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I wish I weren’t a liar

Observer Viewpoint | Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Paul Coffey was one of the greatest defensemen ever to play in the National Hockey League. During his career, he scored 396 goals and played in 14 NHL All-Star Games.

So sometimes when I want to impress people, I say that this sovereign on skates is my uncle. We do share a last name, after all.

I tell them that Uncle Paul was born in Ontario, Canada, and that he’s 45 years old. I even mention that Uncle Paul ranks second all-time among NHL defensemen in career goals, assists and points.

The statistics are true. But is it true that he’s my dad’s brother? Absolutely not.

I could admit to being a liar, but in the spirit of a certain upcoming holiday, a.k.a. April Fool’s Day, let’s just say that I attempt to fool people – the problem being that few people are, in fact, fooled by my fib.

Why? Because my potential fool-ees always want to know more. The typical fib-breaking question – “What’s your Uncle Paul like at Thanksgiving dinner?”

But of course, Paul has never spent the fourth Thursday of November feasting on my Grandma Tootsie’s prized bird.

I could’ve answered my potential fool-ees by citing Paul’s Canadian heritage and then insisting that he doesn’t observe American Thanksgiving. But that would’ve been just as disappointing as the answer I usually give – I attribute Paul’s Thanksgiving absence to a family feud.

This obviously prompts more questioning, as the potential fool-ees try to glean insight into Paul’s character. The questions – “Why would your father fight with a three-time winner of the James Norris Memorial Trophy?” “Doesn’t your turkey-basting grandmother miss him?” “And if Paul were at Thanksgiving, would he watch the Detroit Lions game on TV?”

But of course, I can shed no light on his NFL loyalties. While I may have memorized some of the celebrated number seven’s statistics, I don’t know whether he’d fold or crumple his napkin. I don’t know whether he’d want the dark meat of the turkey or the white meat. I don’t even know whether he’d use his fork or his fingers to eat that turkey.

But I do know this – life is in the details.

Anyone who can spell “Wikipedia” can see that Paul Coffey was inducted into the NHL Hall of Fame in 2004. But what about the first thing he said after he heard he’d be commemorated forever in Toronto? Who was the first person he told? And how did he choose the outfit he wore to the ceremony? That’s what makes Paul interesting; that’s what his life’s about.

I don’t know those details. So clearly, I don’t know Paul either.

Likewise, your 3.96 GPA and Flex 14 Meal Plan can only say so much about you. And what people want to know about you is not that you’ve been on the Dean’s List every semester. Anyone who can hack into IrishLink can see that. But instead – why do you always study in that particular study carrel? Why can’t you survive without reading the New York Times before breakfast every morning? What’s the one thing that you’re most thankful for? That’s what makes you interesting; that’s what your life’s about.

In the end, it wouldn’t make me much more interesting if Paul Coffey did, in fact, mail me a check for my birthday each year. Perhaps what makes me interesting is that I feel so compelled to lie about it.

Life is in the details.

Liz Coffey is a senior American Studies major and Journalism, Ethics and Democracy minor. Her column appears every other Thursday. She can be reached at ecoffey@nd.edu

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and not

necessarily those of The Observer.