March 7th, 2006 | Published in Uncategorized
Kirby Puckett wasn’t from Minnesota; he grew up in the projects on the south side of Chicago. I haven’t lived in Minnesota since I was 18, and may never live there again. Yet I feel like I’m part of a tremendous collective grief at the death of this man, who is undoubtedly the most-loved figure in the history of Minnesota sports.
My love for the Minnesota Twins, and for Kirby Puckett in particular, were what finally allowed me to understand the emotional appeal of nationalism. In the symbol of that team, and in the image of this one man, there is a glorious imagined community that will follow me wherever I go. And through the adulation of a man like Puckett, through the communion with other Minnesotans–including many who are not even baseball fans–I can affirm and define a Minnesotanness that might otherwise slip away.
And in all of the tributes from Puckett’s friends and teammates, we receive an image of a joyous, selfless, warmhearted man–yet one also troubled and ultimately destroyed by his personal demons. In that we find, not our Minnesotanness, but our humanity. Out of the particularism of baseball and baseball heroes, a universalism emerges.