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Good-bye, Kirby

I didn't mean for PapaScott to become the weblog of death and illness, but sometimes you don't pick your memes, but your memes pick you.

I'm not sure I could explain anyone here in Germany how I feel about Kirby Puckett, and why I am mourning a retired sports star with a checkered private life who died young.

For one thing you'd have to understand America and sports. Sport (namely soccer) in Germany is at best a 50-50 proposition. If HSV were to win the Bundesliga or even if Germany were to win the World Cup, at best 50% of the population would be happy about it, while the other 50% could care less or would even resent it. In the US sports is more 90-10. When your team wins, your entire community, or city or state, wins, any your sports heroes are heroes for everyone.

Cities in America are pretty much alike. Minneapolis is pretty much like Des Moines is pretty much like Omaha is pretty much like Kansas City. Sport is one way we can differentiate ourselves from one another. People in Kansas City may be pretty much like us, but their team wears a different color. On the other hand, people in New York or Los Angeles are nothing like us, and it feels especially good on the rare occasions when we can beat the Yankees or the Lakers. Our sports teams don't just bring us together, they are us.

And thanks to Kirby Puckett, we were champions, twice. He was the most popular person to ever live in Minnesota, period. He didn't look like an athlete (5′8″ and built like a bowling ball; imagine Gerhard Asamoah with a few more pounds), but he was so talented, and publically so joyful, so likeable, so happy to be where he was, he wasn't just one of us, he was us. No man could live up to that myth, of course. After he was forced to retire he had a messy divorce, was charged with sexual harassment, became a recluse, and neglected his body to the point where he probably destroyed himself.

The myth has been gone for years, I didn't know the man at all, but I'm still mourning. I've tried, but I can't really explain it. Maybe others like Aaron Gleeman or Batgirl have explained it better.

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