Tuesday, December 23, 2008

From Far Away

I share a common bond with the other contributors of this site: I am a Lakers' junkie. I am such a fan that I frequent a site that caters to people like me, people with a healthy obsession of the NBA's Los Angeles Lakers. I am not from Los Angeles, I have never been to California. But for whatever reason I have always been an LA Lakers' fan, and damn proud of it.

Over time, my obsession grew, and I had to find new sources for feeding my addiction. I would go to the LA Times' Web site for any Lakers' news. I'd go on to ESPN to hear any Lakers' rumors. I began looking at NBA-only sites that had even more information. I even wanted to know what other Lakers' fans were thinking, so I found a message board designed by and for Lakers' fans. Like many people there, I read over for a while the messages and news that they were privy to. I hid in the shadows wondering who these people were that they knew so much. Eventually, I joined and began posting on my own, responses to other people, starting my own threads, getting to know some of the other posters. There were some posters I really liked, others I avoided, many others I never knew existed.

Over time, even on an impersonal foundation such as the Internet, it is possible to build relationships with people you have never met or may never ever meet. Such is the life of a 21st Century denizen. Getting to know someone else's words and feelings, you get to feel as though you know that person. But with so many hundreds or thousands of people on any particular site, is it possible to really know anyone? What would you call it, e-meet someone? Can they be called 'friends'? 'Acquaintances'? What would we call them? Should we even refer to them at all?

I did begin liking certain people on the site. Maybe I became a fan of theirs. Their humor, their intellect, their vast knowledge of many topics drew me to them. If we met in real life, I am certain I might call some of them 'friend.'

In the time I was at this site, changes took place in the management. A regular poster I had seen occasionally bought the site and implemented changes. He was a driving force for making the site more stable, faster, more enjoyable. He and I even worked some to start an offshoot site. Through it all, he was always the nicest gentleman I could ever "meet." He was kind, always saying words that made a person feel good about themselves. We would send messages to each other, and he'd always say how much he thought of me as a regular contributor to the sites we both frequented. His words were genuine, as was the man.

In the past year, the man I knew as 'Phil' spent less time on the site and would need to take a leave because of prior engagements. As a result of his coming schedule, he sold the site to someone who could oversee it day-to-day, more than he could. However, the changes he made remained, and made the site the best for any Lakers' fan.

The past few days have been hectic for me. With the coming Christmas season, preparing to celebrate with family, traveling, end of year organizing at work, I had less time to visit the Lakers' site. It had been several days since last I checked the site, but today I decided to hop on and see how my Internet pals were doing.

That is when I saw a thread that caught my eye, an announcement of sad news. The site had lost one of its members, but who? I clicked to see who it was, and then my heart dropped. Some unseen force managed to find me at work and punch me in the stomach. Phil Allen, the man I knew as 'Phil,' had been in a car accident in the days I was away, and soon after lost his life. Comments poured in from members who paid their condolences and said some words about the man.

It's bizarre that this man whom I didn't know at all, I began to learn about in death. His name, for example, his occupation, his interests. The time he left was due to his involvement in national politics and his work on behalf of president-elect Obama. He was very knowledgeable about Joshua Tree National Park. He was as nice to others as he was to me, showing what a tremendous man he really was.

No, what a tremendous man he really is. His actions and words still carry weight, still affect those who remain. You cannot take that away from any person, and thus, you can never kill them off.

Phil, though we only e-met each other, I consider you a friend. I will not e-miss you, I will miss you truly. I asked earlier what we would call someone you only knew online? I'd call them a friend.


1 comment:

Brennan K., Esq. (aka LS) said...

Very well said... he is already missed. I got to know him much more as a moderator. When I first began he offered so much support and encouragement, particularly as I learned to tow the line between moderator and poster. He was a great guy.