Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Death Of A Daredevil

Like most, I'm saddened at the death of Steve Irwin. A couple of years ago, my kids went through a big "Crocodile Hunter" phase where they watched just about everything he ever did. His enthusiasm was infectious, and while he annoyed me for about the first fifteen minutes I watched him, I have to admit he won me over. After a couple of viewings, I found him nearly impossible to dislike.

I'm also not among the culture snobs who will sniff about how overdone the coverage of his death is. In my experience, most people who prattle on about how some celebrity death is receiving "too much attention" while "more important things are happening" are usually merely flailing to display some imagined, desperately desired, above-it-all superiority to the rest of us.

To be honest, I've always wondered why the reaction to a celebrity death mystifies some people. Yes, police officers and fire fighters do more important work, and they die every day. But when someone well-known dies, it's someone whose face and voice we've gotten to know. Perhaps we don't really know them, but we know more about them then we know about people we've never heard of. (For instance, in the wake of Irwin's death, I've discovered that my entire family knew the names of his wife and daughter just from watching the show.) It's only natural that their passing delivers some emotional impact to us, and I'm frankly sick of having to explain this to the uber-sophisticates who incessantly whine about it.

That having been said, while Irwin's death is tragic and sad, the one thing it's not is surprising. In fact, I don't think there's another human being on earth (at least since the retirement of Evel Knievel) about whom I more often heard said, "That guy's insane. He's going to get himself killed." Everybody said that. Everyone I ever watched his show with expressed the exact same thought while watching him thrust his arm into a rattlesnake hole or parry a charging carnivore: "What's wrong with this guy? He's going to get killed."

There's absolutely no doubt in my mind that if we could bring him back from the dead for a day, Irwin would not only demand that his final run-in be televised, but he'd record a voiceover for it too: "Crikey! D'ya just see this little buggah thrust that bahb into my haht? I'm a gone-ahh fah sure now!"

I'm not making fun of him, nor am I being insensitive. I'm serious. That is exactly what he would do, and if you ever watched him for more than a few minutes, you know I'm right. Good taste says the tape should never be shown. But respect for the deceased says it probably should.

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