Tuesday, September 05, 2006
In the beginning, there was Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom. It came on Saturday or Sunday morning and basically consisted of an old guy showing film reels of wildlife footage. Maybe he actually left the studio on occasion and interacted with animals. I don't really remember. What I do remember is the show was about as entertaining as watching golf, grass growing, or paint drying. It was educational and informative, but not very fun.
Today's media has produced a new genre of "Animal Experts" personified by Jack Hannah, Jeff Corwin, and the late Steve Irwin.
Steve Irwin looked and sounded like he came straight from Crocodile Dundee Central Casting. He was excited about animals and their world. This excitement translated well across the medium of documentary style reality television. Steve brought a passion for his work and drew viewers into his world of crocodiles, snakes, kangaroos, lions, tigers, and bears. Oh my! Translated into Australian that would be "Crikey!"
For those of you who have spent the past two days living under a rock, Steve Irwin died Monday after being stabbed in the chest by a Sting Ray. Most everyone agrees this type of injury is rare, and rarely if ever fatal. Just goes to show that when your number is up, you're out.
Steve was always one to get up close and personal with animals most people would be fearful to get within visual distance of. He wrestled alligators and crocodiles, rescued pythons and cobras, and gave viewers a chance to see wildlife they never would have a chance to otherwise. He loved his job and therefore never worked a day in his life.
He had his critics - many of whom complained about his TV antics and his habit of putting himself in close proximity to the animals he was filming. All of Steve's knowledge came from on the job experience. Many if not all of his critics got no closer to the animals they claimed to be experts on than Steve's TV show. Australia Zoo serves as a lasting monument to what one man with a vision can do.
I crossed paths with Steve on Thanksgiving Day 2004 in Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. He was, as usual, having a ball being the consummate showman. That is how I will remember him.
Thanks, Steve, for bringing the Animal Kingdom a little closer to home. Godspeed to you, and prayers for your family. May they always understand you taught the world the true meaning of "Crikey!"