Every time I turn around, someone is telling me that Los Angeles Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant couldn't possibly have done what he's accused of doing because, well, we all know he's a good guy.
How do we know this?
Because that's what his Sprite commercials tells us, that he's a splendid basketball player and a fanatically hard worker and a likable person. End of story.
Kobe's a good guy, the media reminds us.
He's courteous to reporters, fills their notebooks and microcassettes with juicy quotes, always smiles nice when the red light goes on.
That's how we know.
OK, what do we really know about Kobe Bryant?
In reality, not much.
We only know what he shows us, the tiny sliver of himself that he shares with inquiring reporters and his loyal fans.
We don't go home with Kobe and his wife and baby, we don't follow him into his hotel room when the Lakers are on the road.
We always see him at his best, never at his worst.
Nobody can be perfect all the time. It's just not possible.
We think we know Kobe, but we don't.
Oh, we know that baseball star Barry Bonds is a jerk because he's nasty to reporters and isn't well-liked by his teammates. But how is that enough to make a value judgment about another person?
We thought we knew Julius Erving. Yes, the same Dr. J who had a daughter outside of his marriage. The same Dr. J whose wife filed for divorce when she discovered he had still another child with a different woman.
Dr. J was a good guy, too. The best.
We thought we knew Kirby Puckett, another good guy charged with sexual misconduct. Sure did.
We thought we knew Steve Garvey, yet another good guy who had a school named after him, who fathered numerous children outside his seemingly idyllic marriage. Turns out we didn't.
We thought we knew Pete Rose, Charlie Hustle himself - the ultimate good guy. Little did we know.
And, yes, we thought we knew Kobe Bryant, who admitted Friday that he committed adultery with a Colorado woman who accused him of sexual assault.
We're still scratching our heads over that one.
A week ago, Bryant confided to the Los Angeles Times that he was innocent of the charges. He asked the media to trust him.
“You know I would never do something like that,” said Bryant, calling on all of his powers of persuasion.
We don't know Kobe, yet we think we do. We call him by his first name, as though we know him personally.
Real smart Kobe, getting us to think that.
The problem is idolizing Bryant for his basketball greatness because, after all, that's the only time we see him - and then feeling betrayed when he turns out to be human just like the rest of us.
Dig deep enough into anybody's life, and you're bound to find something wrong.
All depends on how hard you look. If it's Allen Iverson, you leave no stone unturned.
If it's Kobe Bryant, you don't look very hard at all.