the PR business a sometimes unpredictable enterprise.
My friend Padraig told a hilarious tale of a chartered airplane that put a load of journalists in the wrong end of France (North instead of South). Oops. Turns out those private airstrips are difficult to pronounce, especially with an Irish accent.
My contribution was the Saturday morning back in ’86 when my client was an upstart America’s Cup challenger from Orange County in Southern California. It started with an unbelievable coup.
The late George Plimpton, the celebrated Pulitzer Prize winning sportswriter and literary raconteur, had expressed interest in doing one of his infamous first-person stories as a crew member aboard an America’s Cup 12-meter yacht. I somehow caught wind of this and eventually reeled him in — really, the first big media catch of my fledgling career.
After months of detailed planning with his people, I met George Plimpton at LAX and took him to dinner where I carefully explained the next day’s schedule, beginning with a predawn workout in the gym with the crew, and finishing with a trial against an Italian challenger in the Pacific waters off Newport Beach. Perfect, no?
It’s a story best told over a few Altbiers in a German beer garden, but the tale turns on my discovery — with Mr. Plimpton — that the yacht he was to spend a weekend writing about and crewing aboard was actually anchored in blocks in the far corner of a dusty car park.
It wasn’t bobbing around proudly, expectantly, in Newport Beach Yacht Club — no, it was in dry dock with a broken mast. No one on the team thought to tell me.
Pulitzer Prize-winning author. In my company for a weekend with absolutely no story.
From time to time I am tortured by this. It comes to mind at 28,000 feet when I am gazing down upon pastoral scenery on a clear day, or staring at burgers on a grill, thinking about how good life is. It is in these moments one feels like slapping ones’ self in the face with the greasy end of the spatula. Phrasing it delicately, it happens.
So, to Rob Green and to all who have suffered a public humiliation in the face of duty, I say this: Pick yourself up and just go out there again and win one — win one for the flipper.
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