MADISONVILLE, TN—Sources close to local man Mike Ferguson confirmed Saturday that over time they have learned not to bring up their friend's utter failure to achieve anything whatsoever in life, a sensitive topic they said has always been a bit of a sore spot for him.

Longtime acquaintances of Ferguson reported that the otherwise amiable 39-year-old gets "a bit touchy" whenever someone makes even the most passing mention of his complete lack of personal and professional accomplishment.

"Ordinarily, he's a pretty okay guy to have around," said Greg Ostrowski, who has known Ferguson since high school. "But you have to be very, very careful if you bring up how he's always come up short at anything he's ever attempted. If you're not extremely delicate in the way you broach how success of any sort has constantly eluded him, he'll get very defensive."

"Honestly, it's often best to avoid that subject altogether," Ostrowski added. "But that's really hard. Mike's fucked up an awful lot. At pretty much everything, really."

Ferguson's particular sensitivity to his lifelong ineptness was reportedly not apparent at first, and friends said they were often caught off guard by the amount of offense he took at the slightest reference to the fact he was totally squandering his time on earth.

"I just remember casually saying something about how he was nearly broke, had never had a relationship that lasted longer than two months, and was still working part-time at his dad's sporting goods store, and he suddenly just bristled," said former roommate Ted McCormick, adding that he initially thought his friend's response was a sarcastic overreaction. "I said, 'Sorry, I didn't realize that was such a big deal to you.' I mean, how the hell was I supposed to know that just alluding to the fact he couldn't hack more than a semester and a half of college was going to get under his skin so much?"

McCormick also told reporters Ferguson could benefit from having more of a sense of humor about the four decades of futility that have made his life unbearable.

"Everyone's got that one thing they're a little weird about, including me," said McCormick, admitting that at five-foot-six, he was sometimes sensitive about his height. "But I don't get all testy about it when people make a joke or two. I think if Mike just learned to laugh and not get bent out of shape every time someone makes an offhand remark about how he's essentially blown any chance he'll ever have for happiness, it'd be a lot easier to talk to him."

Added McCormick, "It's already tough enough being friends with a loser like that, you know?"