If you watched the news, read the paper, cruised the internet, listened to the radio -- or if you're Ted Kaczynski and caught the smoke signals -- you know that Princess Diana died over the weekend. As shocked as most people were about that, I am more shocked that her name ends up in my column.
You see, I knew almost nothing about her. I am somewhat embarrassed to say that, when I first heard Diana speak a few years ago, I was surprised to hear her speaking with a British accent. Not that I didn't know that she spoke that way, but I didn't think about it.
It is the same with all our heroes that we know only through the media. I'll take Michael Jordan as an example because his popularity probably is greater than Di's and because, well, I'm supposed to write about basketball even when the real world commands more attention.
I don't know how many home pages there are that are dedicated to Michael Jordan, but of the best ones I have found, I have found very little about Jordan the person. There is Jordan's Favorite Recipe (which admittedly is more than I know about some of my friends), but we know very little, for instance, about what Michael likes to talk about. We don't know if he laughs at cartoons or whether he laughs at jokes like mine (no snide comments, please). We don't know if he voted for a recent school bond or if he votes at all. We simply don't know if we would like Mike if the commercials hadn't told us we should Be Like Mike.
Admittedly, Michael Jordan represents a dream to many people, as Princess Diana did to a very different set of people. There are enough cliches about how "dreams are what keep us alive" -- I won't try to fight that.
But it is the extreme to which people hold on to imaginary dreams, even over the reality of friends and family, that strikes me as backwards. Jordan's retirement from basketball a few years ago caused people to cry, some of whom probably wouldn't cry at the death of their parents.
Basketball means one hell of a lot to me, but I hope I never give the impression here that Basketball Is Life. As much as I admire and model myself after the great players and coaches in the NBA, the most important influences on my basketball career have been the players and coaches I have worked with.
Given that I now act as something of a paparazzi by writing about basketball and its stars, I just want to make that all very clear.
My condolences go out to the friends and family of those who died in a Paris tunnel this past weekend. They also go out to the friends and family of the people who died more anonymously. Those anonymous people were probably more like you and me and, as a result, we probably "knew" them even better than any princess who lived a charmed life.