FLINT - Time magazine's list of the top 100 most influential people in the world came out recently. As usual, I have to wonder what they were smoking around the Time offices.
For instance, Jeremy Lin was 100th on the list. If you know who that is then you're a basketball fan. If you don't, he's the bench warmer who suddenly turned into a superstar for the New York Knicks this season until he got injured. Headline writers and sportscasters incessantly described him as "lin-tastic" and "lin-credible." It was fun at first but after two days it made me want throw up my "lin-lunch."
Nausea is certainly memorable but does that make him influential? Time says so because "he's dispelled the idea that Asian-American guards somehow couldn't hack it in the NBA - and that being a world-class athlete on the court is somehow at odds with being an excellent student off the court."
Oh, please. I'm a sports fan. Never once has it ever occurred to me that Asian-Americans can't play hoops or jocks can't think. Straw man, meet Time. Time, meet straw man.
The new British princess, Kate Middleton, and her sister Pippa made the list, too. But why? I mean, I'm sure they're fine people and all. But does that make them influential? If so, over whom? Who says, "I wonder what Kate would do in this situation?" Maybe Pippa, but I doubt it.
Most of the people on the list are like that. They're talented but not necessarily influential to the bulk of us.
Tim Tebow? Prays well, throws badly. But influential? No.
Matt Lauer? C'mon. Who is he influencing - guys with thinning hair who are trying to decide whether they, too, should shave what's left down to stubble?
Adele? She may influence girls with husky voices who want to become pop singers but outside of them is she really that influential?
Maybe I'm being crabby. Or maybe I view influential differently than the editors of Time. Very few people, in my book, are influential on a societal level. Influential, I think, is more of an individual thing. I would define it this way: "Someone who has left a permanent stain on your life, for better or worse."
I include "for worse" because I notice Time ignores bad people. I don't. We all have them in our lives. I've had two incredibly bad bosses, for instance, and a crazy senior citizen phone stalker. Those people changed me. An intellectually honest list has to include them.
I'm lucky, though. I've had far more than 100 people who positively impacted my life. But chief among them would be:
The lovely yet formidable Marcia, who has propped up my fragile male ego for 29 years now.
My three teenagers, who lovingly and repeatedly point out my flaws and shortcomings so that I may improve.
My high school English and journalism teachers, who offered up kind words at the right time in the right place, which is how I ended up a writer.
And you. Or some of you anyway. Without your support and attention over the years, I'd have moved on to ditch-digging long ago. Thanks for that.
EDITOR'S NOTE - Andy Heller, an award-winning columnist for The Flint Journal, appears weekly in the Daily Press. He graduated from Escanaba Area High School in 1979. For more of his work, visit his blog at blog.mlive.com/flintjournal/aheller. You can e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.