Wednesday, September 6, 2006

"Ocean's Deadliest"

Poor Steve Irwin.  Who would have guessed that a wild animal would be his undoing? 

The Croc Hunter was filming off the coast of his native Australia when he was mortally speared by a stingray. The show’s title, sadly enough, was to be “Ocean’s Deadliest.” Editors across the world forced themselves not to write sarcastic headlines. 

I don’t know how many people watched “The Croc Hunter” or its spin-offs as a matter of routine, but chances are you know who the guy was. And his fame here was nothing compared to his popularity in Australia. A lot of Aussies believe he should have a state funeral.   

Let’s be honest, though, he was kind of goofy, with that vegemite-thick accent, and bizarre overuse of the word “crikey.” He was a quick laugh and oh-so-easy to parody. The Washington Post points out that “his catchphrases were used in college drinking games,” putting me in the odd position of knowing less about collegiate culture than the Washington Post does.   

It’s unfair, though, to write off Steve Irwin as one of those “why-are-you-famous-again?” celebrities so common in the public eye. In spite of all the hyperactive Aussie yammering, the guy was a real-life naturalist. He did a lot to make the public more aware of the natural world around them, and his fame and fortune contributed enormously to the cause of conservation and the promotion of environmentalism. On top of that, it was hard not to like the guy. He was always so completely and obviously thrilled to be doing what he was doing. Name me five people who had more fun at work than the Croc Hunter. 

We’ll miss you, mate.
Jonathan Gold

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