May 14, 2001: Look out, Bob Dole. Here comes Dick Yarbrough.

Bob Dole, former United States Senator, Republican presidential candidate, host of Saturday Night Live and spokesperson for Pepsi Cola and for Viagra, is widely known for referring to himself in the third person. After reading his mail this week, Dick Yarbrough thinks he should emulate Bob Dole.

Dick Yarbrough gets lots of reaction to his columns. He has upset blacks for saying that Jesse Jackson probably won’t get his vote as Father of the Year. He was called a coward by whites, who disagreed with his stand on changing the state flag. One retired football coach (not Vince Dooley) didn’t like Dick Yarbrough pointing out that Max Cleland has one of the most liberal voting records in the Senate and suggested an “eye-to-eye” meeting. (Only if Dick Yarbrough can wear a helmet and doesn’t have to do pushups.)

Democrats are convinced that Dick Yarbrough is a right-wing reactionary because he said Bill Clinton had “the morals of a coon dog.” Dick Yarbrough was more concerned about being sued for slander by coon dog owners. Republicans, on the other hand, think he is in Roy Barnes’ pocket after he said the GOP representatives in the General Assembly are so inept at doing battle with the Governor they “couldn’t find their backside with both hands.” Even BellSouth, the company for whom he toiled so long and enthusiastically, got upset with Dick Yarbrough because of his criticism of the Georgia Public Service Commission. He had wondered aloud how the PSC could successfully manage such complicated matters as natural gas deregulation with a chairman named Bubba. A BellSouth official, who has a number of critical issues before the Commission, promptly fired off a letter saying that Bubba is a perfectly fine name, thank you. Be assured that Dick Yarbrough now agrees. Bubba is a wonderful name.

But the letter responsible for this column came from a reader who complained about how many times the word “I” appears in Dick Yarbrough’s columns. It had to be obvious because the writer also said he puts the column in the “Don’t Read” category. Dick Yarbrough was afraid to ask him how he knew that there were too many “I” words in his columns if he didn’t read them. But it can happen. Georgia House Speaker Tom Murphy castigated Dick Yarbrough earlier this year when Dick Yarbrough said the Speaker was “toast” after having barely squeaked through his last election. Mr. Speaker began his letter by saying he never reads my – oops! – Dick Yarbrough’s column but he vehemently disagreed with the notion that he was on his Last Hurrah. Dick Yarbrough is perplexed but evidently some folks can absorb his thoughts by osmosis. What makes that even more remarkable is that many people who carefully read Dick Yarbrough’s writings each week, tell him they don’t have the foggiest idea what he is talking about. Even Dick Yarbrough is not always sure what he is saying and he writes this stuff.

But Dick Yarbrough said, “If Bob Dole can avoid the ‘I’ word, so can Dick Yarbrough.” Granted, we don’t have much else in common – Bob Dole and you-know-who. Dick Yarbrough is not interested in getting in politics. It is more fun standing on the sidelines and sniping at those who do. Dick Yarbrough doesn’t drink Pepsi because he is a Coca-Cola loyalist. Dick Yarbrough will never host Saturday Night Live because he has to be in bed by 10 PM. Dick Yarbrough doesn’t rule out a shot at being Viagra’s spokesperson, but that is a subject for another day.

But like Bob Dole, Dick Yarbrough rises to the challenge. He was motivated by the reader to write a column not using the “I” word. He did. Dick Yarbrough hopes he is not asked to do that again. It is difficult to say what he wants to say if he can’t use that other word occasionally. That is why he admires Bob Dole for being able to go through life always talking in the third person. He makes it look so easy. When Dick Yarbrough thinks about that, he just shakes his head in awe and says, “How Bob Dole is able to do that is beyond I.”