Name?”

“Peter Pan.”

“Age?”

“I never age.”

“Qualifications?”

“I can fly, I’m good with kids, and I need only one set of clothes.”

“Mr. Pan,” I say, leaning back in my chair, “can you make a ball go into a basket from three-point range? Or force a pass from one man’s hand to another? Can you get the referee to believe that every call against the home team is like a call against his mother?

“Well, no, I . . .”

“Next?”

Out he goes. In comes someone else. My office is filled with them — ghosts, elves, fairies, three of the Seven Dwarfs. I am in the market. I am conducting interviews. I am looking for Detroit’s answer to that little green leprechaun living in Boston Garden.

I am offering big money.

“What I need,” I say to a midget in a straw sombrero, “is someone to make magic happen for the Pistons — the way it does for the Celtics. Did you see Game 2 Thursday night? Double overtime?

That’s what I’m talking about. Kevin McHale’s three-pointer? That Danny Ainge lay-up that just fell in? The gust of wind that pushed Adrian Dantley’s free throw out of the basket at the end of regulation? I need that. I want that. I’ll pay for that. Make the other teams tremble. Can you do that, Mr .
. . ?

“Bandito. Frito Bandito.”

“Can you do that, Mr. Bandito?”

“I can shoot dem if you want.”

“Next!” Even E.T. can’t help in OT

Somewhere out there, he exists. He. She. It. Whatever. And I have to find him before this afternoon, when the Pistons and Celtics meet for Game 3 at the Silverdome. I want some insurance. I want real home court advantage. We can’t go through another seven-game nightmare like last year. No way. We hardly have any hair left as it is.

“Name?”

“Tooth Fairy.”

“Qualifications?”

“Bringing joy to children, making change.”

“Miss Fairy,” I say, nibbling on my pencil eraser, “have you ever heard of a full-court press?”

“Is that like wearing braces?”

“Next!”

Patience, I tell myself. Patience. He is out there. He. She. It. True, I have already interviewed 14 cartoon characters, five Christmas elves and the guy from the Lucky Charms cereal box. So far, none of them can do a thing with a free throw.

But I will press on. It’s not fair that Boston is the only team with a sixth man who can float. It is not fair that Boston shots are helped by magic breath, and passes stolen by magic hands. What’s the point of playing the whole NBA season — only to wind up in that dilapidated Boston Garden, having your head cut off by an invisible twerp? I thought we killed the little bugger

in Game 1. But he was back for Game 2. Alive and kicking.

Fight fire with fire, I always say.

“What we need,” I tell the extra-terrestrial with the big eyes, “is a spiritual being with a feel for the paint. Block shots. Steal dribbles. Whatever it takes. All that matters is that somehow, some way, the Pistons win in the end. Can you handle that?”

“P-h-o-n-e . . . h-o-m-e . . . ?”

“Next!” Someday, your luck will turn

Next, next, next. Send in the big ones. Send in the small ones. Looks are not important. Heck, the Celtic leprechaun looks like Danny DeVito. Looks do not matter. This is what matters: Larry Bird shoots in the last five seconds .
. . and misses everything. Dennis Johnson drives the lane . . . and trips. Kevin McHale goes up for another three-pointer . . . and his pants fall off.

“Do you have experience in that sort of thing?” I ask the creature with the hood and the scythe.

“I . . . AM . . . DEATH,” it moans.

“That’s very nice,” I say. “What can you do to Danny Ainge?”

“I . . . AM . . . DEATH . . .”

“Next!”

Don’t worry. I will find him. He. She. It. And then, Red, watch out. K.C., watch out. It’ll be you shaking your heads in disbelief. It’ll be you losing in double overtime, your players staring at their hands, rubbing their heads, wondering what hit them. Soon. Very soon. Don’t worry.

“Come in, come in . . .” I say to the white horse with wings on his back.

I look at the room. The room is packed. Every jack-o- lantern, will-o-wisp, specter and phantasm. Tinkerbell. The Muppets. That little fella from “Star Wars.” I will talk to them all. Every one. And do you know why?

Because somewhere out there, that damn leprechaun has a cousin. And when I find him, I’m gonna offer him twice the money.

And I bet he takes it. CUTLINE In search of . . .

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