When I was a kid it would have been among my greatest dreams to have one of the players from these little cardboard rectangles walk into my world, big as life. What I didn’t realize is that I’m the kind of fan who needs distance.

<a href=”http://cardboardgods.net/2010/03/18/duane-kuiper/”>Duane Kuiper « Cardboard Gods</a>

This quote serves two purposes. First, it allows me to link to the always excellent Cardboard Gods site, specifically to a Joe Posnanski-centered post. Second, it allows me to share another story from my trip last weekend.

I admit I never know how to act on the rare occasions I run into someone who is famous. I’m both sensitive to their desire not to be bugged by every random person they cross paths with and nervous about becoming tongue-tied and sounding like a complete idiot. So I tend to quietly brush past celebrities.

On my flight to Kansas City last Friday I was in the first boarding group and grabbed the first window seat I could find. The aisle seat was already occupied. As the later boarders filed on, a flight attendant announced that the flight was completely full so people should grab the first available seat.

A few moments later a woman who had already passed our row returned and asked the man on aisle seat if she could slip by him. As she sat next to me, I gave her the courtesy nod and returned to my magazine. A half second later I realized she looked familiar. I waited a beat and then snuck another look. Yep, I was 90% sure it was who I thought it was.

Naturally, rather than saying anything to her, I sat in my seat mute for the next hour and 15 minutes. I read my magazine, listened to music, and otherwise put on the appearance of passing time all while racking my brain for ways to break the ice.

Should I tell her that I remembered when I was nine years old and visiting my cousin at KU when we ate lunch at the same dorm cafeteria table as her?

Or should I casually ask if she was still in the line of work I last knew her to be in?

Or just ask if she watched the game the night before?

I did none of that because I’m a gigantic loser.

As we exited the plane, my confidence level increased to about 99% that I had identified her correctly.

I have a few friends who never have any qualms approaching celebrities they encounter. They always end up with great stories. I wish I had that kind of ease with others. Instead I just have a collection of near misses.

Oh, who was the woman I sat by? Only one of the greatest college basketball players of all time.