I was born in 1984, the same year that "Thriller" was released as a single. The first time I ever heard the name Michael Jackson was in 1993 when Jordan Chandler alleged that… well… he alleged a lot of things about which we’d rather not reminisce in graphic detail. The first time I ever saw Michael Jackson’s face or heard his voice was during a press conference he held after police strip-searched him at the Neverland Ranch. You remember… he was wearing that red, button-down shirt… talking about his penis. This is how I came to know the King of Pop.
Now, I’ve heard the music and the music is good. But I didn’t hear his music when it was new in the ‘70s and ‘80s; I heard it all after he became a freak. For me, it was obvious that Billie Jean was not his lover, not because I took him at his word, but because Billie Jean wasn’t a 13-year-old boy, presumably.
Look, he died and it’s sad, but can we tone down the network television specials and the vigils and all the public displays of emotion? Before last Thursday, we all agreed that the man was a freak (audio NSFW). He admitted on camera that he loved having little boys sleep with him in his bed. At that point it’s inconsequential whether or not he had sexual contact with them – a middle-aged man who invites boys to sleep with him in his bed is a menace to society. If he lived in your neighborhood, you’d all be circulating petitions to have him chemically castrated. I don’t care how badass you think Off the Wall was.
And, for the record, the moonwalk stopped being cool when white people learned it and started posting videos on the YouTube. However, the anti-gravity lean from “Smooth Criminal" ... that’s the baddest move I’ve ever seen.
Farrah Fawcett died last Thursday too, which was also sad. Some network replayed her cancer documentary last Friday night and it was touching and all, but I find it hard to have sympathy for anyone who willingly chooses Ryan O’Neal as her life partner. That guy’s had his hands on more dope than Tony Montana. Look at his offspring, Tatum and Redmond — both junkies. And wasn’t he popped with meth a couple months ago? Knowing all this completely ruined the documentary experience for me. I know it sounds callous, but that’s the way it is. I’m sorry.
Of course, you’d think none of this has anything to do with sports, but you’d be wrong. On Thursday afternoon, upon learning of both Fawcett’s and Jackson’s respective deaths, Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Chad Ochocinco (name explanation forthcoming) sought out his Twitter page for catharsis.
“Okay, first Mrs. Fawcett now Mr. Jackson, please tell me that this is a mistaken rumor, if not this is just as sad as 9/11.”
He later recanted his statement, presumably after his agent blew out the seat of his pants after reading it along with the other 25,696 followers of his feed and politely urged him to fix it post-haste.
To give you an idea of what kind of brainpower we’re dealing with here, Ochocinco’s surname used to be Johnson. But Ochocinco, who wears the number 85 on his Bengals’ jersey, decided to go to court and officially change his last name to reflect his number. Of course “ochocinco” in its proper translation is Spanish for the number eight and the number five respectively, not the number 85. The actual Spanish word for said number is ochenta y cinco, which Johnson apparently did not know until after he had already officially changed his name to eight and five. Let the record show that we’ve now established that Chad Ochocinco is a blithering idiot.
Changing his name to a number, the wrong number, should be the single dumbest thing that Chad Ochocinco ever does in his lifetime. But equating the deaths of two washed-up, former A-list celebrities to the worst terrorist attack in the history of our republic far supersedes that. In case you forgot, nearly 3,000 innocent American citizens died on Sept. 11. We went to war in two countries over it. Rudy Giuliani built a cottage industry out of it.
Now that you know all that, there’s really nothing else I can tell you could possibly make Chad Ochocinco seem any more stupid than you already think he is. Just so you know, his annual NFL salary is $3.55 million, not counting promotional and sponsorship deals he’s undoubtedly involved in. So know that, although your intellect is vastly superior to his, your bank account, most likely, is not.
In the grand scheme of things, this week has taught us that while some folks are zeroes and others are heroes, it’s often the zeroes that lasso our attention span. The 24-hour news beast knows our weakness and has learned how to exploit it. Chad Ochocinco is a zero. Michael Jackson is a zero. I’ll stop short of calling Farrah Fawcett a zero in light of the circumstances surrounding her death, but Ryan O’Neal is most certainly a zero.
Come to think of it, of the three most recent celebrity deaths that the national media crammed down our throats last week (Jackson, Fawcett and TV pitchman Billy Mays) I didn’t count any heroes. If I remember correctly, there was a freak, a girl with famous nipples and an infomercial shill. In an alternate reality, we’d reserve the mass displays of affection, the TV tributes and the candlelight vigils for folks of far greater significance than that, folks like Alabama’s own Bert Bank.
The 94-year-old radio pioneer, state senator and war hero died last Monday night in Tuscaloosa. Bank received his undergraduate degree from the University of Alabama in the late 1930s and later graduated from the UA School of Law. By 1941, he had joined the Air Force and was stationed at the Bataan Peninsula in the Philippines. On April 9, 1942, the territory fell under Japanese control. For several days, Bank was among the roughly 70,000 soldiers forced to march 60 miles from Mariveles to a prison camp in the Tarlac province. Roughly 20,000 died along the way and several thousand more would die in various prison camps the enemy would establish in the country during the following three years. Bank was one of the fortunate few to survive the ordeal and was liberated in 1945. After a two-year stint at a Pennsylvania hospital to treat his war wounds, he made his way back to Tuscaloosa.
Upon his return, Bank, a die-hard Alabama football supporter, established the Alabama Football Radio Network. Today, what was once a ground-floor operation has grown to more than 60 affiliate partners across the Southeast. He also started Tuscaloosa’s WTBC radio station, effectively launching the careers of ABC News correspondent John Cochran and local TV personalities Dave Baird and James Spann.
As a member of the Alabama House of Representatives and later the State Senate, he was key in pushing through a bill overhauling the state’s woeful mental health facilities. He also introduced the resolution that added Paul “Bear” Bryant’s name to the façade of then-Denny Stadium.
Bert Bank: officially a hero. A bleached out, pill-popping pop icon: not a hero. A former pin-up babe with enough cash to fly across the world for cancer treatments that the average person can’t afford: not a hero. The guy who sold us Orange Glo: not a hero. But the 24-hour news cycle doesn’t care. The CNN’s, the Fox News’s, the MSNBC’s see no distinction, just the bottom line. The beast is sated with zeroes, not with heroes. That’s sad.
Not as sad as 9/11, though.
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