Kids fixate on the darndest things. Stuffed animals and blankets make sense, as those items are soft and portable, but in Irene Liao’s case, for a solid month of her childhood, the object of her affection and obsession was a cardboard cutout of Michael Jordan.
Liao, now a 20-year-old college student, told me through Twitter’s direct messaging about her brief obsession with His Airness. (She also spoke with Select All today.) While attending an international school in Taipei, Taiwan, an 8-year-old Liao first became drawn to Jordan from a Gatorade commercial. “I was like, Wow this is so tight, M.J. is so cool,” Liao said. The advertisement worked, although not in its intended purpose. Liao was at the mall one day when she saw cardboard Jordan in a store. She convinced the employees to sell her the cutout for approximately 200 New Taiwan dollars (roughly $6).
The two became inseparable. Liao took Flat Michael everywhere: to the grocery store, on the escalator, and to her grandpa’s house, “where I insisted he teach me how to play piano so I could write a song to serenade cardboard M.J.”
To Liao, cardboard M.J. was a real person. She said that she “would get so hype” whenever the Gatorade commercial would come on TV. “I would literally talk to the cardboard cutout and be like OMG that’s u MJ!!!”
Liao’s love of Jordan inspired her to try to be a “basketball god” in third and fourth grade, though she said that didn’t work out. She did, however, practice soccer with the cutout after class:
Liao’s parents did not treat cardboard M.J. as an actual person, although they didn’t have a problem with him. Sadly, roughly a month after Liao met her pal, a teacher sent home a note claiming that the friendship was an “unhealthy phase.” (Liao thinks that the teacher was just annoyed because cardboard M.J. distracted the class. “Whenever the teacher would ask the class to partner up, I would be like M.J. is my partner, SMH.”)
Liao’s parents promised her a Jordan poster if she threw out the cutout; she did, but she said she never got the poster.