commercials where a guy pulls a U-turn in the desert to get to a pay phone and call his office to say "What if . . ."? Well, watching Robert Bork get grilled like a flank steak by the Senate Judiciary Committee was a grand clong "What if . . ." in my life, a "clong" being loosely defined as the feeling in your chest when "60 Minutes" comes to your house with a film crew and says they have a few allegations they want you to respond to.

I tried to put myself in Bork's shoes. (Better than putting myself in his beard. A beard like that belongs on a goat.) What if the employers at the next job I was up for got every column I'd ever written, recorded every comment I'd ever made on radio or TV and talked to everyone I'd ever argued with? Then they told me the job was available -- but first they had some questions, so could I be there tomorrow morning at 9. Oh, and pack for the week, okay?

It's the worst nightmare of my life. It's Judge Roy Bean's courtroom: George Steinbrenner and Billy Martin and Elvin Hayes and a gallery packed with other people I've savaged over the years, sitting there with briefcases full of documents and torture in their hearts.

STEINBREN- NER: "Didn't you once say that I, and I'm quoting now, that I was 'a contemptible cur whose aim was to suck the lifeblood out of baseball, whose presence in New York City is as unwelcome as Typhoid Mary's'?"

ME: Well, I didn't really mean it. I was just trying to be provocative.

MARTIN: "And haven't you repeatedly written that I'm psychotic and hateful, a bully and paranoid, and that in your opinion I am 'a mouse studying to become a rat'?"

ME: Yes, but the last part wasn't my line. I credited someone else. Anyway, a lot of my views have changed since then.

HAYES: "I seem to recall you saying I 'was such a dog {I} should be fed {my} pre-game meal in a dish on the floor.' "

ME: Perhaps I exaggerated.

On and on it would go. They'd drag out old predictions and confront me with having picked Georgetown over Villanova; that the Redskins would beat the Giants; that the Bay City Rollers would make people forget the Beatles. (1975. It must've been something I ate.) I'd squirm in my seat. If Hansel and Gretel leave a paper trail like this, they're home for dinner.

We'd break for the day, and on television that night I'd see Steinbrenner and Martin on "Nightline" telling Ted Koppel my nomination was "dead in the tub," that I "had no chance." I'd go to rent a movie and find someone rummaging through my rental record. Oh no! I admit I rented "St. Elmo's Fire." I didn't know it would be so awful. Hey, I rented "Witness," too. Doesn't one cancel out the other? I'd hear noises in the backyard and wonder if A.J. Weberman was going through my garbage. Night after sleepless night I'd ask myself if any job was worth this.

I'd decide to withdraw my name from consideration.

I'd feel better as soon as I did it. Realistically, I had no chance for the job anyway. Eventually they'd find out I'd smoked pot with Doug Ginsburg.