In the annals of letdowns, this week's revelation that the legendary "Deep Throat" was one Mark Felt comes close to edging out Santa Claus for the top slot.
As one of a generation of reporters who came of age during the Watergate era, I confess that my reaction fell somewhat short of "Ohmigod, you gotta be kidding!! No wa-ay!!"
Instead, it went more like this: "Oh."
Mark Felt? Just the No. 2 guy in the FBI, aka "my friend?" THE Deep Throat? That's it?!
Apparently, not everyone was surprised. Felt's name had appeared on various what-if lists through the years. After the story broke Tuesday in Vanity Fair, several who-didn't-know stories surfaced.
One was that Jacob Bernstein, the then-8-year-old son of Carl (of the famed Bob Woodward and Bernstein Washington Post reporting team) told a camp buddy years ago that Felt was Deep Throat. Bernstein's then-wife and Jacob's mother, writer Nora Ephron, posted on the Huffington Post blog that she figured it out years ago and told anyone who asked, including her son.
But Woodward and Bernstein kept their word and Felt's secret, thus spawning an industry in "Watergate" speculation. In the more than 30 years since Watergate, countless rumors have circulated, dozens of books have been written, and many fortunes made. Until this week, the mystery has remained a tantalizing source of wonder. Who could it be?
The communal "we" understood that Deep Throat's identity would be revealed upon his death. And so we waited patiently, certain that the truth, once revealed, would be riveting and gratifying, the final act in America's longest-playing reality show.
Felt did not, in fact, die, but decided at the urging of his family to reveal himself.
As is often the case with mysteries, not knowing was much more fun than knowing. Now what?
In my own fantasy, Deep Throat would not have been a straight guy with a short haircut. For starters, he would have been a "she" - a smoky-voiced, sultry agent whose high heels tapping against the parking garage floor signaled to Woodward that it was time to produce a Zippo. The lady needs a light.
Maybe she was a jilted lover. Nixon's? John Mitchell's? Or a vengeful wife. Or perhaps, though ravishing, she had a jealous streak. A black widow who devours her mate because - as the scorpion said to the frog - it is her nature.
Admit it: Didn't you really hope it was Mo Dean?