Missing the Mark: Namesake in the news creates confusion

October 29, 2004|By Mark Hyman

YES, MY NAME is Mark Hyman.

I was afraid you'd have that reaction.

Until recently, I was quite satisfied with my name, which appeared on numerous news and sports articles during my 10 years as a reporter for The Sun, as well as on personal checks, pizza delivery orders and my subscription to Junior Baseball magazine. I would go so far as to say that life was good as Mark Hyman.

The walls haven't exactly come crashing down, but these are trying times for someone named Mark Hyman. And for that I have no choice but to point an accusing finger at none other than Mark Hyman.

Let me explain. As I led a quiet, uncontroversial life in Baltimore, a person sharing my name (though not my political views) came to town, took a job at Sinclair Broadcast Group and began offering commentaries on the evening news.

I have neither met nor spoken with the other Mark Hyman, nor have I seen even one of his Fox 45 commentaries that, from what I gather, have brought to the political discourse a perspective missing since the glory days of Gen. Curtis LeMay.

Usually I believe in reserving hard feelings for those people who have deliberately and purposely done me wrong. But in this case I'm making an exception. I'm pretty ticked off at Mark Hyman, and I don't care who knows it.

It began a few years ago, when the other Mark Hyman began those commentaries called "The Point," which air not only on the local Sinclair affiliate but on the company's stations nationwide. Occasionally, I'd bump into a wary friend or receive a circumspect e-mail from a long-lost acquaintance. Having received assurances that I am not the reactionary Mark Hyman on TV, their general reaction would be, "Is there something you can do? Like changing your name? Or his?" It bothers me to think that there are more people - middle-school classmates or Little League teammates - assuming that the kid with the bony knees and peanut-butter-and-jelly lunches grew up to be a right-wing ideologue.

Lately, Mark Hyman confusion has reached a critical stage at my house. This coincided with Sinclair's decision to use parts of an unflattering documentary about Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry in a supposedly unbiased news program. Suddenly, Mark Hyman was thrust into the middle of a charged national news story. My phone started ringing with people eager for a few moments with Mark Hyman.

On a recent Sunday night, I received a voice mail from ABC News urgently requesting an interview. The next day, a New York Times reporter asked my 16-year-old son whether I was Sinclair's Mark Hyman. Assured that I was not, the reporter hung up and called back an hour later to inquire again whether I was absolutely sure that I wasn't who I am not.

The most memorable "Are you Mark Hyman?" voice mails are left by people who do not leave their names. Generally, they are not friends of Mark Hyman or his political views.

It helps knowing that I'm not shouldering the weight of Mark Hyman angst alone. There's another Baltimore-area Mark Hyman, a car salesman in Bel Air, who I bet isn't selling many Volvos to Democrats these days. And as I search the Internet, I wonder how Mark Hyman the Massachusetts physician and Mark Hyman the Texas winery executive are bearing up.

As for me, I'm optimistic that the worst of the Mark Hyman storm has passed. This week, I have yet to receive a single phone call intended for my Sinclair namesake. It's kind of lonely over here, and I like it.

Mark Hyman lives in Baltimore and covers the business of sports for Business Week.

Columnist Steve Chapman will return Tuesday.

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